Retirement

Can You Have a Purposeful Retirement?

Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP® Sandy Adams

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It is quite often we find ourselves as financial planners delivering the good news to clients that their financial plans are on solid footing and their retirement goals are on track, only to hear from the client that they still don’t feel that they are “ready” to retire.  These clients, while financially prepared, express that they don’t feel they have put enough planning into the practical side of retirement – what will we do every day that will give our lives meaning, purpose and joy?

A book I found recently gives guidance for clients struggling to design the next phase of their lives. Hyrum Smith, the author of Purposeful Retirement: How to Bring Happiness and Meaning to Your Retirement, provides tips, tools, and stories based on his journey through this very process.  In his words, “The rest of your life can be the best of your life” if you have the right attitude, embrace this stage, and bring enthusiasm to the process.  He finds that folks entering this phase are in one of two camps – those who can’t wait and those who will need to be dragged into it kicking and screaming.  It is important to identify which camp you are in and check your attitude at the door.

Takeaways from “Purposeful Retirement”:

  • Being proactive is the key to transitioning well into retirement. If you simply let yourself drift into retirement, you can become lost without the purpose or structure that your work life provided.

  • Take charge of planning your next phase by defining your mission, your purpose and core values which will help direct how you spend your time in retirement.

  • The book offers options for how to take your purpose and translate it into action on a weekly and daily basis.

  • Fear or losing your identity or role is a key fear for many entering retirements. For those folks, asking, “How will I make a difference?” will help fill that gap.

  • For many, retirement is not a solo endeavor (we do it with our spouse). The book offers lessons on how to retire well as a couple and make adjustments that may need to be discussed and made to make retirement successful for both of you.

  • Just because you are entering into the last phase of your life doesn’t mean you are dead yet! This can be your most successful, joyful, fulfilling phase of your life – if you are intentional and embrace it with enthusiasm.

Financially planning for your retirement is just the first step in the process.  Emotionally and psychologically planning for the last phase of your life may be the more challenging part for some – especially if you don’t want to coast to the end.  “Purposeful Retirement” may be a good place to start, and/or or have a conversation with your financial planner about other ways to help you plan your NEXT best phase of life.  We are always here to help!

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.

Is My Pension Subject to Michigan Income Tax?

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

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It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly seven years since Governor Snyder signed his budget balancing plan into law in 2011, which became effective January 1, 2012.  As a result, Michigan joined the majority of states in the country in taxing pension and retirement account income (401k, 403b, IRA, distributions) at the state income tax rate of 4.25%. 

As a refresher, here are the different age categories that will determine the taxability of your pension:

1)     IF YOU WERE BORN BEFORE 1946:

  • Benefits are exempt from Michigan state tax up to $50,509 if filing single, or $101,019 if married filing jointly.

2)     IF YOU WERE BORN BETWEEN 1946 AND 1952:

  • Benefits are exempt from Michigan state tax up to $20,000 if filing single, or $40,000 if married filing jointly.

3)     IF YOU WERE BORN AFTER 1952:

  • Benefits are fully taxable in Michigan.

What happens when spouses have birth years in different age categories?  Great question!  The state has offered favorable treatment in this situation and uses the oldest spouse’s birthdate to determine the applicable age category.  For example, if Mark (age 65, born in 1953) and Tina (age 70, born in 1948) have combined pension and IRA income of $60,000, only $20,000 of it will be subject to Michigan state income tax ($60,000 – $40,000).  Tina’s birth year of 1948 is used to determine the applicable exemption amount – in this case, $40,000 because they file their taxes jointly. 

While this taxing benefits law angered many, I do think it’s important to note that it’s a very common practice for states to impose a tax on retirement income.  The following states are the only ones that do not tax retirement income (most of which do not carry any state tax at all) – Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Illinois, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.  Also, Michigan is 1 of 37 states that still does not tax Social Security benefits.

Here is a neat look at how the various states across the country match up against one another when it comes to the various forms of taxation:

Source: www.michigan.gov/taxes

Source: www.michigan.gov/taxes

Taxes, both federal and state, play a major role in one’s overall retirement income planning strategy.  Often, there are strategies that could potentially reduce your overall tax bill by being intentional on how you draw income once retired.  If you’d ever like to dig into your situation to see if there are planning opportunities you should be taking advantage of, please reach out to us for guidance. 

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to  be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler and not necessarily those of Raymond James. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. The above is a hypothetical example for illustration purposes only.

Explaining the What is the “Restore” Option for Pensions, Part 3 of a 3 Part Series on Pensions

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

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Selecting your pension benefit option as you near retirement could quite possibly be the largest financial decision you ever make.  If you’ve received a breakdown of the various ways you can elect to have your pension benefits paid and you’re feeling overwhelmed, you are certainly not alone!  In many cases, employers give you the option to select from upwards of 30 different options that have various survivor benefits, lump-sum payouts, Social Security bridge payments and more.  Is your head spinning yet? 

One of the more appealing pension options that our team is seeing more and more of is the “restore” option.  The restore feature of a pension is a way to protect the person receiving the pension if their spouse dies before them.  If that were the case, the restore option allows the retiree to “step-up” to the higher single/straight life payment.  Similar to the survivor benefit, the restore option is another layer of “insurance” to protect the retiree from being locked into a permanently reduced pension benefit if their spouse pre-deceases them. 

Let’s take a look at an example of the restore feature:

Tom (age 61) is retiring from XYZ Company in several months.  Tom would like to evaluate his pension options to see which payment would be best for him and his wife Judy (age 60).  Tom has narrowed it down to 3 options:

Option 1:

  • $45,000/yr single/straight life (no survivor benefit)

    • Payment would cease upon Tom’s passing – $0 to Judy

Option 2:

  • $41,000/yr 50% survivor option

    • Judy would receive a $20,500/yr benefit during her lifetime if Tom pre-deceases her

 Option 3:

  • $40,200/yr 50% survivor option with “restore” feature

    • Judy would receive a $20,500/yr benefit during her lifetime if Tom pre-deceases her

    • Tom would step-up to a $45,000/yr benefit (straight/single life benefit figure) if Judy pre-deceases him

The more Tom and Judy have discussed their overall financial plan; they are not comfortable selecting the single/straight life option and risking Judy not receiving a continuation of benefits if Tom pre-deceases her.  However, because Judy has had some health issues in the past, they feel the 50% restore payment option makes more sense for their situation because it is very possible that Judy will die before Tom.  They are comfortable with an $800/yr reduction in payment to have the “insurance” of Tom stepping up to the higher single/straight life option if he survives Judy. 

While the restore option for Tom and Judy seems to make perfect sense, there truly is no a “one size fits all” pension option that works for everyone.  Every situation is very unique and it’s important that you evaluate your entire financial picture and other sources of retirement income to determine which pension option is right for you and your family.

Click to see part 1 of pension blogs How to Choose a Survivor Benefit for Your Pension and part 2 What You Need to Know About Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation or PBGC

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler, CFP© and not necessarily those of Raymond James. This is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment. This is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. 

WEBINAR IN REVIEW: Retirement Income Planning: How Will You Get Paid in Retirement?

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

One of most common questions I hear from clients as they approach retirement is, “How do I actually get paid when I’m no longer working?” It’s a question that I feel we as planners can sometimes take for granted.  Because we are helping hundreds of clients throughout the year with their retirement income strategy, we can sometimes forget that this simple question is often the cause of many sleepless nights for soon-to-be retirees.   

Saving money throughout your career can be simple, but certainly not easy. Prudent and consistent saving requires a tremendous amount of discipline. However, if you elect the proper asset allocation in your 401k and you’re a quality saver, in most cases, accumulating really doesn’t have to be all that difficult.  However, when it comes time to take money out of the various accounts you’ve accumulated over time or have to make monumental financial decisions surrounding items such as Social Security or which pension option to elect, the conversation changes. In many cases, this is a stage in life where we frequently see those who have been “do it yourselfers” reach out to us for professional guidance. 

The first step in crafting a retirement income strategy is having a firm grip on your own personal spending goal in retirement. From there, we’ll sit down together and evaluate the fixed income sources that you have at your disposal. Most often these sources include your pension, Social Security, annuity income or even part-time employment income. Once we have a better sense of the fixed payments you’ll be receiving throughout the year, we’ll take a look at the various investable assets you’ve accumulated to determine where the “gap” needs to be filled from an income standpoint and determine if that figure is reasonable considering your own projected retirement time horizon. Finally, we need to dive into the tax ramifications of your income sources and portfolio income. If you have multiple investment or retirement accounts, it’s critical to evaluate the tax ramifications each account possesses. 

Make sure you listen to the replay of our webinar “Retirement Income Planning: How Much Will You Get Paid In Retirement?” for additional tips and information on how you might consider structuring your own tax-efficient retirement income strategy.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler and not necessarily those of Raymond James. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. This material is being provided for information purposes only. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Every investor's situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.

How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP® Sandy Adams

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On a recent flight, I took the opportunity to browse the movie selection and found a film I had never heard before, but that peaked my interest.  “The Last Word” with Shirley MacLaine, while not the greatest movie from the view of a film critic, was on point with some lessons about how we live our lives and how we want to be remembered once we are gone.  Having been touched with a handful of recent deaths in my personal and professional life, this touched a nerve with me.

The movie “The Last Word” tells the story of a woman facing the end of her life.  As someone who has always felt the need for control and brutal honesty, she finds herself wanting to craft her own obituary.  Realizing that the keys to any great obituary are: the person is deeply loved by their families (she is divorced with a non-existent relationship with her only daughter), the person is respected by co-workers (she realizes she alienated many of the people she worked with by the way she treated them in her working life), and the person has somehow touched an unexpected person in a profound way (something she has never done).  With her time running out, she sets out to find a way to “fix” what has gone wrong in the past and make her life worthy of a great obituary.  On her journey to improve her life in the memory of others, she reminds us to make a difference in people’s lives, to make every day count, and to take risks.  After all, she says, “When you fail, you learn.  When you fail, you live.”

Many of us are so busy doing the day-to-day things that we need to do that we never really consider what we are doing with our lives or what impact we want to have on others during the course of our lives.  Working with clients on their path to, through and after retirement, we have conversations about making sure that financial goals are tied to things that make their life most fulfilling and meaningful — it’s not just about the money.  As my partner Matt Chope, CFP© likes to say, “We try to help clients make the most out of the one life they have to live.” 

When you look back on your life, what do you want to be remembered for?  What impact do you want to have on the world?  On others?  Are you being intentional about living that life?  If not, start now.  And work with your financial planner to make sure those life goals are incorporated into your overall plan.

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.


Any opinions are those of Sandra Adams and not necessarily those of Raymond James.

Simplifying Your Retirement Plans

Co-Contributed by: Matthew E. Chope, CFP® Matt Chope and Gerri Harmer Gerri Harmer

If you’re like most, you have multiple retirement plans from previous employers. These may be hard to track and lead to piles of paper statements. Recent rulings make it easier to consolidate accounts and potentially save on fees.

Recent changes in rulings now allow most retirement plans to be “rolled over” to other qualified plans that previously were not allowed including Simple IRAs and 401ks. One exception is you must hold your Simple IRA for two years before funds can be moved in or out of the account without paying tax penalties.  Pictured is a chart showing permissible roll over types.

Things to consider before acting:

  • Compare investment offerings and fees for each account to find the best choice to roll into. These are usually located on your statement or in the prospectus. You can also call the phone number on your statement to inquire.
  • Consider consulting a financial advisor to get the best overall financial picture.
  • Funds must be withdrawn and redeposited within 60 days to avoid paying tax penalties.

If you have questions on how to get started, or want to talk with a professional on what your rollover options our, please reach out to your CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ here at The Center.  

Matthew E. Chope, CFP ® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Matt has been quoted in various investment professional newspapers and magazines. He is active in the community and his profession and helps local corporations and nonprofits in the areas of strategic planning and money and business management decisions.

Gerri Harmer is a Client Service Manager at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. Be sure to consider all of your available options and the applicable fees and features of each option before moving your retirement assets. Tax matters should be discussed with an appropriate tax professional.

Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation (NQDC) Plans

Contributed by: Kali Hassinger Kali Hassinger

A Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation plan (NQDC) is a benefit plan offered by some employers to their higher earning and/or ranking employees. Some of you may have heard of these plans referred to as “Golden Handcuffs” because they often require that an employee stay with their current employer, or at least not move to a competing firm, in order to receive the compensation. This nickname provides both a negative and positive connotation, but, when appropriate, NQDC plans can offer employees greater control over their income, taxes, and financial future.

NQDC plans, unlike your typical 401(k), are not subject to limitations or non-discrimination rules. That means that the employer can offer this benefit to specific employees and there is no restriction on the dollar amount deferred. This is advantageous to an employee who is expecting to be in a high tax bracket, is already fully funding their retirement savings plan(s), has a surplus in cash flow, and may foresee a time when their taxable income will be reduced. With this strategy, the employee and employer agree upon a date in the future to pay the employee his/her earned income. Both parties agree to when the funds will be received in the future, and it isn’t taxable income until it is actually received by the employee.

In most cases, these plans are considered “unfunded” by the employer, which means that the money isn’t explicitly set aside for the employee. This scenario creates a certain level of risk for the employee because the funds would be subject to any future bankruptcy or creditor claims. There are some strategies that the employer can utilize to mitigate the risk (involving trusts and insurance), but they need to uphold the NQDC status. Otherwise, the deferred compensation amount will become fully taxable to the employee along with a 20% penalty. Funded NQDC plans exist as well, and these plans set the deferred compensation assets aside exclusively for the benefit for the employee. Funded plans, however, open themselves back up to ERISA requirements, making them far less popular.  

When an employer and employee enter in a NQDC agreement, it can be a win for both parties.  Employers are securing that valued employees will remain loyal, while employees are able to reduce their taxable income now. 

Kali Hassinger, CFP® is an Associate Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Kali Hassinger and are not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. and its advisors do not provide advice on tax issues, these matters should be discussed with the appropriate professional.

Focusing on what you Can Control

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

“Don’t stress about the stuff you can’t control, doing so will ruin the present.” Simple but powerful advice my dad gave me nearly a decade ago which has always stuck with me. Personally, I’ve always been a bit of a “worry wart.” Those words of wisdom, however, provided by my dad—that I probably already knew, but needed to hear from someone I loved and respected—have proven to dramatically reduce the things I lose sleep over because that I know deep down that I have virtually no control over them. As I had to remind myself of this recently, it made me think of a graphic J.P. Morgan put together that we often times share with clients:

Often times, the major area that we as investors become fixated on (and rightfully so!) are market returns. Ironically, this is an area, as the chart shows, we have no control over. The same goes for policies surrounding taxation, savings and benefits. As you can see, employment and longevity are things we do have some control over, by investing in our own human capital and our health. The areas that we have total control over—saving vs. spending, and asset allocation and location—are what we need to focus on, in my opinion. Consistent and prudent saving, living within (or ideally, below) your means, and maintaining a proper mix of stocks and bonds within your portfolio are what we try to have clients be laser focused on. Over the course of 31 years of helping clients achieve their financial goals, The Center has come to realize that those two areas are the largest contributors of a successful financial plan. 

With so many uncertainties in the world we live in today that can impact the market, it’s always a timely reminder to focus on the areas that we have control over and make sure we get those things right.  Chances are, if we do, the other things that we might be stressing over today, will potentially fall into place. If you need help focusing on the areas of your financial wellbeing in which you CAN control, give us a call! We’re always happy to help.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick is a member of The Center’s financial planning department and also works closely with Center clients. In addition, Nick is a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs.


Opinions expressed are those of Nick Defenthaler, and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. Investing involves risk and investors may incur a profit or a loss regardless of the strategy or strategies employed. Asset allocation does not ensure a profit or guarantee against loss.

Back to School – It’s Not Just for Kids

So it’s that time of year again…with the end of summer brings the excitement of the new school year and new learning for the kids! As an adult, haven’t you ever been just a little bit envious of that “back to school” rush kids experience? Jealous of the excitement of new learnings and of the prospect of engaging your mind? What if you had time to do this when you retired AND found out that it might make help you age more successfully?

According to the UCLA Longevity Center (Fall/Winter 2015 Newsletter), lifelong learning for older adults can be as effective as a college education in protecting brain health as you age. Since Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States according to the 2016 Alzheimer’s Report, brain health is something we should probably put pretty high on our priority list!

Locally, we have a wonderful resource to find lifelong learning opportunities – SOAR (Society of Active Retirees – www.soarexlore.com).  SOAR is a community-based, lifelong learning initiative affiliated with Wayne State University and the Road Scholar Institute Network. It is a member-run and member-driven organization that offers a broad range of non-credit courses and related activities that provide multiple opportunities for social and cultural enrichment as well as personal growth. SOAR draws from volunteer faculty, largely from WSU and other area colleges and universities. In addition to SOAR, we have a vast array of wonderful community education programs and community colleges that provide programs ripe with opportunities for older adults. 

In addition to protecting brain health, lifelong learning can add to successful aging by:

  • Keeping you mentally and socially active
  • Adding joy to your active retirement years
  • Adding additional knowledge and wisdom to your life
  • Being a financial“efficient” retirement activity

Successful aging takes many forms, and it isn’t always about being financially successful. It is about staying healthy…physically, mentally, psychologically…in all ways possible. Staying active is part of the game. For more information about how you can stay active for successful aging, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Sandra Adams, CFP® , CeFT™ is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.


This information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Raymond James is not affiliated with the Society of Active Retirees organization, Wayne State University, or the Road Scholar Institute Network.

Webinar in Review: Employee Benefit Open Enrollment

Contributed by: Clare Lilek Clare Lilek

Each September, as school is back in session and fall is right around the corner, the last thing on your mind is “How can I make the most of my employee benefit enrollment that’s happening soon?!” It may not be the most exciting topic, but enrollment for your employer’s benefit package happens once a year, usually in late September and early October, and can affect the benefits and coverage you receive for the following twelve months. So it is very much worth your time to look at what your company offers and weigh the pros and cons of all your options. Luckily for you, Nick Defenthaler, CFP®, recently hosted a webinar that outlines the various benefits your company could offer and how you may go about electing certain packages. Below are a few highlights from the 30-minute webinar. For a more detailed explanation, watch the full webinar recording below!

Retirement Savings Plans

  • Choosing a Traditional (pre-tax) or a Roth (post-tax) plan depends on your current tax bracket versus your projected tax bracket when you retire.
  • Make sure you are always maxing out your employer match at the very least. In order to make sure you are continually growing your retirement account, consider add 1-2% each year to your contributions.
  • Choose a mix of investment options that are aligned with your risk tolerance.
  • Ride out the changes in the market. It’s important not to make constant portfolio changes.

Executive Compensation Plans

These types of compensation plans are typically used as incentive compensation. They can vary from company to company but some of the options include: stock options, non-qualified deferred compensation plans, and employee stock purchase plans. We are currently doing a blog series on Stock Options (NSOs, ISOs, and RSUs); make sure to look out for these for a more detailed overview.

Health Insurance

Nick did a high-level overview of the different types of plans and options you may encounter when it comes to company health insurance. When choosing between a PPO or HMO, you could be choosing between the flexibility of additional benefits (PPO) or the lower cost for potentially more restrictive benefits (HMO). He also highlights the importance of reading the fine print when adding a spouse to your benefits. Lately, many companies have a spousal surcharge that makes it more expensive for a spouse to be insured on your plan if they have access to insurance through their own employer. Nick also noted that some companies are making the move to high-deductible plans, which lower their premiums but put the “buying power” back in the hands of the insured.

Flex Spending Accounts

Nick continued to describe the potential benefit of using a Flex Spending Accounts, whether it’s for medical or dependent care deductibles.  When pretax contributions are used for qualified medical expenses, within the year of contribution, they continue to go untaxed. To learn how you could potentially save some tax money, make sure to tune in to this part of the webinar!

Other Insurances

To wrap up, Nick went through disability insurance and life insurance options. He weighed the pros and cons for group vs individual coverage, and how some employees might want to consider long-term and short-term disability coverage.

If you have any questions about this webinar or your specific benefits, don’t hesitate to reach out to Nick.