3 Things a Widow Can Do to Gain Financial Control

Sandy Adams Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP®

Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® 3 Things a Widow Can Do to Gain Financial Control

REPOST

Typical of most couples, my clients Mike and Sue evenly split the household chores. She handled the house – decorating, cleaning, meals, etc. He handled the cars and the finances, including paying the bills.

A retired engineer, Mike loved cars, and he loved numbers and details. Sue hated all of that numbers stuff – so much so that, for the most part, she didn’t even attend annual meetings with their financial advisor. Over the last few years, I offered to meet at their home so she would be involved in the financial review. I felt it was important that Sue have at least a basic understanding of what was going on.

When Mike unexpectedly died in a car accident, a man taken way too young in his mid-70’s, Sue felt completely unprepared, as most of us would, for a life alone. Her children lived nearby, so that was comforting. From a financial perspective, she at least knew what she had to work with and knew who to call. We were able to speak shortly after Mike’s death.

In the months that followed, Sue gave herself time, as we recommended, to not make any big decisions and to find her new normal without Mike. This involved figuring out what her new cash flow looked like; she eliminated some services and added others, etc. Sue also worked her way through Mike’s bill paying system. Very detail oriented and complicated, it was way too rigorous for her tastes. But she felt, somehow, that she needed to stick to his system, because it had always worked for them.

My suggestion to Sue (and to any widow) as she takes control of her own financial affairs after the death of a loved one is this:

  1. Take the time to figure out what your new normal is and what changes can be made to fit your new lifestyle.

  2. Use a system that makes things easy for you. Don’t stick to a system that makes you crazy just because it’s the one that your deceased spouse used for years.

  3. Use your financial advisor as a partner/coach to help guide you through the process as you take control of your financial life. If this is new, it could take a year or two for you to feel comfortable with the process. And that’s okay.

Becoming a widow at any age is challenging enough, without facing the additional hurdles of handling things for which you weren’t responsible in the past. Use your resources and give yourself permission to design your financial life to fit your new normal.

Sandra Adams, CFP®, CeFT™, is a Partner and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® She specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and serves as a trusted source for national publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine, and Journal of Financial Planning.


Any opinions are those of Sandra D. Adams, CFP® and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. The case study is a hypothetical example provided for illustrative purposes only. Individual cases will vary. 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. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Investing involves risk and investors may incur a profit or a loss regardless of strategy selected. Prior to making any investment decision, you should consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

Webinar in Review: What Donors Want

Jaclyn Jackson Contributed by: Jaclyn Jackson

If your nonprofit hopes to develop meaningful relationships with donors, this webinar recording is for you. Learn what donors want to know before working with charities, how to make it easier for donors to support your work, and why endowments are important for meeting your organization’s goals.

If you missed the webinar, here’s a recording:

Check out the time stamps below to listen to the topics you’re most interested in:

0:00 Intro and Agenda

What Donors Want to Know:

  • 2:30 Grant Review Feedback

  • 09:20 Financial Review Feedback

Make it Easier for Individual Donors to Support Your Work:

  • 15:00 Donor Advised Funds

  • 17:00 Qualified Charitable Distributions

Meeting Your Organizations Goals:

  • 19:00 Endowments

  • 22:00 Working with Financial Advisors

Long Term Care Premium Increases — Things to Consider if You Receive a Notice

Sandy Adams Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP®

Long Term Care Premium Increases

No one likes to receive a letter stating that their premiums are going up — especially with a Long Term Care insurance policy that already seems relatively expensive. Unfortunately, when you own something other than a “paid up” Long Term Care Insurance Policy, the question is not if but when you might receive such a notice. To review, remember that the law allows insurers to apply to regulators for an increase in premiums.

Increases are allowed only if they apply to all policyholders and the company’s data shows current premiums will not cover current and future claims based on costs, projected interest rates, projected increases in claims or length of claims. (Companies cannot increase premiums for specific individuals based on increases in age, gender, health conditions, or filing of a claim.)

Taking the time to make an educated decision about your options when a premium increase occurs is crucial when it comes to Long Term Care insurance, especially as you get older. The more time passes, the greater the likelihood that you might need this type of insurance.

If you are faced with a premium increase, you typically have a limited number of options: 

  1. Pay the increased premium and keep your current coverage.

  2. Continue to pay your current premium or a reduced premium and accept some combination of reduced benefits (likely in this category, your Long Term Care insurance company will offer you a short list of options from which to choose). *NOTE: We have recently discovered that the list of options provided WITH the premium increase are not the only options. If you wish to consider additional options, you (and/or you advisor) can contact the Long Term Care company to request additional options. For example, a client in their mid-80s may consider an option to discontinue the compound inflation rider going forward and considerably decrease the premium. The added benefit for someone in their mid-80s is negligible at that point.

  3. Take the Contingent Non-Forfeiture Option. If the percentage of premium increase is at a certain level, you may be able to stop paying premiums, and you would be entitled to a long-term care benefit based on the amount of premium dollars you have already paid.

It makes sense to carefully weigh your options when it comes to the Long Term Care insurance decision. Understand that you have full control. The Long Term Care insurance company will provide additional options if you request them — but you have to ask. And work with your financial advisor to review your options and see what makes sense. The only option that likely DOES NOT make sense is NOT writing the check to the Long Term Care insurance company at all!

Sandra Adams, CFP®, CeFT™, is a Partner and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® She specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and serves as a trusted source for national publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine, and Journal of Financial Planning.

3 Reasons to Get an Early Start on College Savings

Robert Ingram Contributed by: Robert Ingram

Get an Early Start on College Savings

The back-to-school season is right around the corner. And if you have school-aged children, the thought of planning for their college education may be enough to cause your own case of back-to-school jitters. Costs of a four-year education at many colleges and universities are already well into the six-figure range (per child!). For many families hoping to cover a large portion of the costs, significant savings goals are likely required. That’s why, more than ever, you should create a college savings plan as early as possible. 

College Costs Keep Rising

When planning to fund an education goal that may be years away, focusing on today’s costs is (unfortunately) just the beginning. Like the prices of many other goods and services, college costs have increased over time. These costs, however, have been rising much faster than those of other household expenses. According to JPMorgan Asset Management’s research, tuition costs have grown by an average annual rate of 6.4% since 1983. At this rate, today’s cost of tuition would double in about 11 years. Even if this rate of inflation slowed somewhat, potential college costs are eye-opening.

The illustration below shows projected total tuition, fees, and room and board expenses for a four-year, public or private college education, with a 5% annual increase in costs.

Source: JPMorgan Asset Management College Planning Essentials, using The College Board,  2018 Trends in College Pricing . Future college costs estimated to inflate 5% per year. Average tuition, fees and room and board for public college reflect four-year, in-state charges.

Source: JPMorgan Asset Management College Planning Essentials, using The College Board, 2018 Trends in College Pricing. Future college costs estimated to inflate 5% per year. Average tuition, fees and room and board for public college reflect four-year, in-state charges.

As you can see in this example, a child who is 10 years old today could expect a total cost of $136,085 at an in-state public college or university. Her education at a private college could cost over $308,000.

The power of compound growth on your savings and invested earnings can be one of your best allies as you save for these potential future costs. Let’s say the family of our 10-year-old child began saving $3,600 each year. At 7% growth compounded annually, they would have $36,935 by the time she turned 18. What if, instead, they began saving that same amount eight years earlier, when the child was age 2? At the same 7% annual return, they would have $100,396. The sooner you can begin saving and investing, the more time compounding has to work its magic.

The Burden of Student Loan Debt

As the costs of college have continued to rise, the amount of student loan debt has grown as well. A recent report from the New York Federal Reserve Consumer Credit Panel showed that outstanding student loan debt totaled $1.44 trillion as of September 30, 2018. In addition, studies from the Institute of College Access and Success found that 65% of students graduating in 2017 from public and private, non-profit colleges had student loans, and the average borrower owed $28,650.

Loans can help provide students the funds to complete their educations, but a large debt balance can have serious implications for a graduate’s personal finances. As new graduates begin their careers, servicing this student loan debt can take up a large portion of their budgets. More dollars going to pay down debt means fewer dollars available for other needs, for building an emergency fund, saving for a house, or saving for retirement. (Click here to see some financial tips for new graduates). Parents managing student loan debt can also feel similar constraints. Often, parents in the home stretch toward retirement are paying down debt instead of funding their own retirement plans. 

Of course, every dollar of college expenses paid from savings can mean one less dollar of debt to service. More than that, the longer you have to build college savings, the greater the difference between the out-of-pocket cost of paying for college with debt and the out-of-pocket cost of saving. Take a look at the following chart, which compares the cost of funding education through loans (the principal borrowed and interest) with the cost of saving over 18 years.

529 college savings plan vs. college loan

In this hypothetical example, the total out-of-pocket amount of $65,800 contributed to the savings plan combined with investment earnings of 6% annually provided the total balance of $117,698. Borrowing that same $117,698 could result in total spending of $168,390 for the loan principal and interest.

What about Financial Aid?

If you’re like many clients thinking about college planning, you may be concerned that your savings and investments will negatively affect your eligibility for college aid. You might be worried that the more you save, the less likely it is that you will receive assistance.

To determine financial aid eligibility, schools use an Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is a measure of a family’s financial strength. The EFC formula takes into account the incomes and assets of both the student and the parents. While the amount of savings and investment assets are considered, assets – and particularly those held in parents’ names – are a much smaller factor than incomes.  

The EFC formula includes up to 50% of the student’s income and 47% of parents’ income. On the other hand, the EFC considers up to 20% of the student’s assets and only 5.64% of the parents’ non-retirement assets, above a protected amount. Although balances in college savings plans are counted along with other non-retirement assets, the smaller percentage applied to parental assets can allow parents to build some meaningful savings without drastically affecting their student’s EFC. For a closer look at the financial aid process, check out our college planning webinar.

As with other areas of financial planning, college savings involves balancing your goals and priorities in order to most effectively align your resources. Your own unique circumstances will determine the right amounts to save, and when and where to save. If we can be a resource for any of your college planning needs, please let us know!

Robert Ingram, CFP®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® With more than 15 years of industry experience, he is a trusted source for local media outlets and frequent contributor to The Center’s “Money Centered” blog.

Investment Commentary: Second Quarter 2019

Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Investment Commentary 2019

Mid-Year update

As summer feels like it is finally underway after a soggy start, the markets have had anything but a soggy start to the year. The first half of 2019 ended on a strong note, as the U.S. and China seemed to resume negotiations with a constructive air. This is the best first half of the year the S&P 500 has experienced since 1997, as it posted a 18.54% gain.

Interest rates

Bonds have also enjoyed strong results this year, with the Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index up 6.11%. The Federal Reserve left rates unchanged again in June, but has made a complete about-face over the first half of the year, from projecting multiple interest rate increases to a majority of officials now thinking rates will be lower by year-end.  This comes on the heels of steady interest rate increases since 2015. The dispute over trade policy between the U.S. and China and imposition of tariffs is the main stimulus behind this thinking. This change by the Federal Reserve of wanting to reduce rates rather than raise rates (also referred to as a more dovish stance) has given a strong boost to domestic bonds as well as emerging market debt. The market has already priced in two interest rate cuts by year-end and two more in 2020. While this aggressive rate cut schedule may not fully play out (just as the three rate increases forecast for 2019 at the end of 2018 did not happen), the Federal Reserve has clearly signaled a softening economy.

Economic Snapshot

If you look at the economy and set aside the risks from the trade war, you see a pretty strong current picture; however, some of the positive signs are getting less and less positive. The expansion we have been in for so long could continue a while longer, but it seems to have less wind in its sails than it did just a year ago.

Retail Sales have come in very strong for the first half of the year, on the heels of some of the strongest readings on consumer confidence since the mid-2000s.

The Unemployment Rate, 3.6%, is at the lowest level since December 1969. The labor market remains very tight, and wages are increasing at a pace higher than inflation. This supports the high consumer confidence number and consumer spending, which is such a large part of our economy.

Inflation remains subdued with both headline and core CPI coming in at 2% or less, despite the pickup in wage inflation. Tariffs could start to increase pressure here, but we haven’t seen this flow through to the data yet.

Housing prices have been on the decline over the past year; however, the Federal Reserve’s recent change in stance on interest rates could give another slight temporary boon to this market.

Risks that could increase market volatility

Another breakdown in U.S. China trade negotiations, which could cause an abrupt pullback in markets. The tariffs in place now would start to have longer-term impact on inputs for producing goods. Businesses impacted by the tariffs would have to either cut costs elsewhere – think layoffs and discontinuing of capital expenditures – or pass the price increase along to the end consumer. Either way, this alone could start to push the economy into recession. This wildcard could have far-reaching impacts on our economy and we are closely watching developments..

The Federal Reserve not following through on cutting interest rates, as the markets are currently anticipating. The futures markets have priced in nearly four rate increases over the next 18 months. If the Fed doesn’t cut rates, we may see market rates back on the rise, meaning a short-term potential slowdown in bond returns and some headwinds for emerging market debt.

An escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which has started to affect oil prices in a negative way, although prices are still lower than they were a year ago. A sharp increase in oil prices affects consumer confidence and spending, while also putting pressure on inflation to the upside. Oil rising very quickly to high levels is often an early signal of recession

Our investment committee meets monthly and informally talks every day, if needed, regarding developments in headline risks and the economy. Sometimes, these discussions result in action, and sometimes, we take a wait-and-see approach, with an eye toward certain indicators. Right now, we continue to monitor the inversion of the yield curve, as well as the weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Both data points can be leading economic indicators that may give us some early warning signs. While we think the year should finish in positive territory, we remain cautious with our outlook for 2020.

We continue to hear great feedback on our new Client portal! We have a new instructional video to help you learn how to navigate if you are already using the portal, but also to let you know what information you could see by signing up. If you are interested, please reach out to us so we can send you the link to activate it!

On behalf of everyone here at The Center, we hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!

Angela Palacios CFP®, AIF®
Partner
Director of Investments

Angela Palacios, CFP®, AIF®, is a partner and Director of Investments at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® She chairs The Center Investment Committee and pens a quarterly Investment Commentary.


Any opinions are those of financial advisor and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index is a broad-based flagship benchmark that measures the investment grade, US dollar-denominated, fixed-rate taxable bond market. Indices are not available for direct investment. Any investor who attempts to mimic the performance of an index would incur fees and expenses which would reduce returns. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CFP Board) owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design), and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

Qualified Charitable Distributions: Giving Money While Saving Money

Josh Bitel Contributed by: Josh Bitel, CFP®

Qualified Charitable Distributions

The Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) can be a powerful and tax-efficient way to achieve one’s philanthropic goals. This strategy has become much more popular under the new tax laws.

QCD Refresher

The QCD, which applies only if you’re at least 70 ½ years old, essentially allows you to directly donate your entire Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) to a charity. Normally, any distribution from an IRA is considered ordinary income from a tax perspective; however, when the dollars go directly to a charity or 501(c)3 organization, the distribution from the IRA is considered not taxable.

Let’s Look at an Example

Sandy turned 70 ½ in June 2019, and this is the first year she has to take a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from her IRA, which happens to be $25,000. A charitably inclined person, Sandy gifts, on average, nearly $30,000 each year to her church. Because she does not really need the proceeds from her RMD, she can have the $25,000 directly transferred to her church, either by check or electronic deposit. She would then avoid paying tax on the distribution. Since Sandy is in the 24% tax bracket, she saves approximately $6,000 in federal taxes!

Rules to Consider

The QCD and similar strategies have rules and nuances you should keep in mind to ensure proper execution:

  • Only distributions from IRAs are permitted for the QCD. Simple and SEP IRAs must be “inactive.”

    • Employer plans such as a 401k, 403b, 457 do not allow for the QCD.

    • The QCD is permitted within a Roth IRA but would not make sense from a tax perspective, because Roth IRA withdrawals are tax-free by age 70 ½.*

  • You must be 70 ½ at the time the QCD is processed.

  • Funds from the QCD must go directly to the charity and cannot go to you first and then out to the charity.

  • You can give, at most, $100,000 to charity through the QCD in any year, even if this figure exceeds the actual amount of your RMD.

The amount of money saved from being intentional with how you gift funds to charity can potentially keep more money in your pocket, which ultimately means there’s more to give to the organizations you passionately support.

Josh Bitel, CFP® is an Associate Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® He conducts financial planning analysis for clients and has a special interest in retirement income analysis.

Monitor Your Savings Bonds Through Treasury Direct

Jeanette LoPiccolo Contributed by: Jeanette LoPiccolo, CRPC®

Monitor your savings bonds through Treasury Direct

Throughout the years, savings bonds have been popular gifts. Before college savings accounts became so popular, grandparents sometimes gave bonds for birthdays, encouraging their grandchildren to save for the future. Could you have any savings bonds lying around in files or locked up in a safety deposit box?

If you have bonds that you have not looked at in years, now may be the right time to bring them into the digital age with Treasury Direct.

Recently, the U.S. Treasury stopped issuing paper bonds to save costs. Instead, you can create an online account and monitor your bonds as you would an investment account. If you use Raymond James Client Access, you can create an external link to your savings bonds account. Then, you and your financial planner can track your bonds.

In addition to preventing your bonds from being forgotten (or tossed away in a Marie Kondo cleaning frenzy), here are a few good reasons to try the online account:

  • You can cash your electronic bonds, in full or in part, at any time – 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and move the funds to a savings or checking account that you specify. You don’t need to go to a financial institution, and there are no restrictions on the number of bonds or the value that can be cashed, once minimum requirements are met.

  • Online holdings and their current values can be viewed at any time.

  • When electronic bonds reach final maturity and are no longer earning interest, they will be automatically paid to a non-interest bearing account.

The process is fairly simple. Step 1 is to locate your savings bonds. Then visit https://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/research/indepth/smartexchangeinfo.htm and scroll down to “How Do You Use SmartExchange?”. Follow the prompts and get started!

Jeanette LoPiccolo, CFP®, CRPC®, is an Associate Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® She is a 2018 Raymond James Outstanding Branch Professional, one of three recognized nationwide.


Opinions expressed in the attached article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.

Separate vs. Marital Property in Divorce

Jacki Roessler Contributed by: Jacki Roessler, CDFA®

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It’s Complicated!

Here in Michigan, divorce cases occur in what’s referred to as an “Equitable Division” environment. This distinction separates us from “Community Property” states like California, where the presumption is that all property acquired during a marriage is subject to equal division. In an equitable division property state, there’s a presumption that a property settlement should be equitable or FAIR…not necessarily equal. Marital property, including any asset (or debt) that accumulates during the marriage, no matter in whose name, is subject to equitable division between the parties.

But what about assets that don’t fall neatly into the proverbial marital pie? How, if at all, are they divided?

In general, assets considered the “separate” property of one spouse include those that were:

  • Brought into the marriage and left in the party’s name

  • Gifted during the marriage and left in the party’s name

  • Inherited during the marriage and left in the party’s name

Simple, right? Wrong.

In fact, although I’ve been a practicing divorce financial planner for nearly 25 years, lately I’ve noticed the distinction between separate and marital assets has gotten more complicated and difficult to navigate.

As an example, suppose John and Jane have filed for divorce after 20 years of marriage. Five years ago, Jane inherited $100,000 from an aunt in the form of an Inheritance IRA, from which the IRS requires her to take minimum annual distributions. She has been using the distributions to fund family vacations, and she and John have paid taxes on their joint return for all distributions.

For purposes of the divorce, is her $100,000 separate or marital property? In other words, is John entitled to an equitable share of any part or does it go to Jane, free and clear?

The answer: It depends. It depends on the length of marriage. It depends on whether Jane’s inheritance was co-mingled in any way. Let’s suppose the funds distributed were put into an account only in Jane’s name and weren’t used for family vacations. That might make a difference, depending on other circumstances.

Let’s take the example above and consider the parties’ marital home. John made the down-payment with proceeds from the sale of his pre-marital home, but both names are on the new home’s title. This is generally considered John’s gift to the marital estate. Because his separate property has been co-mingled, the house becomes part of the marital pie and up for equitable division between the parties.

Looking at a more complicated example, let’s also suppose that John had $200,000 in his 401k when he and Jane got married. He never moved the money into an account in both names, took a distribution or loan during the marriage. With the account now grown to $1,000,000, Jane concedes that the original $200,000 isn’t in the marital pie, but believes the entire $800,000 increase should be. John’s attorney says no, only the contributions made during the marriage, and earnings on those funds, should be part of the marital pie. The rest is separate.

Who is correct? Once again, it depends on several factors and on the specifics of the case. It’s important to understand, though, that no cut-and-dried answer can be applied to every case. These complex legal questions must be addressed by a qualified family law attorney. Keeping in mind that only a lawyer can help a client determine what is separate and what is marital property, there’s also the question of proof. That’s where a financial expert comes into play. Working within the framework of the legal strategy, the financial expert’s job is to reasonably quantify what is separate and what is marital.

The take-away for clients? When facing an issue of separate or marital property, bring it to the attention of an attorney and ask a lot of questions. Next, are there financial records to prove the case? This is key to determining whether it makes sense to pursue a claim in favor of or against separate property. Last, it may be possible to invade separate property based on need or other relevant factors.

As always, clients need to work closely with their attorneys and financial experts to explore all the options available to them – and the costs.

Jacki Roessler, CDFA®, is a Divorce Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® and Branch Associate, Raymond James Financial Services. With more than 25 years of experience in the field, she is a recognized leader in the area of Divorce Financial Planning.


Any opinions are those of Jaclyn Roessler and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. There is no assurance any of the trends mentioned will continue or forecasts will occur. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. The case studies included herein are for illustrative purposes only. Individual cases will vary. Prior to making any investment decision, you should consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. 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. Raymond James and its advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected.

Health Care Costs: The Retirement Planning Wildcard

Kali Hassinger Contributed by: Kali Hassinger, CFP®

Health Care Costs: The Retirement Planning Wildcard

When planning ahead for retirement income needs, we typically think about how much it will cost us to live day-to-day (food, clothing, shelter), and to do those things we want to do, like travel and helping grandkids pay for college. The costs we don’t often think about, those that could potentially wreak havoc on retirement income planning, are health care costs.

According to a recent article from the Employee Benefits Research Institute, the average 65-year-old couple will need $400,000 to have a 90% chance of covering health care expenses over their remaining lifetimes (excluding long-term care).

Longevity is a critical factor driving health care costs. According to the Social Security Administration’s 2020 study, a couple, both 66 years of age, has a 1-in-2 chance that one will live to age 90 and a 1-in-4 chance that one will live to age 95. And considering that Medicare premiums are means-tested, the more income you generate in retirement, the higher your Medicare premiums.

So, what can you do to plan for this potential large cost?

  1. If your goal is to retire early, plan on self-insuring costs from retirement to age 65. Some employers may offer retiree healthcare, or you can purchase insurance on the Health Insurance Exchange through the Affordable Care Act (still out-of-pocket dollars in retirement).

  2. Consider taking advantage of Roth 401(k)s, Roth IRAs (if you qualify), or converting IRA dollars to ROTH IRAs in years that make sense from an income tax perspective. You can use these tax-free dollars for potential retirement health care expenses that won’t increase your income for determining Medicare premiums.

  3. Work with your financial planner to determine whether a non-qualified deferred annuity or similar vehicle might make sense for a portion of your investment portfolio. Again, these dollars can be tax-advantaged when determining Medicare premiums.

  4. Most importantly, work with your financial planner to simulate retirement income needs for health care expenses and include this in your retirement plan. Although you will never know your exact need, flexible planning to accommodate these expenses may help provide confidence for your future.

Contact your financial planner to discuss how you can plan to pay for your retirement health care needs.

Kali Hassinger, CFP®, CDFA®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® She has more than a decade of financial planning and insurance industry experience.


UPDATED from original post on March 11, 2014 by Sandy Adams.

Any opinions are those of Kali Hassinger and not necessarily those of Raymond James. This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or a loss regardless of strategy selected. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. Roth IRA owners must be 59½ or older and have held the IRA for five years before tax-free withdrawals are permitted.

The Gambler

sell buy hold stocks

While I’m not a big country music fan, one of the few country songs I can sing along to is “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. While Kenny certainly knew how to make money, he also had a pretty good idea of how to keep it: “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” There’s a valuable lesson for investors in those lyrics. 

Most investors (and professionals, too) spend a lot of time deciding which investments to buy and little time understanding when to sell. It’s crucial to have a security selection process in place, and to understand what you own and why you own it, even if it is just an index mimicking strategy.

Part of your process, even before buying a security, should be to outline reasons you would hold the investment even through downturn periods. This can help you resist the temptation to sell in the wrong moments, for the wrong reasons. It is also important to establish factors that could cause you to sell.

At The Center, some of our reasons to potentially change strategies within a portfolio are: 

Security specific

  • Key personnel departure

  • Attainment of your price target

  • Increased correlation to other investments

  • Deviation from intended outcomes

  • Expenses

Goal specific

  • Change in circumstances (ie. entering retirement)

  • Change in risk tolerance

  • Change in the outcome needed to achieve long-term financial planning goals

Having these points in mind will make thinking about selling a position or changing your overall investment strategy (strategic allocation) easier and much less emotional. 

While it is usually best to buy and hold over longer periods of time, knowing when to hold ‘em and fold ‘em doesn’t come easily. But with some thought, you can make prudent decisions when you buy and when you sell, because you never want to have to walk away … or worse yet … have to run!

Angela Palacios, CFP®, AIF®, is a partner and Director of Investments at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® She chairs The Center Investment Committee and pens a quarterly Investment Commentary.


Any opinions are those of Angela Palacios and not necessarily those of Raymond James. This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or a loss regardless of strategy selected. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.