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Keeping on Top of Your Financial Situation

This is a post I’ve been thinking about for a couple weeks.  It started with a personal experience.  My family purchased a life insurance policy on my grandfather about 15 years ago.  When we bought it (I say “we” although I was only 19 and had nothing to do with the purchase), the plan was for the policy to be in place through my grandfather’s 100th birthday (he was 71 at the time).  We have been paying the premiums, and have even increased the premiums in recent years.

A couple months ago, I decided to examine the policy (it was the first I even knew about it).  I realized that, as the policy was written, and with the happenings in the economy, the policy was now only projected to last through his 91st birthday.  My grandfather is now nearing 86 and is healthy as a horse.  Now we are left with decisions as to how to address this issue.  Do we wait until the policy gets close to expiration before deciding to extend it?  Do we just let it expire, and know all the money we put in is lost?  We are in the unfortunate situation of benefitting if he dies sooner than expected.

The reason this brings me to this post is that, if we had re-examined the policy 10, or even 5, years ago, we would be in a much better place to alter it to last longer.  We should have taken a look every year, or at least every 3 years, to make sure the goal of the policy matched our current situation, needs, and abilities.

This is the same for everyone.  I have spoken to so many people who purchased some insurance years ago, and have not talked to the person who sold it to them since.  Their situations have changed, and their coverage and savings vehicles no longer match their objectives.

I have also spoken with several people who think they have plenty of coverage through work.  I am always happy to evaluate their current benefits, and see if they match the objectives and needs for protection, growth, and tax reduction.

Of course, you will tell me that I am going to find some need just to sell something.  My response is that YOU are going to find a need, and I can help you solve your problem.  Most of the people in my field are really trying to help.  We’re acting like any other professional in that we’re evaluating your current situation and future needs, and developing a plan to get you to your goals in the most efficient way possible.  Usually our time is free, and you are free to take our advice or leave it.  However, please take advantage of our expertise, and help yourself to avoid a bad situation before it’s too late.

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Why Don’t You Have Disability Insurance?

I was talking with some folks in my office about why so many clients don’t have Disability Income Insurance.  We were going through various contacts, clients, etc. and trying to determine some of the reasons we’ve heard, and some reasons we’ve inferred.

First, I have to tell you what Disability Insurance does.  If you have DI, and you are too injured or sick to work for a long period of time, DI pays you the benefit amount.

Your ability to earn income is probably your greatest asset, and yet most people don’t cover it.  If you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, you are 8 times more likely to become disabled during your working career, than to die.  For the last 10 years, 93% of home foreclosures in this country were due to a long-term disability leading to an inability to work.

There are obviously different forms of DI – Short term, Long term, Retirement plan, Catastrophic, Partial, etc.  These are all additions or riders to be discussed with your financial advisor based on your situation.  Now, here are some of the reasons we came up with…where do you fit in?

1.  I have some Disability Insurance through work. This is great.  Fantastic that your employer is paying for this benefit.  There are some things you need to find out about this plan.

  • What does it cover?  Most employer sponsored plans cover only 60% of your salary.  They do not cover bonuses or commissions.
  • What is the waiting or elimination period?  This is the time you must be disabled before you start receiving benefits.
  • How long will it pay benefits?  Most plans are 12-36 months.

Once you have those questions answered, you have to look at some of the numbers.  If you have a plan from your employer and you need the benefit, the benefit will be taxed as ordinary income.  Can you live on 70% of 60% of your salary?  If so, how long can you live on that amount?  What if you’re disabled for 10 years or even longer?

Another thing to remember about most employer sponsored DI plans is that, if you can do any type of work, even if it means a huge drop in pay, you no longer receive the benefit.  If you’re making $150,000 per year, and due to an injury, you can now only perform a job in which you make $60,000 a year, the benefit stops.

You certainly should not forego the plan graciously purchased by your employee, but you should definitely augment it with one of your own.  You can tailor a plan to your needs.

2.  Disability Plans are so expensive. This is a common one.  My question is…expensive compared to what?  If you’re 35 years old and you make $100,000 per year, and you have 30 more good working years, and we assume you’re never going to get a raise, you’ll make $3 million.  Now, if you are too sick or injured to work today and can never go back to work, was your DI premium too expensive?

OK…that might be a harsh example.  What if you’re sick for 3 years (83% of DI claims are for illness rather than injury), and you lose out on $300,000?  What if you also had a DI policy that, in addition to paying the benefit to you, would make regular payments to your retirement account?  If you were only putting in $5000 per year, that is $15,000.  However, imagine how much you would have lost had you not had that $15,000 invested for the next 30 years.  At 7% interest that is another $115,000.  Again, was the DI policy too expensive?

Part of a financial plan is providing yourself with the adequate protection to reach your goals even if unfortunate and unforseen things happen.  Your financial plan should not be a hope, it should be a path.

3.  I didn’t know anything about it. This reason is completely my fault.  I’m not doing a good enough job of informing my contacts and clients about the need for Disability Income Insurance.  I know I’m not a pushy person…this blog is about as pushy as I get in terms of talking about the needs for insurance.  I need to do a better job of helping my clients with their financial plans, and part of that is educating them as to all the scenarios, and all the vehicles available to protect their assets, as well as grow their wealth.

Everyone I know needs to be aware of the benefits of Disability Income insurance.  If you know me, and you don’t have DI, please ask.  If you think you might have it through work, talk to me and we’ll figure out if it would be enough.  If you don’t know me, please ask your financial advisor about DI.  There are so many ways to fit it into your budget, and make sure you and your family are protected.

Why You Plan

I gave a workshop this week on Basic Financial Planning.  I talked about the foundations of a financial plan, and discussed some of the concepts and vehicles used in planning for your future.  Among these were Life Insurance, Disability Insurance, Retirement accounts, college savings plans, etc.

A few really good questions came out of the session that I wanted to share.

1.  Do I see lifetime employees or business owners saving more toward retirement? My answer was that I see that lifetime employees are much more likely to save a great amount toward retirement.  There is a kind of forced savings in that their employers usually offer some kind of retirement plan.  Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, tend to put as much of their money as they can back into the business.  While this is good when trying to establish the business, at some point they really need to start taking money out and saving it.  They can no longer count on selling their business to provide for retirement.

The irony is that there are so many more options available to small business owners to put more money away for retirement.  There are SEP, SIMPLE, 401k, 412, Keogh, etc.  The people that have the opportunity to put more away, in a more tax efficient manner, are the ones who aren’t taking advantage.

2.  Are people reluctant to buy insurance or do any planning right now? At first people are usually reluctant to talk to me.  They think I’m going to try to sell them something they don’t think they need.  However, we go through some processes, and talk about their present and future needs.  Almost every time I talk to a client, I ask how they feel about their planning so far.  I always get a grin, and they tell me they feel a sense of relief.  They feel good for doing some planning…for taking some control of their financial future.

3.  Can we stop calling it “retirement?” I’ll attribute this to Erica O’Grady.  She told me she has no intention of retiring, nor do most of her friends.  She’s really right.  So many in our generation aren’t going to go for the old school definition of retirement.  We’re not going to stop working completely, buy a condo, travel the country in an RV, etc.  We’re going to keep working, keep volunteering, keep active.  However, we need to make sure we’ve planned enough that we don’t HAVE TO work.  We’ll work because we want to.  That way, if we want to work on writing a novel, or fixing up cars, or running a non-profit, we can do so.

As per Erica’s suggestion, I’m going to start referring to it as Lifestyle Freedom.  Thanks Erica.

Thank you to those that attended and had great questions.

On Virtuality

I created a post a couple days ago regarding questions to ask if you want to be more mobile yourself, or create a more mobile, virtual office.  Now is such a great time to start or grow a business.  The technology exists to outsource so many business processes and operations…which leads to more efficiency.  When entrepreneurs can focus on their core business, without having to be swallowed up by non-core activities, the business can grow. 

If I can be anywhere, and be confident that my phone will be answered, my bills paid, my invoices sent, my HR issues taken care of…I can give 100% of my attention to growing the business.  Far too often, however, I see business owners that are afraid to give up control of administration.  Most business owners don’t start a business thinking “I can’t wait to pay bills, choose health insurance plans, and clean up my books.”

Many entrepreneurs think they can’t afford to outsource these functions.  However, what is the opportunity cost?  How much more business could you earn if you spent all your team developing new business?  How much more time would you bill? 

My feeling is that every small business needs to put a plan in place to move toward outsourcing as much as possible.  The plan is necessary to make certain data security, business processes, customer service are taken into account.  Only when non-core functions that can be outsourced, or virtualized, are, small businesses can grow to and past their full potential. 

Future blog posts will discuss some of the functions that can be outsourced, and how to go about the planning.

More Family Business Crap

The situation with my family’s business keeps moving along.  It’s really so sad.  A company that was built and run by brothers who loved each other, and who would do anything to take care of their families, is being torn apart by their children.  It is now a virtual certainty that the company will not survive with all the cousins retaining their ownership and positions in the company.  It will probably survive in some way, but one side of the family will be forced to relinquish control. 

Among the losses:

  • 10 lbs. by me, 15 by my grandfather
  • tens of thousands of dollars in CPA and lawyers fees
  • hundreds of hours of sleep
  • countless business because attention is diverted elsewhere
  • all trust that family can be counted on, and a solid family business can provide a safe haven

i did some research and found out that only 8% of family businesses make it to a third generation.  That is incredibly sad.  Our parents and grandparents were builders.  We’re now scavengers and arbritagers.

Eavesdropping or good business

I was at a Starbucks yesterday (I don’t think the training helped them), and I couldn’t help but overhear the people at the table next to me.  They were a man and a woman, and they seemed to be acquaintances who were catching up on their respective business lives.  The man was a much louder talker, and I could hear him talking about the funds he has put together to invest in real estate.  Specifically, he was investing in medical buildings. 

Now..I am attempting to get my services into the medical industry, and having someone with access to the tenants of a medical building is like gold.   At what point am I allowed to bust into the conversation and talk about my services?  I know that makes my eavesdropping obvious, and may be a huge turn-off for this gentleman.  On the other hand, they are talking at a very crowded Starbucks so they have to have some expectation that someone will hear their conversation. 

Since we’ve adopted this relatively new culture of coffee shop meetings, Starbucks-communting, and very open network conversations, is this type of business acceptible?  Is every conversation that takes place at a Starbucks just like a conversation that takes place over a blog…you have to assume EVERYONE is listening. 

In the past I have actually stopped at a table on my way out, apologized for overhearing their conversation, and dropped my card.  Sometimes it has led to a talk.  Sometimes it has led to a LinkedIn connection.  On this day I did nothing.  I had to run to a meeting, and didn’t have time to talk, in the event that the couple wanted to engage further.  However, it did cause me to consider the idea that Starbucks is essentially a real-life blog…or, rather, blogs are an online Starbucks.