8 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing an Advisor

Choosing an advisor is a major decision, and you can make many mistakes along the way when making your choice. Unfortunately, unless you’re involved in the financial world every day, you won’t have the experience to know how to choose the right financial advisor.

We’ve already covered a lot of great advice, from how to change financial advisors to what to do when you break up with your advisor, but today we’re going to cover mistakes you need to avoid when choosing an advisor.

And there are a lot of them.

8 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing an Advisor

1. Working with an Advisor Without a Written Contract

You should have a written contract with a scope of service that outlines everything you can expect from the service. Your contract doesn’t need to be a legally binding, yearly service contract.

Traditionally, the advisor is bound to the contract, but the client can leave the service at any time.

The contract should include:

  • Scope of service
  • Fees involved
  • Potential conflicts of interest

When you have a written contract, it outlines exactly what you can expect from the service. Both parties can use contracts to understand what to expect from the business relationship.

2. Working with an Advisor That Doesn’t Have a Permanent Office

Working with a financial advisor who doesn’t have a permanent office is a quick way to be a victim of embezzlement. Most embezzlement reports are from advisors who will only go to your house to give advice but don’t have a physical office to go to if you need assistance.

A permanent office is an indication that the advisor is stable and trying to stay in business.

If an advisor uses a co-working space or won’t meet at a permanent location, they may be a fly-by-night scam artist.

3. Working with an Insurance-Only Advisor

An insurance-only advisor is licensed to sell you insurance products. Insurance products only pay a commission, so you must question whether the product is right for you or only recommended because of the advisor’s commission.

Plus, an insurance-only advisor won’t be able to help you with stocks or other investment products.

4. Working with a Stock Market-Only Advisor

Just like we don’t recommend that you work with someone that can only offer insurance products, we also don’t recommend someone that can only help with stocks. A stock market advisor can’t help you create a well-rounded retirement plan.

You may need stocks, insurance and a variety of other retirement options.

Ideally, you’ll work with an advisor that can offer both insurance and stock market advice. Both products work together to provide you with a higher level of retirement security.

5. Working with an Advisor That Tries to Sell You on the First Appointment

Advisors are offering a service, and they need to make a living, but they shouldn’t try and sell you on the first appointment. Instead, an advisor should:

  • Educate
  • Get to know your goals
  • Run simulations for retirement

Once an advisor knows you, then they can begin to make accurate recommendations to you. It takes us multiple appointments to truly learn enough about a client before we recommend anything to them.

6. Believing the “Too Good to Be True” Stories

If an advisor’s story is too good to be true, it probably is. An excellent example of this would be the stock market advisor saying, “I’ve never lost money.” Market fluctuations occur all the time, and it would be impossible for someone never to have a down day if they’ve been in the market long enough.

Insurance advisors who create illustrations that show 8% – 10% improvements each year, are a red flag. You need to question if the product is too good to be true or if you’re only being shown part of the illustration.

You can certainly make 8% – 10% returns per year, but you also need to know the downside. Often, earning this high of a rate of return simply isn’t feasible.

7. Doing It All Yourself

You can do it all yourself, but you need to know the commitment that you need to accumulate your wealth. When you do everything on your own, you’re going to learn information every day. You’ll need to dedicate an immense amount of time to your investments, while also managing your job and family.

When you hire a professional that works on retirement planning daily, it will help alleviate this burden.

8. Choosing an Advisor Based on Only Their Fee

You’ve heard the statement “you get what you pay for,” right? Unfortunately, the same is true when choosing an advisor. Sure, you can select a ROBO advisor with low fees, but you’re missing out on the personalization and management that can really help you build wealth.

If the market starts to tumble, the ROBO advisor will not engage in active management the same way we would.

Fees will always be a concern when choosing an advisor, but you need to consider what you’re getting for these fees. Sit down and ask each advisor what you’re getting for your money.

Low fees may mean:

  • Higher fees for additional help
  • Higher fees or commissions on certain products
  • No assistance when planning for life insurance, social security and so on

A low fee advisor may not provide active management, which likely led to massive losses in 2008 for their clients. However, the advisor with the higher fee may have actively managed their clients’ portfolios so that they didn’t lose money in 2008.

If you want to secure your retirement, you need to work with an advisor that you can trust. The mistakes above are common mistakes anyone can make, but you should avoid them as best you can.

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Fees, Commissions, and Being a Fiduciary

When shifting from one financial advisor to another, there are many questions that you should be asking. However, there are two main questions, which we’ll be covering today in great detail:

  1. What are your fees and commissions?
  2. Are you a fiduciary?

Fees and commissions are going to be tied into the advisor’s offering in some way, so you must know how your advisor is being paid. Choosing the right financial advisor is a process, and you need to really have a firm understanding of fees, commissions and being a fiduciary to safeguard your retirement.

What are Your Fees and Commissions?

Fees have been a central focus point of big brokerage companies like Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade. The entire industry has been in a “fee” war where they’ve tried to compete in the fee department with each other, and fees fell.

For you, lower fees are always a good thing.

Transaction costs have also practically disappeared due to the increased focus on lowering fees and costs for investors.

When working with a financial advisor, you want to know many things, but today, we’re focusing on fees. You need to understand how your advisor is being paid. Many people come into our office and explain that they don’t know all of the fees and commissions that their advisor uses.

It’s essential to:

  • Ask your advisor about their fee structure and commission
  • Dive deeper into the advisor’s fees and commission if your questions make them uncomfortable or they seem to want to dodge your questions

Since you’re hiring an advisor to work on your retirement plan, it’s your right to know how they’re being paid. We would advise against working with an advisor who doesn’t want to divulge their fee structure and commission.

There are a few ways that your advisor can be paid:

Commissions

Commissions are a form of payment that has been around for probably the longest. Commissions are made when products are sold and also in the investment world. Originally, brokers needed to be contacted to make trades and would earn commission on these trades. 

You can buy stocks without commissions in today’s investment world. 

Mutual funds often have fees and commissions on the front-end or back-end, meaning your broker makes a commission at the start or end of the investment. 

You have every right to ask your advisor whether they’re receiving a commission on your investments in any way.

Fees

Advisors can charge fees in a variety of ways:

  • Hourly: An hourly fee may be applied when the advisor works on your portfolio or completes certain tasks.
  • Flat-fee: A flat fee may be assessed for things such as helping transfer your accounts or setting up your investment portfolio.
  • Percentage of assets under management: Finally, a percentage fee may be assessed based on your portfolio’s value. For example, a 1% fee may be charged on your $100,000 investment account, or $1,000.

Advisors may also charge a combination of the fees above. 

For the most part, advisors that charge fees will not make a commission. However, if insurance products are included, a commission may be assessed.

As someone looking from the outside, it’s common to think that the lowest fees are the best. But that’s not always the case. You need to look at the services that are wrapped into the fees to really understand the value in a service.

You might pay a 1% commission for a very hands-off advisor or 1.25% for an advisor who also assists with tax planning and other aspects of financial planning. It’s vital that you ask your advisor what their fees are and what’s included in their fees to know exactly which services you’re receiving.

Are You a Fiduciary?

A fiduciary is very important to understand when working with any financial advisor. You should be asking if the advisor is a fiduciary, but before you do that, it’s important to know what being a fiduciary really means.

What is a Fiduciary?

A fiduciary has to make decisions that are in your best interest. Therefore, certified financial planners must uphold a fiduciary standard. For example, let’s assume that the advisor makes a 10% commission on a specific type of insurance and a 5% commission on the other.

Someone who does not abide by a fiduciary standard would enrich themselves by recommending the product that gives them the most commission, even if that’s not the best product for you.

However, when an advisor is a fiduciary, they need to consider your best interests, even if that means lower commissions for them.

We run as a fiduciary, and our business is founded on:

  • Learning about a client
  • Understanding the client’s goals
  • Recommending the best options for the client to reach their goals

Not only does a fiduciary have to work in your best interest, but they need to be able to prove this in the future. If a client questions why we recommended a specific financial product, we must explain why and show proof that this product was the best based on our knowledge and their goals.

Legal vs. Assumed Fiduciary

Some advisors work on legal and assumed fiduciary duties. Suitability is one way that the advisor may work, and this means that they need to offer a suitable recommendation. In the world of suitability, the advisor can recommend a higher commission product if it suits your needs.

Assumed fiduciary is also an option, and this means that the advisor will do their best to work in your interests, but they’re not legally bound to do so.

Finally, there are legally bound fiduciaries, which we believe offers the best option. There are two times when a financial advisor must be a fiduciary:

  • Certified financial planners are obligated to be a legal fiduciary to hold their CFP designation.
  • Licensing is another time when an advisor may be a legal fiduciary. For example, if an advisor is Series 65 licensed, under FINRA, they’re bound by law to hold a fiduciary standard.

You should be asking your financial advisor about their fiduciary standards and whether they uphold them. You should also ask about licensing so that you have peace of mind that if they’re Series 65 licensed, they’ll work in your best interest.

Fiduciaries Must Disclose Things That May Be a Conflict of Interest

For example, let’s assume that I have a partnership with an attorney where I make money or some form of compensation from the attorney. A fiduciary must disclose this information and allow you to decide on your own.

We’re seeing many clients who are moving to independent financial advisors because of the fiduciary standards they uphold. So, let’s assume that you work with someone at Nationwide. The agent will recommend products that the company offers.

Independent financial advisors aren’t required to recommend specific products.

The Nationwide representative would recommend their own products, even if it’s not necessarily the best option available. Independent financial advisors, like ourselves, can recommend a wealth of products, whether that means the product is from Nationwide or someone else.

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What Should You Consider If Your Spouse Passes Away?

No one wants to think about what would happen if their spouse passed away. Death is a difficult topic to discuss, but it is an inevitable reality for all couples. It’s important that you and your spouse have peace of mind that if either of you dies, the other has a plan in place that allows them to live the best life possible.

We’re going to help you think through the ideas and questions that will be helpful if your spouse dies.

If or when your spouse dies, your mind will be in a million places at once. Grief, fear and anxiety will overwhelm you. Having a general idea or checklist that can help you through this challenging time can really make it easier for you to overcome a spouse’s death.

You can’t be 100% prepared for death no matter how hard you try, but a checklist and guidelines can certainly help make the impact a little less intense.

A few of the things to consider are:

6 Things to Consider If Your Spouse Passes Away

1. Cash Flow: From Two Incomes to One

Income is a primary concern for most people, even if you’re both retired. We see many cases where one person is still working and passes away, and even times when both spouses are retired and one dies.

The main issue is cash flow because:

  • Maybe the deceased was collecting a pension with no survivorship attached.
  • Perhaps one spouse was still working and generating income and passes away.
  • You’ll lose one source of Social Security income if you’re both collecting. Instead, an adjustment is made where you’ll receive the higher person’s benefits.

Your standard of living can drastically change if your spouse dies and you lose some of these sources of income.

2. Expenses: The Key to Life Without a Spouse

When couples think of retirement planning, they think of retiring together. Most people will plan for:

  • Two sources of income
  • Two sources of expenses

However, even if you’re losing one or more sources of income, expenses will also be less. It’s vital for you to fully understand your expenses when retirement planning as a married individual and a couple.

For example, when your spouse passes on, you may no longer need to pay for:

  • Country club fees
  • Two vehicle payments/insurance
  • Certain medical bills
  • Etc.

Once you know your cash flow and expenses, it will be a lot easier to breathe if the worst happens.

It’s crucial for you to also know where all of the bills are coming from. You have to continue living, and it’s vital to keep these bills current.

3. Estate Settlement Issues

You’ll need to do a few things to your estate if your spouse dies. One thing that comes to mind is an IRA in your spouse’s name. The IRA will need to be retitled when your spouse passes. You may be able to:

  • Become an inherited IRA
  • Be taken over if you’re a spouse

When you take over a spouse’s IRA, you’re effectively rolling your spouse’s IRA into your own. You have to go through the steps to:

  • Change joint accounts to single accounts
  • Take certain accounts and change them to your name

Many accounts may need to be properly transferred to a surviving spouse.

In terms of estate tax, there are fewer issues today than in the past, but with larger estates, it can be challenging to keep track of all property. You might need to:

  • Look through credit card statements
  • Identify certain accounts
  • Locate assets

Because your spouse passed away, you’ll also need to look through your estate plan. Perhaps you wanted certain assets to pass to your spouse, but now that they’re gone, you’ll need to consider what happens to these assets.

4. Insurance Accounts and Benefits

Insurance is a major concern because your spouse and you can have a variety of accounts. You need to be able to:

  • Name accounts
  • Know where accounts are
  • Know how much is in these accounts
  • Etc.

You need to identify and know where all of these accounts are when your spouse passes. It’s essential to keep a running list of these accounts and how to access them. Ideally, when your spouse is alive, you should begin making a list of these accounts so that the surviving spouse can access them.

Insurance and death benefits may come from:

  • Employers that offer group life insurance if they’re a larger company.
  • Veteran benefits for death and burial.
  • Pension survival benefits with certain clauses.
  • If you have a dependent or child under the age of 18 at the time of your spouse’s death, Social Security may have certain benefits available to them.
  • Life insurance policies that may be open.

Insurance is a significant asset when retirement planning because it allows you to have an influx of cash that your spouse will need upon your demise.

5. Taxes

The IRS wants their money no matter the circumstances that you’re personally facing. You may have filed your taxes a certain way when your spouse was alive, but this can abruptly change when they die.

Your house may generate a gain if you sell it.

Provisions need to be thought through thoroughly. This is a major consideration, and we recommend going to a CPA. A CPA will cost a few hundred dollars, but they’ll help you understand your tax obligations and how your tax situation might have changed.

6. Assets and Investments

When you secure your retirement, you’ll notice that you’ve acquired a lot of assets and made numerous investments throughout your marriage. These investments need to transition to you as a survivor.

There may be tax concerns with these assets being transferred to you, so a CPA can help here, too.

A few of the accounts and investments that people may have questions about are:

  • IRAs: If they’re set up properly, the IRA can often be transferred to the surviving spouse without an issue.
  • Stocks: A step up in basis may be leveraged to save you money in taxes.
  • Businesses: Will you continue the business, or is there a succession plan in place? How about the sale of the company and the tax implications that follow?

You may have annuities and other investments that need to be considered. We recommend speaking to a financial adviser or planner to discuss your risk tolerance without your spouse.

Often, your retirement plan will have more risk with two spouses, but now that one spouse is gone, it may be time to reduce these risks.

Thinking of life without your spouse is something no one wants to do, and we’ve made a checklist to help you walk through these things to consider.

The checklist is completely free, but we need to know how to send it to you.

We can send the list either through email or regular mail – it’s up to you.

Call us today to request your own checklist to help you understand what to do when your spouse dies.

Avoid 4 Retirement Investment and Planning Rip-Offs

Retirement planning is one of the topics that should be on everyone’s mind. When you’re trying to secure your retirement, it’s important to consider rip-offs. There are retirement investment and planning rip-offs that everyone should know about.

4 Retirement Investment and Planning Rip-Offs

1. Fees

Some financial advisors say that they have “no fees,” but the reality is that there are always some types of fees. There are, typically, two types of fees that you’ll deal with, which are:

  1. Flat fee: Often a percentage of the assets being managed.
  2. Commission: Fees aren’t visible to you, but the advisor receives a commission from you investing in certain products.

If the advisor states that there are no fees for their services, it should be a red flag for you. The advisor is in the business of making money, so there has to be fees or commissions being paid.

2. Bait and Switch

A bait-and-switch occurs when someone states that they can help you achieve a certain rate of return that’s higher than the average. For example, let’s assume CDs are offering 0.6% returns, but the advisor or banker states that they’re able to secure a 6% return for you.

How?

You must ask questions. If a rate seems too good to be true, something is off. It’s vital to ask how the interest rate being offered is achieved. There are some offers that are “teaser rates,” and what this means is that during the first year, your rates may be 6%.

After year one, the rate falls back down to a normal rate.

If the advisor states that the financial vehicle offers a 6% or 7% guaranteed return for, say, 10 years, you’re likely being put into a fixed annuity with a rider. The growth rate is based on the interest for the income stream.

What does this mean?

Your income stream from the annuity has a 6% or 7% return, but it’s not something that you can decide to take out all at once.

When rates sound too good to be true, ask more questions. The annuity above is a good product, but if you don’t know that the rate is just for income, you might feel duped. Knowing and understanding the following can help:

  • The overall rate
  • How long the rate will last

Oftentimes, these high rates of return are just introductory rates and won’t be in place forever. Think of credit card offers that aim to have people sign up. Lenders are willing to offer 0% interest for six months or a year to get you to apply. It’s a similar concept here with bait and switch.

3. Outrageous Claims

Rates of return are important if you want to reach your dream of retirement. You need steady, consistent returns to retire. When you’re looking at investment vehicles, there is something called “illustrations.”

These illustrations are claims and may say you can earn 6% – 8% returns.

A fixed annuity may offer these returns on occasion, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll achieve these rates. Illustrations often claim that you can earn rates “up to,” or that others have earned “as much as,” but these are often unique cases.

Chances are, these high rates of returns were very specific cases and aren’t repeatable every time.

Even if an advisor states that they’ve had 10% returns for their clients last year or five years ago, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to replicate these returns in today’s market.

Instead, we recommend:

  • Asking for historical return data
  • Really reading the fine print

Outrageous claims are a great way to lure you into a contract or financial vehicle, so be on the lookout for claims that just sound too good to be true.

4. Outdated Beliefs

A long time ago, in the 1900s, there were no regulations in the banking system. When markets fell, customers would go to the bank and start withdrawing their money. The government created the FDIC to support the banking system.

The FDIC is a protection offered to you by the federal government that if the bank goes under, you’ll have protection for your money.

Imagine today, if everyone had the belief of the 1900s, and decided to ignore the FDIC. Some advisors fall into these old beliefs. Just 20 years ago, a lot of people didn’t like annuities and were very much against them.

Today, there are still some advisors stuck in their outdated beliefs that savings in retirement products are bad. 

Holding onto old, outdated belief systems is never a good idea.

Why? 

Offerings change, and the market changes, too. An advisor should look into all financial vehicles and the current state of a financial vehicle today. In the past 20 to 25 years, things have changed and at a rapid pace.

We do recommend maintaining a diverse portfolio of products and would never suggest putting all of your investments into one vehicle. However, there is a time and place for most financial vehicles in a person’s investment portfolio.

Wrapping Up

If there is one take away from the points above, it’s that you really need to take control of your retirement planning. Educate yourself on investment options and don’t be afraid to question how a certain financial product is able to offer substantially higher returns than average.

It’s your money, and you have every right to ask questions to safeguard your retirement.

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Social Security Strategies

Some of the most common questions we receive are related to social security strategies. A lot of people rely on social security to help secure their retirement because it is a source of income that can help you pay for your day-to-day expenses.

But it’s still a confusing topic when beginning with retirement planning because you’ll find a lot of different opinions.

If you’re wondering when you should take your retirement, grab a cup of coffee and continue reading.

When Should You Retire and Take Social Security?

One of the first questions we receive from clients is when to take social security. A lot of people try waiting until they’re 70 to retire so that they can receive the maximum benefits social security has to offer.

The problem is that this advice is based purely on the financial aspects of retirement and not your current situation.

You have a lot to consider, especially if you have a spouse, such as:

  • Age disparity between spouses
  • Health
  • Ability to work
  • Sources of income

For a lot of people, over 50% of their income in retirement is going to be social security, so it may make more sense to retire at 70 to maximize those benefits. The problem is that it’s not always that simple.

If one spouse is a lot younger and is still working and plans to continue working, retiring early may be the best option.

What to Think About If You Take Social Security Before Full Retirement

If you’re planning on taking social security before your full retirement, there is quite a bit to think about. You should be thinking about the following:

Is someone still working? 

If the person is still working, there is a limit to how much they can earn while on social security. For example, in 2021, if you make more than $18,960 during the year, the amount over the limit will result in 50% of the overage being deducted from social security.

This can be confusing to understand, but what it’s essentially saying is that:

  • You earn $28,960 ($10,000 over the limit),
  • $5,000 (50% of the overage) will be withheld

When trying to plan for income, it can be difficult because the withheld amount may mean a three-month gap between benefits being paid.

Spouse earnings will not impact you in this situation.

Is there an issue with permanent reduction?

Your benefits will be reduced permanently once you opt into social security early. It’s important to realize that when you hit full retirement age or 70, your benefits will not go up. Your choice to take social security is final.

Taxes

If a spouse is working and you’re taking social security, it’s important to consider taxation. You must plan for taxes because they will be a financial burden that is difficult to overcome. 

Restricted Application and the Potential Benefit It Offers

If you were born before January 1, 1954, you are eligible to use a restricted application. This is a strategy that allows you to file for spousal benefits first and restrict the application to the spousal benefits only.

What this means is that the person isn’t choosing to use their own social security benefits at this time, so they can effectively wait until they are 70 to maximize their benefits.

If you plan to wait until age 70 and meet the birth requirements, this can really be a beneficial option for you. It’s important to note that your spouse will need to already be on social security or plan to retire before your restricted application is filed.

Let’s take a look at an example:

  • One spouse is on social security that is $2,000 a month.
  • You file a restricted application and receive 50% of your spouse’s benefits, or $1,000.

You can continue taking the $1,000 while your own social security will continue to grow. And you can also, in some cases, claim six months of retroactive benefits.

How Spousal Benefits Work

While spousal benefits are 50%, it’s based on the primary person’s insurance amount. Let’s assume that the person is earning $3,000 on social security, this doesn’t mean that the spousal benefit will be $1,500.

The insurance amount may be $2,400, and the spouse would then receive $1,200.

If the dependent spouse, or the one taking spousal benefits, will also factor into how much the person receives. Why? The dependent spouse’s filing age will be the deciding factor in whether they receive the $1,200 or not.

For example, if the dependent filed at 60, the $1,200 may be reduced by 30%.

Reductions can be as high as 35%.

It’s very challenging when trying to secure your retirement because the social security office will not help you. Why? They’re prohibited from providing advice to you. You will need to work with someone who can help you navigate social security.

Note: You need to be married for 10+ years to receive these benefits.

What Happens If the Higher Earning Spouse Passes Away?

When one spouse passes on, the remaining spouse will receive 100% of the highest benefit amount between both spouses. You won’t be able to receive your benefits and survivor benefits.

Instead, let’s assume, using the scenario above, that the one spouse passes away and leaves the dependent spouse behind.

In this scenario, the dependent spouse can claim the $3,000 in benefits. 

But as with everything related to social security, the age at which you start collecting benefits will matter, too.

You will also receive the delayed retirement credits from the deceased spouse.

Note: You can also collect 50% of an ex-spousal benefit if you were to divorce rather than the one spouse passing on. If you remarry, the benefits will stop. But if the person dies and you don’t remarry until 60 or older, you can still take survivor benefits.

When to File for Social Security If You Know What Age You Want to File

You know what age you want to start taking your social security benefits, but now you need to know when to actually file. Filing should be done 3 to 4 months before you want to receive your first benefit check.

The easiest way to do filings is to use the online portal to apply.

When filing online, be sure to reiterate your plan in the remarks section to ensure that errors do not occur. This is especially important when filing for a restricted application to avoid any processing errors on the side of the Social Security Administration.

There’s a lot to think about figuring out social security strategies for your situation. Sit down with someone and really discuss your options because you may be missing out on key benefits that you can claim.Have you heard our latest podcasts? If not, we encourage you to join our podcast today for access to more than 90+ financial and retirement-related talks.

How to Change Financial Advisors

If you’ve broken up with your advisor (episode 90 of our podcast), you may be wondering what steps to take to move to another advisor. A retirement financial plan changes and evolves over time, and there are times when moving to another advisor is in your best interest.

There are a lot of reasons to make a switch, and there’s always going to be a move where you transition to your new advisor.

It’s difficult to leave an advisor, but the transition process is rather straightforward.

How to Move from One Advisor to Another

A major question our clients have is what the process looks like when moving from one advisor to another. There are a few ways to make the transition, and don’t worry: your money won’t be lost in transit.

There are a few scenarios that can play out here.

Your New Advisor is at the Same Place

If your old advisor is at the same place as your new advisor, the process is simple. By “place,” we mean a major institution like Fidelity, Charles Schwab or any other major institute. In this scenario, everything stays the same.

You don’t have to worry about account numbers or information changing.

Instead, you’ll sign a few papers that authorize the new advisor to take the place of your old advisor.

This is a rare scenario, but it is the best to be in.

Your New Advisor is at a Different Place

A more common scenario that we deal with is that a client’s former advisor is at Fidelity and their new advisor is at Charles Schwab. In this case, all of your money needs to move in the process, which is still an easy process.

Not much changes, even the way that you look at your account. For example:

  • Your IRAs will still be IRAs
  • Joint accounts stay joint accounts
  • Etc.

For the most part, things will remain very similar when changing advisors.

Even if you have stocks that you want to hold onto, you can transfer them “in kind.” You don’t have to sell and then rebuy these stocks during the move.

Paperwork Process Required

The custodian (in this case, Charles Schwab) will require paperwork to understand who you are. An application is required, which includes all of your basic information, such as your name, address and so on.

  • If you’re transferring an IRA, you’ll need to list your beneficiaries.
  • Brokerage accounts will need to be set up, and we recommend adding in a TOD, or transfer on death.

Your advisor will walk you through all of these steps and explain what’s taking place. You’re there to sign off on what’s happening and to finalize the transfer.

  • Transfer document. A transfer document will need to be signed, which gives permission to move assets from one custodian to another. For example, if your assets are in Fidelity and you’re moving to an advisor that uses Charles Schwab, you’ll sign this document to allow the assets to transfer. You’ll need to attach a current statement to the document, too.
  • Advisor agreement. Your advisor will want you to sign documents that outline the services that they’ll render. 
  • Risk tolerance document. You’ll likely have to sign off on paperwork involving risk tolerance so that both you and the advisor know what level of risk you’re willing to take.

Note: In 99% of cases, your accounts will transfer over to an identical account with little more changing than the name of the custodian on your account statements.

It’s important to note that your former advisor doesn’t have to sign off on any of these documents. Since you’re changing advisors, not requiring a signature makes the entire process much easier on you.

The advisor will receive a notification of your money moving and that you’re moving to another advisor.

Process After Document Signing

After you’ve signed all of the paperwork, there’s a small waiting period where your accounts open quickly and sit at $0. The transfer process often takes 7 to 10 business days, so during this time, your assets will begin their transfer.

Once everything is transferred, your advisor will then begin looking through all of your assets and start working on making any changes you’ve discussed to reach your retirement goals.

Common Questions When Moving or Starting Work with an Advisor

What if you want to move from one account type to another?

What if you’re not moving from another advisor but you’re moving from a 401(k) to a traditional IRA? In this case, the process often involves a simple phone call and won’t have any tax ramifications involved.

In this case, the 401(k) will send you a check in the benefit of you to the custodian.

So, the check with all of the funds from the 401(k) is sent to you and written out to your custodian. You pass this check to your advisor, and it will now be rolled over to a traditional IRA account.

What if you handled all of your own investments but now want to work with an advisor?

If you have handled all of your own investments, it’s as simple as creating a new account with a custodian and following a similar path as outlined in the “Your New Advisor is at a Different Place” section above.

Moving to a new advisor may be required to secure your retirement. The process itself is easy, and most advisors will walk you through the process step-by-step to get started.

Want to secure your retirement?

Click here to access our 4 Steps to Secure Your Retirement video course.

How to Choose a Financial Advisor After a “Breakup

You put a lot of time and effort into choosing a financial advisor. An advisor learns all about your financial situation and your future goals. And when it’s time to move on to a new advisor, it can be really difficult.

We’ve had a lot of clients come to us over the years that want to move on to use our services.

But they have an emotional attachment with their current advisor.

It’s difficult to move on to a new advisor when you know the person’s family members or have relied on them for years, but you also know that it’s the right time to move on. For a lot of people, choosing a new financial advisor is almost like breaking up with someone because of that deep, emotional bond that has formed.

Why Break Up with a Current Financial Advisor?

Retirement planning is a very important part of your life. Once you’ve reached retirement age, you’ve either planned properly or you didn’t. You can’t go back and correct past mistakes when you’ve reached 65, 67, 70 – whenever you choose to retire.

For a lot of people, they often feel that leaving a current advisor requires a deep reasoning.

It doesn’t. 

Your advisor is helping you manage your money. If you’re not satisfied with the person’s services or just want to try another avenue, you have every right to do so. You’re always in control of your financial advisor choice.

The most common reasons why people breakup with their financial advisors are:

  • Communication has broken down, or you really never hear from your advisor.
  • You’re simply not happy with the performance or experience you’re having with your advisor.
  • Life changes that occur, and your objectives and goals change.
  • You need an advisor that offers more services or is setup to handle more of your concerns.
  • Advisors change their overall philosophy, and the change isn’t the right choice for you.
  • Your advisor is retiring soon, so you begin looking for a new financial advisor.
  • Your advisor’s team is changing and you’re no longer working with the advisor that you want.

The truth is that you are investing your money into retirement. Your life goals and objectives are either being met or not met with your advisor, and it’s your right to leave an advisor if you want to.

How to Choose a Financial Advisor

When working with clients who want to secure their retirement, we’ve found that communication is the main factor in them no longer working with an advisor. Because communication is key, it’s often best to start here when choosing a financial advisor.

Ask the advisor about:

  • Types of communication
  • Frequency of communication
  • Types of reports or statements provided to you
  • Etc.

If the advisor shrugs off these questions or seems annoyed by them, you know that they don’t take communication as seriously as you need them to.

But there is a lot more to look for in an advisor than just communication.

You also want to consider the following:

  • Are you nearing retirement? If so, working with a specialist who focuses on near-retirement planning is often in your best interest. These advisors will be able to fill in gaps that past advisors may have missed, and they’ll be able to provide guidance that can solidify your retirement.
  • Do they match your personality? Your personality should mesh with the advisor’s personality. When both personalities mesh well, you’ll have a much better experience working with them. An advisor shouldn’t force you or try pushing you into using their services or to convince you that they’re right.
  • Will your advisor help you with goal alignment? You have goals, and the advisor should help you with goal alignment. If you want to keep your risk low and the advisor is trying to push you into a potentially high-risk investment, such as cryptocurrency, you may want to look elsewhere. The advisor should discuss your options and maybe recommend other strategies, but they shouldn’t try pushing you in one direction or another if you’re uncomfortable with their recommendations.
  • Does the advisor take a holistic approach to retirement planning? A holistic approach, for us, means that we look at the entire plan. There’s more to retirement than investing. Holistic approaches consider taxes, Medicare, long-term care, Social Security, estate planning and your goals. 

How to Break Up with Your Advisor

Breaking up with an advisor can be done in a lot of different ways. A lot of people make this a pressure-filled time with anxiety and stress, but breaking up with an advisor doesn’t need to be this complicated.

Instead, you can send an email, call the person or go see them in person.

We recommend that you keep it simple no matter which method of communication you use to break up with your advisor. If you make it complicated or explain why you’re leaving, it can lead to justification and make the entire process more difficult than it needs to be.

Simply say that you’ve chosen to go in a different direction, thank them for their services and explain that your decision is the best choice for your family.

Technically, you don’t even have to do that. You can also opt to move to another advisor with no explanation needed. Your new advisor should be able to access all of your accounts and help you with the entire moving process.

Click here to access our 3 Keys to Secure Your Retirement Master Class for FREE.

Retirement Financial Plan

Retirement planning has a lot of moving parts, and if you’ve been reading our blog or listen to our podcast (listen here), you know that we’re big on creating a holistic retirement financial plan.

We believe that you should have a retirement plan that is well-put-together and really hits on all of your goals.

How can you create this plan?

With a team.

We’re going to help you start to secure your retirement with a quick overview of what your retirement financial plan team should look like.

Retirement is a Lot Different than Most People Realize

A lot of people think about their retirement briefly while they put money into their 401(k) plans, and a lot of people know when they want to retire and take social security. But when you sit down and get closer to retirement, you’ll realize that there are a lot of moving parts to consider.

Retirement is more than just putting money away, although money plays a big role in retirement.

And when you begin doing your research, you’ll find a lot of advisors to choose from, which can make your head spin. We’re going to discuss the key people that should be involved in your life and can help you retire the way that you want.

Advisors to Hire and Work with to Secure Your Retirement

Advisors help you go well beyond just a 401(k) and saving money. These professionals will assist you with investing your money in many cases. For example, you may have an advisor that works with your employer and will:

  • Assist with asset allocation
  • Invest for you
  • Offer a quarterly report
  • Provide yearly statements

These advisors work with money management, but they fail to look at the whole of your retirement.

We take a holistic approach to retirement. For example, you’ve received a paycheck from an employer, and now that you’ve saved money to retire, it’s time to pay yourself. You have access to this money at any time, but if you’re spending way beyond your means, your retirement buckets can quickly dry up.

An advisor that works to invest your money only isn’t considering how you’ll pay yourself.

You’ve saved and grew your money, and that’s where a lot of advisors stop. They don’t consider how you’ll manage your money after retirement, nor will they continue checking up to understand your goals. As your goals change, your asset allocation should also change.

Money managers grow and build money; not plan for when you want to retire.

Your money manager won’t consider:

Holistic advisors tend to look at your retirement plan as a whole. There’s a lot to consider, so these individuals will discuss your retirement desires with you and help make retirement possible.

Types of Advisors to Work With

You may work with a variety of advisors, including:

  • Money manager or financial adviser. These professionals will be focused on investing and growing your money.
  • Tax advisor. A tax advisor is key because they’ll help you find innovative ways to shelter a lot of the money that you save for retirement so that you don’t have to pay it in taxes. Imagine needing $1 million to retire and not realizing that you owe $250,000 in taxes.
  • Estate planner. An estate planner will help you with ensuring that all of your documents are in order so that if you become incapacitated or want to leave assets to children or family members, you can.
  • Social security specialists. These individuals will help you determine the best time to apply for social security. They’ll also assist you with maximizing your payments by retiring later. 
  • Insurance experts. An insurance expert can help you obtain the best life insurance or health insurance just in case you or a spouse pass on.

No one is a master of all aspects of retirement, but with the right team, it’s possible to bring the collective knowledge of these professionals together in one place.

Working With a Holistic Team

A holistic team, like us, will help with all aspects of your retirement. We always start with your retirement plan, which is an extensive plan that looks at your retirement goals, needs, and the “what ifs” that pop up before and during retirement.

Comprehensive plans can and should be updated annually, and they’re a clear roadmap to your retirement.

Once we have this plan in place, you can sleep better at night. You’ll know what it takes to retire and can follow a roadmap to success.

And since we’re a holistic advisor, we bring in:

  • Tax advisors
  • Social security specialists
  • Other advisors

Your team must look at your goals, and how they change, so that you can confidently enter retirement. Working on just investing your money isn’t enough to retire. Bringing together the right team that offers a holistic approach will look beyond your investment portfolio and really bring everything together, from social security, to tax considerations and so much more.

Click here to sign up for our 3 Keys To Secure Your Retirement complimentary training.

Life Insurance in Retirement

Life insurance is a complex subject. There are people that will tell you that you need life insurance, and there are others who would rather focus on their retirement planning. And there’s really no wrong or right answer here.

Some people want to leave money to loved ones or spouses, and their way of doing this is through life insurance.

Today, we’re going to discuss life insurance in terms of retirement planning with an objective view. Not every client that we work with will benefit from life insurance, but there are times when life insurance may align with your overall goals.

But before you can really decide on getting life insurance, it’s important to know what types of insurance are available:

  • Term insurance
  • Whole life
  • Universal life
    • Variable universal life
    • Indexed universal life

All of these types of life insurance are important to know about because they have their advantages and disadvantages. If you don’t know these key points, how can you determine if a certain type of life insurance is right for you?

Understanding Term Life Insurance

Term policies are a type of life insurance that is the easiest to obtain. You take out term life insurance for a period of time. Let’s say that you pay into the policy for 10 to 20 years. If you die during this period, the insurance will pay out a death benefit.

With every type of life insurance, death benefits are tax free.

If a beneficiary receives a $1 million payout from your insurance, they don’t have to pay a single penny in taxes, which is very beneficial.

Why Term Life Insurance Makes Sense

Term life policies are cheaper and easy to get started with. A lot of people take out a term policy when they’re younger so that the person’s family can pay their bills or even pay off the house if you die.

You may even receive this type of insurance for free from your employer.

Sometimes, the policy can be expanded when it’s from your employer, which allows you to pay lower rates for even higher levels of insurance.

Underwriting is common, so you will have to take a physical exam to satisfy the insurer. We’re also seeing a lot of insurers online offering term life policies with no underwriting. While no underwriting is beneficial and easy to get started with, the insurer takes on more risk, meaning your premiums will be higher.

Understanding Whole Life Insurance

Whole life is an insurance that is offered until the end of your life. Your policy will pay out a death benefit, and it can also accumulate a cash value. The policyholder can access the cash value of their policy during their lifetime to:

  • Invest the money
  • Borrow against it
  • Withdraw it

When legacy planning, let’s say that you want to leave your two children $500,000 each. You can use your IRA to pay for your whole life policy and leave the money to your children tax free.

The cash value of the whole life policy is very beneficial because you’re able to use the cash value you build. 

Understanding Variable Universal Life Insurance

A variable universal life (VUL) policy is similar to a whole life in that it is for the entirety of your life and has a built-in savings component. The main difference is that this savings component has an investment subaccount that is similar to a mutual fund and is invested on your behalf.

You can lose cash value when investing in a VUL.

Understanding Indexed Universal Life Insurance

An indexed policy is the same as a VUL, but the key difference is that instead of a mutual fund being used to invest your cash value, the investment is put into an index. This is very similar to an index annuity.

The cash value can be linked to one or multiple indexes, such as the S&P 500 or NASDAQ.

Investing in an entire index allows investors to automatically diversify their portfolios. You also can’t lose your cash value in an indexed policy. You’ll be able to rely on a nice rate of return with an indexed universal life plan.

Let’s imagine, for a minute, that you have cash that is stashed away in a CD or a savings account. You could, instead, put this money into an indexed policy that earns a 2% to 5% return (it can also be much higher).

And you have access to 100% of this money at any time that you need it.

If you die, all of this money and the death benefit will go to your beneficiaries.

When talking about retirement planning, life insurance is a small piece of the plan. You can leverage the right type of account for its tax advantages and even grow your money while still having access to it.

The added perk is that the death benefit is dispersed to your beneficiaries.

Life insurance is fully underwritten, meaning that the insurer will want to look at your medical history. If you have some medical issues but they’re under control, you might still pass-through underwriting.

For example, let’s say that you have high blood pressure. You might assume that you won’t be able to pass through the underwriting. Medications can help get your blood pressure under control, and if it’s under control, you have a good chance of getting approved.

We believe everyone should consider life insurance, but for some people, this type of insurance won’t make sense. The best thing that you can do is educate yourself on the benefits of life insurance and determine if it’s the right choice for you.

We can also discuss your options and help you determine if life insurance is the right choice for you. 

For some people, it may not be part of their retirement plan. But for other clients, life insurance can provide you with peace of mind that you’re leaving your family with financial security when you’re gone.

Click here to schedule a free introduction call with us today.

Beneficiaries – What you need to know!

When you secure your retirement and have been diligent in your retirement planning, you’ll quickly find that your concerns may grow. One of the most common questions we get from others is: how to leave money to the next generation.

Our clients have a lot to say about leaving money to the next generation, including:

  • I’ve given enough to the next generation.
  • My goal is to enjoy my retirement. The kids can have what’s leftover.

But what happens if you’ve done everything that you wanted to do? You’ve traveled, purchased a vacation home and you still have more money than you need. Chances are that you’ll pass away with money that is left for your heirs.

You can use smart retirement planning to make sure that anything left does go to the next generation.

Account Types That You Can Setup

A lot of accounts can be setup so that the remaining funds can be passed down responsibly, including:

  • IRAs
  • 401(k)s
  • Savings
  • Brokerage accounts
  • Life insurance
  • Annuities 

You may even have private property, such as a home or other belongings that you want to pass down to either the estate or a specific heir.

How We Would Handle These Accounts

When you enter into your retirement, you’re likely going to have multiple accounts that you’ve put money into, with the most common being an IRA and 401(k). Accounts always have their own set of issues:

Traditional IRAs/401(k)s 

These haven’t had taxes deducted from them yet, so you need a withdrawal plan in place. But these accounts also make it easy to add a beneficiary to them. You can often log into your account, such as your Charles Schwab account, and add the beneficiary online.

We’ve had a lot of clients that have forgotten about these accounts completely.

If you’re juggling multiple accounts, it’s easy to forget one that may have a few thousand dollars tucked away in it. There’s also the risk that you have already added a beneficiary that you may no longer want to leave money to. For example, your ex may have been the beneficiary, and if still listed as such, he or she will be the beneficiary even if that isn’t your wish.

We recommend that you secure your retirement by consolidating these accounts so that all of your money is in one place, and it’s much easier for you to manage these accounts. 

It’s important to note that 401(k) accounts can be consolidated down into an IRA if you’re no longer working or aged 59 ½ or older.

Savings Account

Savings accounts may not have high interest rates, but they’re a good option to have access to cash when you need it. These accounts lack the great returns you’ll see with other accounts, but you can easily setup what is known as a TOD, which is a transfer on death, or POD (payable on death).

When you set these options on your savings or options, the account is able to avoid probate, which your beneficiaries will thank you for.

You can also setup multiple beneficiaries because what happens if your main beneficiary dies before you do? 

Brokerage Accounts

Setting up a brokerage account properly makes it much easier to separate assets even when compared to a will. The brokerage account may have a beneficiary designation, POD or TOD, that you can designate.

You would name someone to your account.

When you die, all the person has to do is file a claim and provide proof of who they are. This is much easier for the beneficiary than having to deal with probate or the courts.

Life Insurance

A life insurance account is one of the best accounts that you can leave to an heir. Why? These accounts are paid tax-free, so beneficiaries never have to worry about advanced tax strategies to keep more money in the estate.

Roth IRA

Roth IRAs are tax-free, too. The beneficiary is required to take the money out within a ten-year period.

Assigning Primary, Contingent and Further Benefits

Retirement planning should include knowing who you want to assign as your beneficiaries. The standard beneficiary documentation will include:

  • Primary beneficiary, which would be your first choice of a beneficiary. This may be your wife, child or anyone you like.
  • Contingent beneficiary or beneficiaries, which are the person(s) that you’ll want to leave your accounts to if the primary beneficiary is deceased at the time the document is executed.

We recommend that if you have a second contingent, you’ll want to add them as well. A good example of this would be your grandchildren, which would be second contingents. You can have percentages assigned to all of the grandchildren, and this is actually tax advantageous in most cases.

An example of the tax advantages:

  • You want to leave money to one grandchild to pay for their schooling.
  • The child’s parent is wealthy.
  • You might think that leaving the account to your child and allowing them to pay for schooling is beneficial, but it is not.

If you list the grandchildren, the parent can use “disclaiming,” which would help them not go into another tax rate. The grandchild will have to take the money out, allowing them to, in most cases, pay far less taxes if the grandchildren are listed.

You need to make sure that the grandchild is listed as a second contingent so that the money can be passed to them rather than their parents through disclaiming.

This is a tactic that is primarily used for a 401(k) or an IRA.

Per Stirpes and Per Capita

When you fill out a beneficiary form, you’ll often have to choose by per stirpes and per capita. If you don’t choose one, it will normally default to per capita. What does this mean? This means that if you put down three beneficiaries, and one of your children dies, their portion would be dispersed to the two remaining children.

This means that the two beneficiaries would now receive 50% of the account.

If you want the money to go to that child’s grandchildren, you will put “per stirpes” next to your child’s name. This would disperse the funds to your child’s children evenly instead of the money going to only your children.

These are some of the best retirement planning methods that you can use to leave money to the next generation. Even if you don’t want to plan your retirement around the next generation, these tactics can help keep money in your estate.

If you want more information about preparing your finances for the future or retirement, check out our complimentary Master Class, ‘3 Steps to Secure Your Retirement’. 

In this class, we teach you the steps you need to take to secure your dream retirement. Get the complimentary Master Class here.

Click here to schedule a free, complimentary call with us to discuss how you can leave money to the next generation.

How the SECURE Act and Cares Act Affect Your IRA

Changes made in 2019 have affected a lot of people’s retirement accounts and how they work for their beneficiaries. It’s important for anyone with an IRA to know how the Secure Act and Cares Act affect their IRA because the changes are both good and bad.

The SECURE Act and Your IRA

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act was signed into law on December 20, 2019. Changes under the SECURE Act have both good and bad points, which have many people confused. These changes include:

Repeal on Age Restriction for Contributions

Before the ACT passed, you couldn’t contribute to your traditional IRA after you reached 70 ½. Now, you can continue making contributions after this age, which is beneficial for people that continue working after they reach 70 ½ age.

You will need to have eligible compensation to be able to make these contributions.

New 10% Early Distribution Penalty Exception

Exceptions are now given for adoption expenses along with the birth of a child. If you take distributions before 59 ½, any portion of the distribution that is taxable is subject to a 10% additional tax.

This is a steep penalty, and since most people don’t realize that they’ll suffer a 10% penalty until they do their taxes at the end of the year.

Under the new rules, there is a $5,000 exemption per participant if you want to take money out for qualified adoption or birth expenses. The changes are beneficial for anyone that plans to adopt or have a child and needs to find some way to pay for these expenses.

Death of the Stretch IRA

People save in retirement accounts because of tax deferment. You can allow compound interest to work for your retirement account and grow your money more without paying taxes now.

If you die, your beneficiaries can also leverage this same deferment to a certain extent.

Prior to the SECURE Act

A designated beneficiary could stretch distributions for your life expectancy. For a beneficiary, this was highly desirable because assets would remain in the account and grow year-over-year and only have to pay beneficiary required minimum distributions.

The practice was a great way to build wealth.

With a Roth IRA, the distributions became tax free with a qualified event, such as the death of the owner. For many beneficiaries, this was one of the most devastating changes under the SECURE Act.

The SECURE Act changed it so that the stretch IRAs now requires beneficiaries to drain the account in the first 10 years after the account owner’s death. The rule is in place for most non-spouse beneficiaries.

Distributions are optional from year 1 – 9, but if you don’t drain the account, you must increase it by the end of year 10.

A few exceptions are if the beneficiaries are:

  • Disabled
  • Chronically ill
  • Minor child
  • Spouse of the deceased

Even with a minor child, once the child hits the age of majority, the account is switched to the new 10-year period.

A lot of articles seem to miss on exception, which is if the beneficiary is no more than 10 years younger than the account owner. You’ll be able to take a distribution of the account over your lifetime.

What does this mean for you?

The stretch is available for older beneficiaries, which is a nice perk that is offered to eligible for certain beneficiaries. For any beneficiaries that are listed above, the stretch exists otherwise the SECURE Act does remove the stretch IRA.

Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCD) and Why You May Want to Make Them

QCDs shouldn’t be tied into your required minimum distributions. You can begin QCDs as long as you’re 70 ½ at the age of distribution. The Cares Act allows you to make a QCD without needing to take a required distribution.

A lot of financial managers are excited with changes to the QCD because, under the old rules, if you took a distribution from your retirement account, any pre-taxed amount is included in your income.

The exception is if you make a QCD to an eligible charity.

It’s vital that the charity be eligible because if the distribution is made to the charity, the distribution will be tax-free. You can do this up to $100,000 per person each year. Churches are included in this tax-free distribution treatment.

Note: Under the SECURE Act, you don’t have to start taking out your required minimum distribution (RMD) until you’re 72.

CARES Act and Its Importance to Your IRA, 401(k), etc.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act also has some important changes for your retirement accounts. Under the CARES Act, the RMDs aren’t required for 2020.

Under the CARES Act, if you lost your employment or income, you can take up to $100,000 in distributions from your account in 2020. You won’t need to claim 100% of the distribution on your taxes, but you can spread it across three years instead.

You’ll also not have to take a penalty due to the coronavirus-related distribution.

Qualifying for the distribution requires you to be a qualified individual, which falls into the following categories:

  • Test positive for COVID-19 (you, household member, etc.), or
  • Have your income, or a household member negatively impacted due to the coronavirus

If you took someone into your home this year, you could take this benefit if the person is experiencing hardship because of the pandemic. 

The IRS hasn’t mentioned how they will verify that your claims are true.

The CARES Act isn’t subject to that 10% early distribution penalty mentioned earlier.

Note: Many 401(k) plans don’t allow this distribution. You may be able to treat the distribution as a coronavirus distribution.

RMDs and 2021 Possibilities

A lot of advisers were uncertain of what changes may occur in 2021 as the pandemic lingered and even surged to start 2021. There was lot of speculation that there may be some RMD benefits, but this doesn’t seem to be the case as of April 2021.

It seems that those 72 or older will have to resume their RMDs in 2021, with a few changes to keep in mind:

  • You can postpone your 2021 RMD to April 1, 2022, but you will need to take two RMDs and risk having to pay higher taxes if the distribution puts you into a new tax bracket.
  • It’s expected that new legislation will take place in 2021, so you may want to hold off on your RMD because it’s possible that they could be affected.
  • Life expectancy tables have been updated by the IRS and will affect your RMD. The changes will reduce a 72’s first RMD by 6.57% under the change.

Congress has also signaled some interest in pushing the starting age for an RMD up to 75 years old, but it remains to be seen whether this type of legislation will be approved.

If you’re turning 72 this year, you will have to take your first RMD by April 1, 2022.

Overall, the SECURE and CARES Acts have changed IRA RMDs and have some tax advantages. If you’re confused about the changes, speaking to an adviser can add some clarity and help you make the most out of your retirement accounts.

If you want more information about preparing your finances for the future or retirement, check out our complimentary Master Class, ‘3 Steps to Secure Your Retirement’. 

In this class, we teach you the steps you need to take to secure your dream retirement. Get the complimentary Master Class here.

Continuous Care Retirement Community – Understanding Your Options

Becoming a member of a continuous care retirement community (CCRC) is something people nearing retirement should be considering. These communities are often called life plan communities because you’re making a decision today for your future living and healthcare needs.

What is a Continuous Care Retirement Community?

A CCRC is a community that you enter when you’re still in good health but getting older. The idea is that you join these communities and effectively secure your spot as your care needs increase.

Perhaps you’re in the community for 10 years, but then your hips or knees continue to get a little worse, and you could use some additional care.

As a member of the community, you would be able to secure one of these care spots as they become available so that you can get the care you need. You’ll have peace of mind that as a resident, you can be confident that your care needs will be met for life.

5 CCRCs Contract Types

1. Extensive

An extensive contract has a higher upfront price, but no matter your care needs, the costs never increase. You’ll be buying into a contract, and you can be confident that your costs will remain the same despite potentially increasing medical concerns and needs.

2. Modified

A modified contract has an entrance fee, which is typically smaller than an extensive contract, but the costs will change as your care needs change. So, if you need a skilled nurse, you will have to pay for the care.

The care may be offered at a discounted rate, or you may receive a certain number of care days for free each year.

The modified contract does have an upfront cost, but you will risk potentially higher medical costs as you age.

3. Fee for service

This contract has an entrance fee, but it’s typically cheaper. This option allows you to secure your CCRC, but you will pay a standard fee for any service that you do need.

4. Equity

An equity share is a very important type of CCRC because you’ll actually purchase the property in which you reside. The equity share differs from a contract because you own the property, which will then become an asset.

5. Rental

As a rental, you’ll rent the home, and care may or may not be provided to you. This option is the most affordable, but you’re also taking a major risk because there may or may not be care available when you need it.

One of the things that is important to understand is that all of these options have risks. If you pay more, you reduce your risk in most cases. High upfront costs allow you to have the comfort in knowing that your risks are rather low.

For most people, they’ll often choose:

  • Modified
  • Fee for service

Rental properties are also rising in popularity, as people are considering their options when retiring.

Wait Lists and Continuous Care Retirement Communities

Every community has a different commitment to join a wait list for a community. The population is getting older and living longer, so the demand for CCRCs is very high. Joining one of these lists will vary from community to community, but it will typically require:

  • Application
  • Deposit

The deposits are often refundable or will go to your costs if you do decide to join a community in the future.

With waitlists being long, it’s important to consider joining one as soon as possible. The waitlist can be years – sometimes 4 to 5 years. It’s worth considering joining a waitlist early, especially when you’re in good health, so that you can secure a spot if you want to join in the future.

Good Health and Qualifying for a CCRC

A continuous care retirement community will often recommend joining when you’re in good health. The term “good health” can be subjective. What usually occurs is that when you’re ready to join a community, you’ll be asked to have an exam to better understand what your health needs are today.

Communities are only able to provide a certain level of care, and they safeguard members by ensuring that their care needs can be met.

As a general rule of thumb, if you can live independently, you’re in good health.

Members may be able to join a community if they need assisted living or skilled nursing. Each community is different, so it’s important to ask the community upfront what options are available for new members.

CCRCs are built to help independent members, those that pay a lot upfront, if they have medical issues. A lot of CCRCs don’t allow people that are not independent to join because the commitment is to the independent individuals that joined the community when they’re healthy.

When Should You Join the Community?

A CCRC is a community that you can join and be amongst like minded people. While a lot of members are over 70, this figure is starting to come down. Many communities have a minimum age of 62.

When it comes to couples, one person may be older than the other, and this can cause some conflicts. There is often a lower age requirement for one spouse, but it’s only a few years, making it difficult for couples to enter into a CCRC.

Some people join waitlists in their 50s in preparation that they’ll have a spot available in the community when they need it.

Understanding Entrance and Monthly Fees

A continuous care retirement community will often have an entrance fee and a monthly fee. The entrance fee is sort of like an insurance that allows you to become a part of the community. This fee will have some potential medical costs rolled into it.

The monthly fee is for all of the additional perks, such as:

  • Meal plan
  • Housekeeping
  • Utilities
  • Amenities
  • Fitness center
  • Classes
  • Transportation 
  • Maintenance, etc.

Monthly fees cover virtually everything with the exception of Internet. The monthly service fee at a CCRC covers everything so that you can relax and not worry about fixing a roof or mowing the lawn.

Specific Situations Within a CCRC

CCRCs have had to adapt with the times. There was a time when everything was standard, and meal plans couldn’t be adapted based on a person’s dietary needs or desires. Today, a lot of these retirement communities are offering made-to-order meals to adhere to the dietary differences of their members.

In addition to food concerns, another concern is how the fee structure may be different for couples when one is healthy, and one has higher care needs.

If a community can serve these individuals, they’ll often work with you. Members are different because if they enter as an independent, these communities understand that one individual may have more needs, while others don’t.

One spouse would move into the assisted living while one remains in independent living.

There are also options where an outside agency may send someone to care for the spouse so that the couple can stay together for longer.

A continuous care retirement community is a great option for anyone that wants to cover their bases as they age and grow older in a community that is more like a resort than a traditional retirement home. If you need additional care in the future, the CCRC can offer you the care you need at a place that you’ve long called home.

If you want more information about preparing your finances for the future or retirement, check out our complimentary Master Class, ‘3 Steps to Secure Your Retirement’. 

 In this class, we teach you the steps you need to take to secure your dream retirement. Get the complimentary Master Class here.