Why Age Shouldn't Matter When it Comes to Financial Planning
We live in a time of great personal freedom when we have the opportunity to choose our own life goals and paths.
While it’s true that very few 26-year-olds are likely to be retiring, you might be that lucky one who just sold an app to Facebook and is considering philanthropy. While most people start families in their 20s or 30s, you might be that 40-year-old who’s just about to adopt a first child. And while most 60-year-olds have hopefully accumulated some retirement savings, you might be that entrepreneurial baby boomer who is moving to Detroit to launch a startup or open a coffee bar.
In spite of this brave, and exciting, new world of personal choices, what’s the first question a financial advisor or online financial site generally asks you? Chances are it’s your age. Then that answer determines the next question, and the next.
Too many financial planners and investment sites, unfortunately, use age to make assumptions that then dictate investment recommendations.
The internet, too, is filled with articles like “Financial Planning Tips Every 30-year-old should know” and “The best financial goals for every age.” There are books and studies that break your life down into age-based phases like “early career phase” and “peak accumulation phase” then make generalization based on those neat buckets.
What’s more important than age?
We’re all individuals, with different dreams, goals, and life situations and when it comes to financial planning, age is not as important as it used to be.
Your goals and your risk tolerance should be the factors to consider first in devising a personalized financial plan or investment plan that works for you.
Is your primary goal buying a house, is it wealth creation for early retirement, is it having income so you can bike around the world for a year? Those answers are more important than the fact that you are 32.
Does a volatile stock market make you anxious? Do you prefer slow and steady to winner takes all? While it’s generally assumed that young people can afford greater risk and volatility because they have time on their side, you may be that 24-year old that wants or needs to preserve savings first and foremost.
Goals differ and investment always involves a certain amount of risk. That’s why a fee-only fiduciary financial advisor works with each client individually to manage goals and risk in a way that works for them. It is vital for success to determine the level of risk each client can afford to take, how much risk is necessary to help them achieve their personal goals, and how much risk and volatility they can comfortably live with emotionally.
You Are Unique
Each of us is unique and that means that no two people will have the exact same goals + risk profile, in spite of being the same age. Yes, living off retirement savings is different than living off a first salary, but the amount may be the same. And paying off student loans is really not all that different from paying off a mortgage.
What’s important is that you find a good fee-only fiduciary financial advisor who looks beyond pre-programmed, one-size-fits all recommendations for 20-30 year-olds or 60+ year-olds and focuses to your goals, your risk preferences, and your uniqueness to create a personalized plan that works for you and evolves as you evolve, not one designed for an entire generation.
Are Your Clients Failing to Plan for the Costs of Long-Term Care?
Written by: Matthew Paine
It’s been a tough few years in my family. My mother has been battling cancer for what feels like forever, and while she’s been managing her health with diet and exercise for some time, a few months ago everything changed. Her cancer had become aggressive, and chemo, which she had dreaded, was suddenly the only real option. My mother is in her late 70s, so the already brutal side effects of chemo resulted in a prolonged hospital stay that is currently at four weeks and counting. The good news is that she’s mentally strong, and she’s battling like a lion.
My dad is another story. Suffering from early-onset dementia, his ability to understand what’s happening and why my mother isn’t at home shifts from day to day. Because he’s unable to drive or care for himself (at least predictably), my siblings and I have been juggling taking care of him ourselves. It’s not an easy task, especially with jobs, children, and lives of our own to manage as well.
Like many families, none of us—my mother, my father, my siblings or myself—saw our current dilemma coming our way. Clearly we should have. My mother hasn’t been in top health for years. My dad’s condition is sure to get worse. And even if both of them were in perfect health, their age alone should have driven us to communicate better, earlier, and smarter. Despite being in the financial services industry myself, I haven’t been involved in my parents’ finances. I know they saved well for retirement, but I don’t know where they stand financially today. I don’t know what or how much insurance coverage they have. I have no idea how they plan to pay for their long-term care—or if there even is a plan.
The situation is forcing our family to get personal—and fast. Despite being careful about nearly every other aspect of our family’s financial lives, this one slipped through the cracks. We failed to plan.
Just like cancer and dementia, this failure to plan is an epidemic. And it’s only getting worse. To help your clients battle this epidemic, it’s vital that planning for long-term care become an intrinsic part of your retirement planning process. Here’s why:
Retirement planning alone isn’t sufficient.
We’ve all seen it. A client has a great retirement plan in place, and suddenly life throws an unexpected curveball. The later in life your clients get, the more likely that curveball will be the need for long-term care. According to the National Center on Caregiving, the number of people needing long-term care will hit a shocking 27 million by 2050. And according to the AARP, one in four people age 45 and over are not prepared financially if they suddenly required long-term care for an indefinite period of time. That statistic alone tells us that our efforts at planning are failing.
Long-term care costs are escalating rapidly.
According to a 2016 survey from Genworth Financial, a private nursing home room costs just over $92,000—about $7,698 a month—which is 19% more than it cost for the same care in 2011. According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, lost income and benefits over a caregiver's lifetime is estimated to range from a total of $283,716 for men to $324,044 for women, or an average of $303,880—and less than 10% of that care is expected to be covered by private insurance.
Medicaid isn’t the answer.
Many people assume that public programs are the answer to long-term care, but in the case of Medicaid, a program designed to assist the poor, it is a last resort. First, while nearly everyone over age 65 has Medicare coverage, that program doesn’t cover long-term stays. That means that many people who need that coverage are forced to spend down their assets until they qualify for Medicaid. How poor must a patient be to receive benefits? In order to be eligible for Medicaid benefits, a nursing home resident may have no more than $2,000 in "countable" assets, and the patient’s spouse—called the "community spouse"—is limited to one half of the couple's joint assets up to $119,220 (in 2016) in "countable" assets. The result: even a couple who has spent a lifetime saving for a comfortable retirement can be forced to draw down nearly all of their assets before qualifying for Medicaid.
Once on Medicaid, long-term care patients lose the one thing many seniors care about most: choice. As a recipient of public assistance, patients rarely have a say in where they receive care. Whether that means being placed far from family, in a less-than-desirable facility, or even in a facility that lacks certain types of care (such as a dementia unit or other specialized care), the patient is at the whim of the state.
The good news is that even for those who feel there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, there are options that can help seniors who are struggling to pay for their post-retirement care to not only cover those rising expenses, but to do so in a way that gives them the freedom of choice. A Veteran myself, I know that VA Benefits are highly underutilized—including long-term care benefits. You can learn more about these benefits here. As well, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)’s July report Private Market Options for Financing Long-Term Care Services offers a variety of options for helping finance long-term care needs. Included in that list is the use of life insurance policies to help to fund long-term care expenses—an approach that is supported by GWG Life’s LifeCare Xchange Program.
In my own situation, I know there’s a high likelihood that my dad will eventually require skilled nursing care. I hope that as my siblings and I begin to dig into the details of my parents’ estate, we’ll find that they have indeed planned for long-term care. If that’s not the case, I’m comforted to know there are options available to help ensure Dad is not only in a facility that can meet his specialized needs, but that his new home is where our family chooses for him to be. Life may throw its curveballs, but at least Dad’s care will count as a home run.
Matthew Paine is Senior Vice President at GWG Holdings. Mr. Paine started his financial services career with AXA Advisors, developing marketing strategies for the North Central Region and building his personal practice. Since 2008, he has lead sales teams in raising capital in various assets classes ranging from the Life Insurance Secondary Market, Multi-Family Real Estate, Conservation Easements, and MBS Hedge Funds/Fund of Funds. Mr. Paine has a BA in Marketing/Management from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN and holds FINRA Series 7, 24 and Series 63 licenses through Emerson Equity, LLC. Member FINRA/SIPC.
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