All About Homeowners Insurance

According to Zurich North America’s chief claims officer, natural hazards are more common and more damaging than in the past. The time to act and reduce future risk is now, particularly when it comes to nationwide infrastructure. For example, U.S. roads and bridges were simply not built for the severity and frequency of storms and flooding we are experiencing today. The roads are not high enough and do not have enough space for water to flow around and under them.1

While national infrastructure is a bigger problem than the average citizen can manage, it does beg the question of whether we have the proper insurance to help protect our long-term financial future. A lot of people wait to retire until after they’ve paid off their mortgage. But what if at some point during retirement your home is damaged beyond repair and you’re forced to rebuild only to find you don’t have enough insurance to cover the expense? Would you need to use retirement assets to make up the cost, and would that impact your ongoing retirement income? 

These are the types of questions homeowners should ask themselves, particularly those engaged in planning for retirement or who are already retired. We’re happy to help weigh your options and recommend versatile insurance solutions. As Zurich’s chief claims officer cautioned, now is the time, so give us a call to get started.

How do you know if you have enough insurance to cover today’s unpredictable weather patterns? According to analytics firm CoreLogic, three out of every five homes in the U.S. are underinsured by an average of 20 percent less than full value. In contrast, perhaps you’re overpaying for too much coverage. One study of South Florida residents found that many high-value homes on the coast are overinsured because homeowners bought coverage to meet the property’s market value, not replacement value.2

This is a common mistake. Recognize that even if your home is demolished in a storm, you still own the land, so you need coverage only for the cost to rebuild. That amount is inevitably less than the overall real estate value — particularly in coastal areas where the market value of property is often pegged to its proximity to the ocean.3

When you purchase coverage termed “actual cash value,” you are reimbursed for the value of your home based on its current condition. However, if you have an older home that hasn’t been renovated with new windows, cabinets, appliances and so on, your payout may not cover the cost of buying new components — and no one wants to stick old windows and cabinets in a newly built house.4

That’s why it is usually best to purchase comprehensive replacement cost coverage. This payout is based on the actual cost to rebuild with all new materials; the former structure’s depreciation status is not a factor.5

It’s also important to adequately insure your belongings inside the home, preferably by creating a home inventory to both estimate their total value and to help you file claims. The easiest way is to simply go around your house with your cell phone and take pictures of every nook and cranny, even closets, the garage, the attic and outdoor storage units. Save these photos on the cloud, ensuring they’re always available and easily accessible even if your home is damaged. A typical home insurance policy covers possessions at about a 70 percent ratio to the value of the structure. For example, a home insured for $200,000 would pay out about $140,000 for possessions.6

If you’re considering making renovations on your home, experts recommend that you pay extra now to procure high-quality materials and professional installers. For example, depending on where you live, install a new roof rated for winds up to 130 mph and siding made of a hardy material, such as engineered wood or fiber-cement. Note, too, that higher-rated materials could trigger a discount on your homeowners insurance premium.7

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Insurance News Net. April 29, 2019. “North Carolina Not Doing Enough To Mitigate Hurricane Risks, Report Finds.” https://insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/north-carolina-not-doing-enough-to-mitigate-hurricane-risks-report-finds#.XMcpqS-ZNAY. Accessed April 29, 2019.

2 Ron Hurtibise. South Florida Sun Sentinel. July 13, 2018. “Do you have enough homeowner insurance? Here’s how to find out.” https://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-bz-do-you-have-enough-property-insurance-20180711-story.html. Accessed April 29, 2019.

3 Ibid.

4 G.M. Filisko. Houselogic. “Homeowners Insurance: Are You Over- or Underinsured?” https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/home-insurance/homeowners-insurance-are-you-over-or-underinsured/. Accessed April 29, 2019.

5 Ibid.

6 Emmet Pierce. NetQuote. “Home and auto insurance: Are you overinsured or underinsured?” https://www.netquote.com/home-insurance/overinsured-or-underinsured. Accessed April 29, 2019.

7 KWCH12. April 23, 2019. “Choosing siding and roofing for storm protection.” https://www.kwch.com/content/news/Choosing-siding-and-roofing-for-storm-protection-508937871.html. Accessed April 29, 2019.

Guarantees and protections provided by insurance products are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Notes on Social Security

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that Social Security beneficiaries have lost $6.7 million in two months resulting from a new, highly effective scam. This is how it works: Someone calls you and says they are with the Social Security Administration (SSA), stating they regret to inform you that your Social Security payments have been suspended due to suspicious activity, or they claim you’ve been involved in a crime. Oddly enough, they then ask you to pay them money — preferably by gift card!1

Apparently, scammers like gift cards because they can use the money quickly with no paper trail.  This may sound like an obvious ploy, but bear in mind that it is a widely successful scam. Those in retirement become understandably concerned when one of their primary sources of income is threatened. Be aware, however, that the SSA would never call and threaten to stop paying your benefits or ask you for money, and certainly not ask to be paid by gift card.2

The instinct to be alarmed when our income is threatened is perfectly natural. One way to help avoid this feeling is to develop multiple streams of income as part of your retirement income planning process. In addition to Social Security, you can develop a secondary income stream by repositioning assets into a guaranteed level of lifetime income through the use of an annuity. If you’d like to learn more, please give us a call.

Another question near-retirees often ponder is whether to start drawing Social Security benefits early in the process or wait and let them accrue. Often times, retirees are better off delaying benefits as long as possible. One exception may be if you are in poor health. If you are diagnosed with a terminal illness with a limited life expectancy, it may be prudent to start taking benefits. However, consider whether or not you really need the income and how much your spouse may receive once you’re deceased. In other words, it may be worth delaying benefits to increase the amount your spouse receives if you don’t actually need the money right away.3

Some individuals retire and then decide retirement is just not for them. In fact, more than 50 percent of people nearing retirement say they expect to re-enter the workforce at some point after they retire. This phenomenon has been dubbed “unretirement,” taking its cue from Millennials who enjoy jumping in and out the workforce.4

The SSA will even let you pay back your benefits so they can accrue longer if you decide to go back to work within 12 months of applying for them. You must be under age 70, submit the appropriate form and pay back all benefits to date. You can reapply later and enjoy a higher benefit just as if you’re drawing it for the first time.5

In regard to how well SSA funds are holding up, there’s a new concern stemming from the current administration’s immigration policy. Unauthorized workers paid about $12 billion in tax revenues for Social Security in 2010 alone.6

According to Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, immigrants have been contributors to our Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs for as long as they’ve been in place. If the workforce is reduced due to a cutback in immigration — whether documented or undocumented — taxpayers may end up footing the bill. With America’s population aging quickly and fewer workers entering the job market, there is a drag on investment, growth and payroll tax revenues. If we continue down this current path, Greenspan says, Social Security benefits will need to be cut by as much as 24% in the future, or taxes will have to be raised.7

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Katie Pelton. KKTV News. April 15, 2019. “Voice of the consumer: Social Security scam reports skyrocketing.”  https://www.kktv.com/content/news/Voice-of-the-consumer-Social-Security-scam-reports-skyrocketing-508588551.html. Accessed April 15, 2019.

2 Ibid.
3 Liz Weston. Los Angeles Times. April 14, 2019. “Don’t make this Social Security mistake when planning retirement.” https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-money-talk-social-security-delay-20190414-story.html. Accessed April 15, 2019.

4 Kimberly Anne Smith. Bankrate.com. April 12, 2019. “How ‘unretiring’ to go back to work can affect your Social Security benefits.” https://www.bankrate.com/retirement/social-security-benefits-affected-unretiring-work/. Accessed April 15, 2019.

5 Ibid.

6 Catherine E. Shoichet. CNN. April 15, 2019. “Undocumented immigrants are paying their taxes today, too.” https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/15/us/taxes-undocumented-immigrants/index.html. Accessed April 15, 2019.

7 Insurance News Net. April 2019. “Ex-Fed Boss Greenspan Urges More Immigration And Less Social Security.” https://insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/ex-fed-boss-greenspan-urges-more-immigration-and-less-social-security#.XLUt8y-ZNAY. Accessed April 15, 2019.

Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

Annuities are insurance contracts designed for retirement or other long-term needs. They provide guarantees of principal and credited interest, subject to surrender charges. Annuity guarantees and protections are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance carrier.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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The Future of AI in Health Care

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not just for Amazon’s Alexa anymore. Health care patients are starting to see more mainstream uses of AI-enabled tools, such as:1

  •  Robot-assisted surgery
  •  Virtual nursing assistants that stay in contact with both patients and providers
  • Connected health management devices that you can download on your smartphone, wear on your body or track online
  • Diagnosis assistance by reviewing symptoms and medical images

Spending is on the rise for AI uses in health care, with a survey of health care organizations finding that they expect to invest an average of $32.4 million over the next five years in the technology. The survey also found that 94% of the respondents expect the investment in AI technology to eventually lead to more “equitable, accessible and affordable health care.”2

In the meantime, health care costs today are as unpredictable as health care itself. It’s a good idea to have a plan to pay for health care expenses, particularly during retirement when you are likely to be on a fixed income. If you would like to discuss strategies for paying for health care during retirement, please give us a call. We’d love to help.

As a refresher, AI isn’t a singular technology. It’s a categorical term that refers to a wide swath of tools that utilize deep learning, machine learning and natural language processing to operate similarly to the ways humans engage in learning and reasoning. Here’s the simple breakdown:3

  • Deep learning — Learning from repetitive action by adjusting for errors to hone the accuracy of the output
  • Natural language processing — The interpretation of speech and text
  •  Machine learning — Using advanced statistical techniques to identify data patterns and  make predictions

AI is being used for a wide variety of applications across the health care spectrum, from prevention to diagnosis to follow-up. In a recent report, Morgan Stanley Research’s Medical Tech and Services team found that the new learning technology can be deployed to enhance productivity, reduce the cost of treating patients and drive growth in the health care industry.4

Over the next five years, Morgan Stanley expects the global market for AI-enabled health care to swell from $1.3 billion to $10 billion, growing at a 40 percent annual compound rate.5

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Cognilytica. 2018. “9 ways in Which AI Is Transforming Healthcare.” https://www.cognilytica.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/8-ways-in-which-AI-is-Transforming-Healthcare-CGIG0072.pdf. Accessed April 1, 2019.

2 Fred Donovan. HIT Infrastructure. Nov. 16, 2018. “Healthcare Firms to Spend Average of $32M on Artificial Intelligence.” https://hitinfrastructure.com/news/healthcare-firms-to-spend-average-of-32m-on-artificial-intelligence. Accessed April 9, 2018.

3 Forbes. April 1, 2019. “How Is AI Working For Health Care?” https://www.forbes.com/sites/optum/2019/04/01/how-is-ai-working-for-health-care/#6c05adce10c0. Accessed April 1, 2019.

4 Morgan Stanley. Feb. 26, 2019. “Could Artificial Intelligence Transform Healthcare?” https://www.morganstanley.com/ideas/medtech-artificial-intelligence. Accessed April 1, 2019.

5 Ibid.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Take Another Look at Life Insurance

Today, more Americans are getting their life insurance through their employer rather than purchasing a policy on the individual market, according to LIMRA, an industry market research firm.1 At the same time, fewer employers are offering life insurance as a benefit. LIMRA research showed 23 percent fewer employers offered life insurance in 2017 compared with 2006.2

Life insurance is important to protect a family from the loss of income should a household provider pass away. Even if policy proceeds aren’t enough to sustain a family for life, they can offset some initial expenses that otherwise might create a financial burden. For example, immediate expenses like funeral costs, mortgage/rent, car payments, loans and everyday bills. From a longer-term perspective, a healthy payout could pay off a mortgage balance, current/future college expenses, student loans or credit card balances. Life insurance proceeds also can be used to help fund the means for future income, such as helping a surviving spouse get the education or certifications needed to obtain a good-paying job, or to pay for child/elder care.

We are happy to help you evaluate your circumstances to determine your insurance needs, whether you currently have sufficient coverage for your situation or may need to bolster your coverage.

If you do receive coverage through your employer, make sure you have enough. The standard benefit is typically one to three times your annual salary. If your employer offers supplemental coverage on a voluntary basis, buying it at your employer’s group discount rate may be the least expensive route.

Bear in mind that there are no tax consequences on employer-provided life insurance coverage up to $50,000. However, the portion of premiums paid that represents any amount over $50,000 in coverage is taxable, regardless of whether the amount is paid for by you or your employer, because it’s considered a benefit that’s comparable to additional income.3

Most employers offer term life insurance, which typically locks in the premium rate for a period of time, ranging from 10 to 30 years – available in five-year increments. Also note that a policy you get from work is generally a guaranteed issue, whereas if you purchase life insurance on your own you’ll be subject to medical underwriting. Underwriting can trigger a higher premium or even cause you to be turned down altogether.4

Many employers do not offer whole life insurance, which may be more appropriate depending on your situation. As the name implies, whole life is designed to last your entire lifetime, plus it has a cash value. That means that if at any point you decide you no longer want or need the policy, you can get out some of the money you put into it. However, be aware that whole life generally costs three to five times more than term life insurance.4

Also note that a whole life insurance policy is an asset. Many of these policies pay dividends, which can be used to pay the premiums. Over time, some policies grow significantly in value and you may be able to borrow money from the cash value account if needed.5

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 LIMRA. March 27, 2018. “New LIMRA Research Finds 23 Percent Fewer Employers Are Offering Life Insurance to Their Workers.” https://www.limra.com/en/newsroom/industry-trends/2018/new-limra-research-finds-23-percent-fewer-employers-are-offering-life-insurance-to-their-workers/. Accessed April 5, 2019.

2 Ibid.

3 IRS. Nov. 29, 2018. “Group-Term Life Insurance.” https://www.irs.gov/government-entities/federal-state-local-governments/group-term-life-insurance. Accessed March 25, 2019.

4 Ken Fisher. USA Today. March 17, 2019. “Don’t dismiss life insurance as too pricey. Here’s how to pick a plan.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/03/17/life-insurance-heres-how-companies-price-plans/3166180002/.

 Accessed March 25, 2019.

4 LifeInsuranceInsider.com. Oct. 27, 2018. “Group Life Insurance 2019 Vs. Private Individual Life Insurance 2019.” http://thelifeinsuranceinsider.com/2018/10/group-life-insurance-2019-vs-private-individual-life-insurance-2019/.  Accessed March 25, 2019.

5 Robert Mauterstock. Forbes. March 22, 2019. “7 Steps To Help Your Parents Avoid Expensive Life Insurance Mistakes.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertmauterstock/2019/03/22/7-steps-to-help-your-parents-avoid-expensive-life-insurance-mistakes/. Accessed March 25, 2019.

Life insurance policies are contracts between the client and an insurance company. Life insurance product guarantees rely on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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The population remains mobile as extreme weather knocks large regions

These days people are more transient, less grounded by geographical roots and familial connections. Perhaps we have become more willing to move when life throws us lemons — choosing to make lemonade somewhere else.

Economists track migration trends, and cities watch such data closely. One recent study by real estate brokerage Redfin revealed that the top U.S. cities that residents are looking to move from include Eugene, Oregon; Southbend, Indiana; Orlando, Florida; Milwaukee; Austin, Texas; Chicago; New York; San Francisco; Miami; and Columbia, South Carolina. Reasons for these migrations vary, ranging from excess traffic and crime to higher costs of living and taxes.1

Because the residential real estate market continues to be competitive,2 it’s a good time for retirees and near-retirees to take a good look at their financial portfolio. In other words, a home is not just where the heart is — it’s also a financial asset. If you’d like to consider ideas that may help with your retirement income, we’ve got ideas we’d be happy to share and tailor to your needs.

Extreme weather

However, the real estate market is not without significant headwinds. Extreme weather events have created a headache even for those with luxury holdings — such as coastal and other flood-prone areas. Congress and FEMA are working on ways to better secure the National Flood Insurance Program – including advocating a private flood insurance market in the future.3

In recent months, homes in the low-lying plains of the Midwest have experienced rampant and serious flooding. In March, a “bomb cyclone” combined hurricane-speed winds and blizzard conditions with heavy rains that placed large parts of Nebraska and a few other states underwater.4 The subsequent problems include more than just damage to homes and businesses, they also include the scarcity of potable drinking water, corroding infrastructure and even blocked access to some communities.5

When it comes to buying, selling and relocating, there’s a whole host of concerns homeowners must consider, including the potential for flooding and mudslides caused by heavy rains, as well as damage from other natural disasters. Please make sure you are adequately insured.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Doug Whiteman. MoneyWise.com. March 18, 2019. “People Living in These US Cities Are Most Eager to Get Out.” https://moneywise.com/a/people-in-these-us-cities-most-want-to-get-out. Accessed March 18, 2019.

2 National Association of Realtors. March 6, 2019. “Majority of Real Estate Firms Remain Optimistic, Evolving Technology Remains a Challenge.” https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/majority-of-real-estate-firms-remain-optimistic-evolving-technology-remains-a-challenge. Accessed March 18, 2019.

3 National Association of Realtors. March 13, 2019. “Realtors Testify to House Committee on National Flood Insurance Program.” https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/realtors-testify-to-house-committee-on-national-flood-insurance-program. Accessed March 18, 2019.

4 Gabriella Borter. Reuters. March 16, 2019. “Historic floods hit Nebraska after ‘bomb cyclone’ storm.” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-weather-idUSKCN1QY00Y. Accessed March 18, 2019.

5 Amir Vera. CNN. March 17, 2019. “Nebraska floods have broken records in 17 places across the state.” https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/17/us/nebraska-flooding-sunday-wxc/index.html. Accessed March 18, 2019.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Tax Season Has Arrived

One of the key principles of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was that reforms were rendered so simple that taxpayers could complete their form 1040 on a postcard. Last summer, the IRS unveiled a new tax return postcard just for this purpose.1

The reality, however, is that taxes are never simple, and simplicity may not even be a good thing. For example, back in the 1950s and early 1960s, when the top marginal tax rate was over 90 percent, there were so many available loopholes for wealthy filers that the top 0.01 percent paid closer to 45 percent of their income in taxes.2

What really matters isn’t how much you earn, but how much you keep. If you’ve found that your tax return this year isn’t all that you hoped it would be, we may be able to help. There are ample tax-advantaged, insurance-based products designed to help you secure your financial future. Give us a call and we’ll tell you more.

Now that the new tax legislation has come full circle into the 2018 tax season, analysts are discovering all sorts of trends. For example, one study purports that new federal tax provisions combined with state and local income taxes puts some middle- and lower-income earners at a higher disadvantage. That’s because lower-income households tend to spend a higher share of their income on necessities, like food and transportation, in which there’s a significant local tax bite. On the other hand, local sales taxes take a smaller bite, percentage-wise, from higher-income households, which have significantly higher discretionary income once the necessities are covered.3

Despite this phenomenon, state income taxes are having a bigger influence when it comes to taxing the wealthy. Just recently, professional baseball player Bryce Harper spurned offers from the Los Angles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants – both located in California – only to sign a $330-million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. While taxes are not likely to be the main impetus behind Harper’s decision, he does stand to save tens of millions of dollars based on state income tax rates: 13.3 percent in California versus 3.07 percent in Pennsylvania.4

Wealthy taxpayers are also feeling the pinch is real estate taxes. In fact, new tax caps are influencing the residential market in high-end cities like Manhattan, where condo prices are dropping as wealthy residents relocate to lower-tax states. These migrations are directly associated with the mortgage interest deduction cap and limits on the state and local tax deduction – no more than $750,000 in mortgage interest or $10,000 in state and local taxes.5

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Lisa McCann. Accounting Today. Aug. 16, 2018. “The postcard tax return: A ‘simple’ solution?” https://www.accountingtoday.com/opinion/the-postcard-tax-return-a-simple-solution. Accessed March 7, 2019. [CLICK HERE]

2 Joe Nocera. Bloomberg. Jan. 4, 2019. “The Golden Age of Hollywood Tax Avoidance.” https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-01-29/hollywood-stars-didn-t-pay-90-percent-tax-they-created-loopholes. Accessed Jan. 29, 2019. [CLICK HERE]

3 Christopher Ingraham. The Washington Post. Mar. 5, 2019. “State and local taxes are making the rich even richer, according to a new analysis.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2019/03/05/state-local-taxes-are-making-rich-even-richer-according-new-analysis/?utm_term=.093f514b98db. Accessed March 7, 2019. [CLICK HERE]

4 George Skelton. Los Angeles Times. Mar. 7, 2019. “Bryce Harper will save tens of millions in taxes by spurning the Dodgers and Giants.” https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-skelton-income-tax-20190307-story.html. Accessed March 7, 2019. [CLICK HERE]

5 Ben White and Katy O’Donnell. Politico. Mar. 7, 2019. “Signs of economic strain emerge in Trump’s home base.” https://www.politico.com/story/2019/03/07/housing-market-trump-2020-1247505. Accessed March 7, 2019. [CLICK HERE]

Our firm does not provide, nor is any statement contained here in intended to provide tax advice, all individuals are encouraged to consult with a qualified tax professional prior to making any decisions about their personal situation. 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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The Art of Being Happy

When are we happiest? A new study by the Resolution Foundation reveals that the two ages when people tend to be their happiest are 16 and 70.1

This makes sense when you think about it. Sixteen is often the first time children get a taste of independence — they’re old enough to drive and yet just young enough that the weight of grades, competitive college admissions and questions like “What are you doing after high school?” may not be crushing down on their shoulders.

At 70, people are generally at the other end of the spectrum — it may be their first taste of true independence since they were 16. They may no longer answer to a boss, their kids are typically grown and many enjoy financial independence; this may be the first time their discretionary income is truly theirs to spend.

Of course, most of us want to experience just as much happiness in those in-between years, and, according to the same report, some of the biggest determinants for happiness during that period are having a job, a partner and good health.2

If you’re at the point where you’d like help to ensure you’ll have financial independence in retirement — particularly the ability to cover day-to-day expenses for you and your partner for the rest of your life — we’ve got some viable ideas. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.

It’s worth considering tactics to make the most of the years between 16 and 70. How can you maximize opportunities for happiness, productivity, getting along with others, financial security and good health?

Here’s an interesting finding from another recent study: Boredom is a good way to stimulate creativity and problem-solving processes in the brain. Apparently, you need to put down your smartphone, magazine or TV remote and let your mind daydream for a while. A listless mind becomes starved for stimulation, leading to more creative and productive endeavors than if you keep yourself entertained all the time.3

So to experience happiness in your life, seek ways to be productive, strengthen relationships, maximize your health and spur your creativity — apparently these are ways to master the art of adjusting to modern times.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Andy Hayes. Sky News. Feb. 13, 2019. “Revealed: The two ages when we are happiest.” https://news.sky.com/story/revealed-the-two-ages-when-we-are-happiest-11636055. Accessed March 4, 2019.

2 Ibid.

3 Jamie Ducharme. Time. Jan. 4, 2019. “Being Bored Can Be Good for You–If You Do It Right. Here’s How.” http://time.com/5480002/benefits-of-boredom/. Accessed March 4, 2019.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Navigating your finances as a couple

Tax season is a good time for couples to get on the same page regarding household finances. Now that you’ve filed your 2018 taxes, take time to think about how you can better work together with your spouse as you navigate 2019. Particularly for those who file jointly, it’s important for both spouses to understand the full financial picture – including how much income was earned during the year and from what sources, and how much and what type of expenses were incurred. 

Filing taxes together, while not the most romantic venture, can help couples take stock of their dreams and plans together and further commit to saving for the future. For example, if both partners are aware of the types of expenses that can be deducted, they each can work on ways to maximize those deductions throughout the year. Call us. We may be able to help you maximize tax-efficient opportunities to help reach your long-term goals.

Another reason it’s important for both spouses to understand the household finances is that, regardless of who takes the lead at tax time, both spouses can be impacted by any potential negative outcomes. For example, a spouse who files a fraudulent return may be the only one prosecuted, but that hardly helps the innocent spouse if the government seizes assets for back taxes.1

Some common financial secrets couples may hide from each other include having loads of debt or a low credit score, a past bankruptcy, habitually not paying bills on time or the inability to stick to a budget.2 This is why it is important for couples to start having money conversations even before they get married – whether it’s a first marriage or their fifth – and to continue having these conversations throughout their marriage.

But discussing finances in a relationship can be a tricky business. If one spouse doesn’t want to share this role, it’s important to find out why. Does he prefer to have all the control? Does she think it will be too difficult for both to agree on financial decisions? Does he not want to be bothered about money? Is she hiding income or spending habits?3 Knowing what’s at the heart of any money disagreements can help you find a resolution together.

While money is the number one issue that married couples argue about, and the second leading cause of divorce, after infidelity, you can build a strong marriage and a strong financial relationship.4 Open communication is the biggest key. Find a time when you’re both relaxed and sit down and discuss your goals and dreams. Work on your budget together — respecting each other’s differences, strengths and weaknesses — to ensure you’re both traveling in the same direction.5

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Walter Pavlo. Forbes. Feb 25, 2019. “Ten Things Every Spouse Of A White Collar Defendant Should Know.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/walterpavlo/2019/02/25/ten-things-every-spouse-of-a-white-collar-defendant-should-know/. Accessed Feb. 25, 2019.

2 Natalia Lusinski. Bustle. Oct. 25, 2017. “What Are Financial Red Flags In A Relationship? 11 Signs Your Partner’s Spending Habits Are Worrisome.” https://www.bustle.com/p/what-are-financial-red-flags-in-a-relationship-11-signs-your-partners-spending-habits-are-worrisome-2359659. Accessed Feb. 25, 2019.

3 Miriam Caldwell. The Balance. Dec. 22, 2018. “When Your Spouse Won’t Participate in a Financial Plan or Budget.” https://www.thebalance.com/spouse-won-t-participate-in-a-financial-plan-2386017. Accessed Feb. 25, 2019.

4 DaveRamsey.com. “The Truth About Money and Relationships.” https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/the-truth-about-money-and-relationships. Accessed Feb. 25, 2019.

5 Ibid.

Our firm does not provide, nor is any statement contained herein intended to provide, tax advice. All individuals are encouraged to consult with a qualified tax professional prior to making any decisions about their personal situation.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Savings Ideas for Health Insurance

The growing cost of medical services and health insurance in the United States is a problem that is not isolated to a single demographic. Many people are impacted. The latest surveys of American businesses report that health insurance and benefits are one of their greatest expenses, second only to employee payroll.

Companies used to subsidize a greater share of the cost of insurance, but now employees – especially those with families – bear a far greater burden than ever before. As a result, households are paying more in out-of-pocket costs for health care whether they have employer-sponsored coverage or buy it on the individual market.1

If health care expenses are increasingly taking up a larger portion of your household budget, we may be able to help. There are various types of insurance products and tax-advantaged savings accounts that can help defray out-of-pocket spending. It’s also worth consulting with a tax professional to assess how you may be able to deduct medical expenses from your return – one of the few deductions still available for those who itemize.2

There is currently great debate over whether America’s system of paying for health care can be fixed or if it needs to be entirely overhauled. For years, the health insurance industry has pursued a strategy of encouraging their members to become more informed medical care consumers – to basically “shop” for lower prices and better value among providers and facilities. It’s true that many people are now more aware of how prices can vary, but this knowledge is often borne out of unfortunate experience.3

There are ways to help fix the broken system. For example, pharmaceutical companies lack transparency in how they price drugs, and it seems they vary what they charge for the same medications based on who can afford to pay more. A study conducted in 2018 found that approximately one out of every five prescriptions requires a higher out-of-pocket payment for insured people than the standard retail price for uninsured patients.4

To make matters worse, insurers made pharmacists agree not to inform customers of the discrepancy in price if they wanted to be included in the insurer’s network. Congress recently passed legislation negating this “gag order” on behalf of patients. However, the practice of charging the insured more than uninsured patients still exists, so you should always ask for a comparison between the two prices. Even if you have drug coverage, you are allowed to pay the uninsured price and cash in on those savings.5

Another form of insurance that may need further scrutiny is dental. A basic dental insurance plan typically covers cleanings, fillings and other routine care. However, more complex procedures such as a crown, bridge or root canal may only be covered for half the cost – if any coverage is provided at all. Furthermore, dental insurance usually has pretty low annual caps compared to medical insurance, such as $1,000 or $1,500 per year.

One way to expand coverage for dental care is to see what your health care insurance plan might cover. Often these policies will provide at least some coverage for procedures deemed “medically necessary”, such as dental repair resulting from injury, some periodontal surgery and even appliances prescribed for sleep apnea. It’s a good idea to call your insurer and/or review your policy for dental services that are categorized as either covered or excluded services. Some dentist offices are starting to collect health insurance information from patients and even filing relevant claims on their behalf.6

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Dr. Josh Luke. Forbes. Jan. 22, 2019. “Simple Tips to Save Thousands on Healthcare in 2019.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbooksauthors/2019/01/22/simple-tips-to-save-thousands-on-healthcare-in-2019/#6e224617b87d. Accessed Feb. 19, 2019. [CLICK HERE]

2 H&R Block. “Can I Claim Medical Expenses on My Taxes?” https://www.hrblock.com/tax-center/filing/adjustments-and-deductions/medical-expenses-deduction/. Accessed Feb. 24, 2019. [CLICK HERE]

3 Alessandra Malito. MarketWatch. Dec. 15, 2018. “Outpatient visits are getting more expensive — but that’s nothing compared to inpatient costs.” https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-average-outpatient-visit-is-getting-more-expensive-but-thats-nothing-compared-to-inpatient-costs-2018-12-14. Accessed Feb. 24, 2019. [CLICK HERE]

4 Monica Laliberte. WRAL.com. Feb. 19, 2019. “How to get cheaper medications at the pharmacy.” https://www.wral.com/how-to-get-cheaper-medications-at-the-pharmacy/18202615/. Accessed Feb. 19, 2019. [CLICK HERE]

5 Danny Hakim. The New York Times. March 9, 2018. “Ask Your Doctor. Until Then, Here’s a Word From Our Sitcom.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/09/business/drug-commercials-product-placement-blackish.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share. Accessed Feb. 19, 2019. [CLICK HERE]

6 David Tuller. The New York Times. Sep. 20, 2018. “Exorbitant Dental Bill? Medical Insurance May Cover Some of It.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/20/well/live/dental-bill-health-insurance.html. Accessed Feb. 19, 2019. [CLICK HERE]

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Don’t Leave Your Long-Term Care Plan to Chance

According to new research from Genworth, one of the nation’s leading long-term care insurance companies, Americans are both entering caregiver roles and requiring care at younger ages. Among the study’s findings:1

·         Nearly half of family caregivers now are men

·         The average age of a family caregiver is 47 (down from age 53 in 2010)

·         57% of family members who require care are 65 or older (down from 80% in 2010)

·         One in five long-term care recipients needs help as the result of an accident rather than illness (nearly twice the number from 2010)

·         U.S. caregivers provide an average of 21 hours of assistance a week for a duration of three years

It’s not clear why some of these statistics have changed so dramatically in eight years, but what is clear is that it’s prudent to develop a long-term care plan sooner rather than later. We may think that because people are living longer that they won’t need care assistance until their 80s and beyond, but the results of this recent survey tell a different story.

If you’re planning to live to a ripe old age, do yourself and your family and friends a huge favor: Find resources to help you remain independent as long as possible. There are a wide variety of options in all price ranges, and it’s never too early to consider a plan that’s right for your situation. If you would like help exploring these options, please give us a call.

Having resources lined up to help with daily challenges also means that when you do spend time with family, it’s quality time and not focused on household chores or other issues. This may mean having a reliable helper to turn to when your television goes on the fritz and you need someone (with technical knowledge and endless patience) to work with the company’s telephone support. It may mean changing lightbulbs in dark bathrooms or hauling trash cans to and from the curb. Household assistance can help with the day-to-day chores we may take for granted when younger and healthier. These types of assistance are commonly referred to as long-term services and supports (LTSS) and aren’t covered by Medicare. One report found that the average cost for those with high LTSS needs who are paying for services is about $10,000 a year.2

Long-term care insurance can help with more personal assistance. This type of coverage kicks in for more serious impairments to help with things like bathing, dressing, eating, going to the bathroom and getting around from room to room.3

For some, the first step to a caregiver plan is “right-sizing” to a family home that is easier and less expensive to maintain. Some may take the opportunity to move to a retirement community – to be surrounded by peers and services – or to choose a warmer client conducive to an active retirement lifestyle.4

Another option to consider is a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), which provides a progression of care as residents age. These communities offer a range of amenities, including housekeeping and dining options, transportation, wellness and fitness programs, recreational and social outings, and activities.5

As you plan for the future, don’t forget to enjoy today. Research has found that spending more time in nature has significant health benefits: 90 minutes a day outside in a wooded area can help reduce activity in the part of the brain linked to depression. Spending time in nature also has been attributed to lowering blood pressure; reducing anxiety, feelings of aggression and ADHD symptoms; increasing pain control; and boosting the immune system and feelings of happiness.6

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Howard Gleckman. Forbes. Dec. 26, 2018. “The Changing Demographics Of Family Caregivers.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/howardgleckman/2018/12/26/the-changing-demographics-of-family-caregivers/. Accessed Jan. 31, 2019.

2 Wallace Stephens. The American Journal of Managed Care. Jan. 31, 2019. “Evaluating Hardships Faced by Elderly Americans Requiring Long-Term Care and Support.” https://www.ajmc.com/newsroom/evaluating-hardships-faced-by-elderly-americans-requiring-longterm-care-and-support. Accessed Jan. 31, 2019.

3 Dana Anspach. The Balance. Sept. 6, 2018. “Insurance and the Activities of Daily Living.” https://www.thebalance.com/what-are-the-activities-of-daily-living-2388730. Accessed Feb. 13, 2019.

4 AfterFiftyLiving.com. “5 Reasons to Move to a Retirement Community.” https://www.afterfiftyliving.com/5-reasons-to-move-to-a-retirement-community/. Accessed Jan. 31, 2019

5 U.S. News & World Report. Sept. 17, 2018. “Top 5 Things to Know About Continuing Care Retirement Communities.” https://health.usnews.com/wellness/aging-well/articles/2018-09-17/top-5-things-to-know-about-continuing-care-retirement-communities. Accessed Jan. 31, 2019

6 Evan Fleischer. BigThink. Oct. 12, 2018. “Doctors in Scotland can now prescribe nature to their patients.” https://bigthink.com/personal-growth/doctors-in-shetland-can-now-prescribe-a-walk-in-nature. Accessed Jan. 31, 2019.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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