Author: Dan Hoelscher

Dan Hoelscher founded Seniormark in 2007 in an effort to help individuals make a successful transition into retirement. Dan is a Certified Financial Planner™ Practitioner and holds Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)© and Certified Kingdom Advisor™ certifications. Since founding Seniormark, Dan has helped thousands of retirees throughout Ohio.

Aren’t All Medicare Supplements the Same?

Aren’t All Medicare Supplements the Same?

Yes.

Well…no.

Well— it’s at this point that I realize cut and dry answers don’t get along very well with Medicare. Or the federal government. Or really anything related to government for that matter.  And I am forced to give you the incredibly vague answer that sometimes isn’t an answer at all: yes and no. Allow me to expound.

 

Yes, they are all the same because…

 

Medicare Supplements Are Now Standardized.

Starting in 1992, the federal government came out with 11 plans labeled A through L, each with their own distinct coverage level and associated benefits. These 11 plans are identical no matter where you purchase them, which means that Plan F is still Plan F (offering the same coverage) whether you buy from AARP or Aetna or any other company.

 

However, just because the plans are standardized, that does NOT mean the prices are!

 

Which brings me to the inevitable…

No, they aren’t all the same because…

 

Prices Can Vary Dramatically—

As much as $100 a month.

And for the exact same benefits! Here’s an example. Let’s say you are a 65-year-old male from Sidney, Ohio who doesn’t use tobacco. If you purchased Plan F Supplement insurance from Banker’s Fidelity Life, it would cost $152.06 a month. However, if you purchased Plan F from Physicians Mutual Insurance, you would pay $294.33 a month. This is like having the option of identical minivans. Same make and model. Same gas mileage. Same features. Except one is almost twice as much. The choice is a no-brainer, right?  (Prices are current as of November, 2017).

 

 Now it’s time for something definite:

 

You should ALWAYS go to a trusted Independent Advisor (see my blog for reasons why here) for help.

 

They will get you into a plan that is right for you. Since they are independent, they are free to shop with a lot of companies to find the plan with the best benefits for the lowest cost.

 

Ahhh…the best value.

Now that is cut and dry.

 

Still have questions?  Sign up for our next workshop here:  workshop signup.

 

If you need help shopping for a Medicare Supplement plan, call us at 937-492-8800  for a free consultation!

 

Take Advantage of What Medicare Covers in FULL

Take Advantage of What Medicare Covers in FULL

Medicare alone doesn’t cover very much in full. There’s almost always some sort of coinsurance or copayment or other out-of-pocket cost.  This is why many people purchase Medicare Supplement Insurance to fill in the gaps (I recommend that you do so as well).

 

But there is something that Medicare fully covers—and that is preventive services. This includes lab tests, screenings, vaccinations, virtually any service performed to ensure that health problems are caught early—before they become…well…even bigger and more threatening problems.

 

This means that—as long as you meet basic eligibility requirements—you won’t pay a dime for most preventive services. The only ones I found that required any out-of-pocket costs were glaucoma screenings, diabetes self-management training, digital rectal exams (to detect prostate cancer), and barium enema (to detect colon cancer).

 

To give you an idea of the scope of preventive services that Medicare offers, here is a quick list:

  • Colonoscopies
  • Mammograms
  • Annual Wellness Visits
  • Diabetes Screenings
  • Vaccinations
  • Blood Tests
  • Depression Screenings

And this is just scratching the surface.

For a more comprehensive list with all the details, click here to access the Medicare preventive services guide.

 

Keep Track of Preventive Services on mymedicare.gov!

Some of these services are offered every year, some every other year, and some less or more often. Your risk level for certain diseases (based on age, gender, or family history) can also play a factor in how often you are eligible for services. Needless to say, it can be a lot to manage, which is why I recommend using mymedicare.gov. This free online account (among other things) allows you to see which preventive services you are eligible for and when.  Sign up here:  MyMedicare.  You can also print off a personalized report to bring to your doctor. This will help the both of you plan out when and if you should receive the various services.

 

I hope you consider taking advantage of what Medicare has made available. The reason they made it free is because they know how important it is for retirees to take care of themselves in a proactive way. It is good for them, and it is good for you—money wise and otherwise.  No one likes to spend time at a cold doctor’s office, especially when getting a colonoscopy (geesh). But staying on top of your health now, can save you having to deal with major health issues later. It can keep you on the go and healthy during retirement, an era of life that I believe should be as (if not more) fulfilling and exciting as all the rest.

 

Have any questions or concerns about Medicare? Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation.

Turning 65 and not sure what to do?  Consider signing up for one of our FREE workshops in Sidney or Vandalia, Ohio!  Sign up here:  Seniormark workshops.

Can I Really Get a Medicare Advantage Plan For Free?

Can I Really Get a Medicare Advantage Plan For Free?

Yes, for quite a few Medicare Advantage plans, you will not have to pay a dime in premiums. And to sweeten to deal, you can even get extra benefits like gym memberships or a built in drug coverage with some plans. But I’m very stingy with my use of the word “free.”

 

From my experience, an Advantage Plan is free in the same way the newborn puppies of your best friend’s dog are “free.” You may not have to pay for the puppy, but how many know having man’s best friend around the house isn’t exactly a recipe for super savings (especially if you’ve got furniture and footwear that look especially appetizing in black and white)?

 

You see, a Medicare Advantage Plan might not cost anything in premiums, but it may eat up your money in the end. I’m not saying they aren’t right for some people, in fact; I’ve placed people in $0 Advantage Plans to their long-term satisfaction. For the cost-conscious retiree who is romping into retirement, healthy as a horse, it may be the best option. But before you purchase one, make sure you understand the hassles and extra costs that come along with the decision. I’ve outlined a few of the most important ones:

 

Networks

Advantage Plans have networks of health care providers that they have contracted with, usually within a fairly tight geographic area. If you do not receive care at one of their pre-picked providers, it can mean much higher copays and coinsurance amounts. If you are in an HMO plan, they may not even cover you at all while receiving care out of network. This can work just fine for a person who stays local most of the year, but it does put the burden on you to ensure that your health care provider is in-network. Making mistakes could cost you heavily.

 

Inconsistency

With a Medicare Supplement, the benefits are stable, but with an Advantage Plan, this is hardly ever the case.

 

Since the private insurance companies that offer Advantage Plans re-file their contract with Medicare every year, the benefits always change—sometimes dramatically. One of your preferred doctors could go out of network. Copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles can all shoot up. This is why you must review your plan every year so you won’t be caught unaware. If you set your plan to the side and forget about it (see “Don’t Set it and Forget It!) for even one year, it can be quite upsetting financially.

 

Potentially High Out-of-pocket Costs

I always like to remind people that Advantage Plans have more of a “pay as you go” approach. You pay less in premiums, yes.  But you may make up for it in deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. For example, almost all Advantage Plans still keep you on the hook for the 20% coinsurance on Part B. That’s fine for an x-ray, but not as much for an outpatient surgery that may be $20,000 or more.

So be aware, Advantage plans do limit your annual out-of-pocket spending, but these caps are generally pretty high. If you have a period of extended illness, you could spend anywhere from $3500-6000 per year or more!

 

That doesn’t sound like free to me.

 

Need Expert Help Navigating Medicare? Confused About Your Options?

Click here to sign up for our free Medicare workshop or call our office at 937-492-8800 and get the guidance you need! No high-pressure sales pitches here, just in-depth discussion about the ins and outs of Medicare!

6 Annual Enrollment Dates You (Quite Literally) Can’t Afford to Forget

6 Annual Enrollment Dates You (Quite Literally) Can’t Afford to Forget

I know you’ve got a lot of dates to juggle: birthdays, anniversaries, holiday get togethers, or departure dates for long awaited travel plans. But you have to leave some empty space—in your memory and on your calendar—to add these 6 dates.

 

Why?

 

Because the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period is upon us, a time when the Medicare marketplace is bustling with transactions. Beneficiaries such as yourself are switching Drug Plans, Advantage Plans, or transitioning from an Advantage Plan to a Medicare Supplement or vice versa. These are strategic moves you can only make during Annual Enrollment!

 

Now, if you are thinking, “I’m perfectly fine with my health insurance. I’ll just let it go this year,” I’d like to offer a word of warning: Not reviewing your Medicare health insurance plans this Annual Enrollment Period could cost you thousands. You see, Benefits and premiums change from year to year, so you have to review your plans with a professional to ensure you are still in the best-valued plan for your needs.

 

It doesn’t seem like letting it slide just one year could end up being so costly, but I’ve seen it happen again and again. In fact, I recently had a man come into my office in January, confused about why his approximately $190 per month prescription wasn’t covered anymore. As it turns out, he missed Annual Enrollment. The insurance company dropped his prescription from their formulary (list of covered drugs) for the new year. Unfortunately, I had to tell him, he was stuck in the ill-fitting Drug Plan for the whole year, the consequences of a mistake that would (by the end of the year) cost him $2,280. Ouch.

 

So, if you are a current Medicare beneficiary, get your pen ready and calendar ready. Annual Enrollment (October 15—December 7) is chock full of clear-cut deadlines. Don’t find yourself locked into a financially draining health insurance plan! You (quite literally) can’t afford to miss these 6 dates:

1. October 1st

This is the day we, as an insurance agency, receive all of the new information regarding plan changes.

  • Did your Drug Plan drop your most expensive prescription from its formulary?
  • Was there a premium hike?
  • If you have an Advantage Plan, is your doctor still considered “in-network?”

October 1st is the day we have all these answers and can speak to you about the possibility of switching to save you money and hassle.

 

Note: You can call about your options anytime during Annual Enrollment, but the earlier is truly the better. This time of year is quite busy!

2.October 15

The marketplace is open!  Annual enrollment has officially begun, and you can now enroll in a new plan.

3.December 7

I hope you have made all the necessary changes, because—at this date—you are locked into your plans for another year. Annual enrollment is closed.

4.January 1

It’s a new year, a new resolution, and—quite possibly—new insurance. This is the date any changes you made during the open enrollment period go into effect.

5.January 1

Nope, you didn’t just read the same line twice, and you are not seeing double! I know this is a repeat, but I want to clarify why this date is worth the extra mention: It is also the first day of the Advantage Plan disenrollment period. Just in case you’re second-guessing your decision, Medicare set up a disenrollment period where you can get out of your Advantage Plan with no penalties.

6.February 14

Finally, this is the last day of Medicare’s disenrollment period. If you are in an Advantage Plan and don’t like it, this is your last chance to drop it!

BONUS: February 14th is also Valentine’s Day. You’re welcome.

 

Looking to Review Your Plans With a Medicare Expert?

Even if you are not yet sure if you want to switch, I recommend giving Seniormark a call at 937-492-8800! Our friendly and caring staff is more than willing to be a resource during this bustling Annual Enrollment season. We will help ensure you meet all the deadlines and end up in a great plan for your needs and pocketbook as the New Year rolls around.

How Much Does Medicare Cost in 2017?

How Much Does Medicare Cost in 2017?

The cost of health care is a big question mark for soon-to-be retirees. Perhaps you’ve been on a trusty employer plan for the last few decades or have come to know and love a private insurance plan that fits your needs and budget.

But now you’ve got to switch to Medicare. And although you’ve always been able to pay your premiums, the cost of Medicare is an unknown number among a sea of unknowns associated with health care in retirement (or retirement in general, for that matter).

Although I can’t grant you any magical, one-size-fits-all answer, I can give you some solid estimations based on my experience working as a local Medicare expert to help you compare what Medicare costs with your current plan.

I always like to start with some good news…

 

  • Medicare Part A (Inpatient Care) Is Free

Have you paid into Social Security for at least 10 years (40 quarters)? Then your premiums for Part A are paid for!

Unfortunately, though, it can’t all be free…

 

The Associated Part B (Outpatient Care) Monthly Premium Is $134.00

This figure is adjusted for high income, but that is not a concern for most people. $134.00 will be your monthly premium unless your income exceeds $85,000 per year or more as an individual or $170,000 filing jointly with your spouse.

This is where there is a fork in the road. From this point, the cost of Medicare is heavily affected by which path you take. You can boil down all the madness into two basic choices (“Swamped with mail? Here’s what it all means”): Medicare Advantage or Original (traditional) Medicare.

 

The Traditional Medicare Route

If you take this path, I always suggest picking up a Medicare Supplement Plan. It might seem unnecessary (“Do I Really Need a Medicare Supplement?”) to some, but without the extra coverage, there is no limit to your out-of-pocket spending.

A Supplement’s price range is anywhere from $50-150, but a standard, middle of the road Plan G usually costs about $110 per month. This is the typical plan I recommend to my clients.

Then, since a Supplement does not cover those sky-high prescription drug costs, the vast majority of retirees purchase a Part D Drug Plan. Although the prices span anywhere from $14.60 to $157.40 per month, the average cost for a drug plan is $35.63 as of 2017. The out-of-pocket costs associated with Part D vary greatly depending on your medications. Just keep in mind that there will likely be copays and coinsurance regardless of which plan you choose.

 

The Medicare Advantage Route

The other choice is the less beaten path. From my experience, most people feel very cozy in the stability of a Medicare Supplement. However, an Advantage Plan often appeals to the more cost-conscious, risk-taking retirees. Offered as an alternative to Traditional Medicare, Advantage plans range from $0-179 per month with most settling in around $70. To make them even more attractive, a Drug Plan is almost always included as a part of the package.

Caution: Check For Possible Out-of-pocket Costs
At first glance, it looks like choosing a Medicare Advantage is a no-brainer, but there is a reason it appeals to risk-takers. With a Medicare Supplement (only available with Original Medicare), the maximum out-of-pocket is only $183 annually for Plan G (not including prescription drug costs). However, in an Advantage Plan, the coverage is a bit spottier. You pay less in monthly premiums, but copays, coinsurance, and deductibles are much higher. The potential out-of-pocket for an advantage plan can be as a high as $3500-6000 per year or more! Some years you will save money because of the cheaper premium, but one year of bad health can turn that around really quickly.

The Costs At a Glance For a 65-Year-Old

Original Medicare
Free Part A
+
$134 per month Part B
+
$110 per month for Medicare Supplement Insurance
+
$35.63 for Part D Drug Plan
= $279.63 monthly
(with LOW out-of-pocket spending limit)

Medicare Advantage
Free Part A
+
$134 per month Part B
+
$70 per month for an Advantage Plan (Part D included)
= $204 monthly
(with HIGH out-of-pocket spending limit)

 

Interested In A More Personalized Analysis?

So there you have it! This should give you a good idea of what Medicare costs for the average 65-year old. But—as I said before—the cost of Medicare is different for every person. If you are interested in more personalized figures, call us at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation. We will assess your financial and health situation to find an overall plan that meets your needs, concerns, and pocketbook. Ensuring you a successful and secure transition into retirement is our number one priority.

There will always be some unknowns when it comes to health care costs in retirement, but sitting down with a professional in order to assess your situation can diminish even the biggest question marks and settle your deepest concerns.

Disclaimer: Numbers are based on Sidney, Ohio.

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Beat The Medicare Supplement Premium Creep by Shopping Around!

Beat The Medicare Supplement Premium Creep by Shopping Around!

If you’ve been in your Medicare Supplement Plan for 3-5 years or more without switching, it’s likely that you are overpaying big time.

 

You see, Medicare Supplement rates change from year to year. The one that was the best value last year may not be the best value now. In fact, they tend to creep—up and up and up.  And here’s why:

 

What Goes Up, Won’t Come Down

Medicare Supplement rates depend on total claim dollars the company pays out. Makes sense, right? The more money a company spends in claims, the more it needs to make, and the more it has to charge.

 

So as health care costs rise and policyholders make more expensive claims, premiums will slowly increase. And it doesn’t just stop. It continues to click upward, slow and steady, like a roller coaster.  Until—after a while—people unhitch their harnesses and exit in search of a more affordable plan.

 

But here’s the problem: the policyholders who leave aren’t the sick ones. Most of them wouldn’t be able to qualify for other insurance based on their health. No. The policyholders who leave are the healthy ones. The ones who balance out the budget, make fewer claims, and (ultimately) keep insurance companies in the black. This leaves an unhealthy pool of beneficiaries behind, the ones who need insurance the most and make the most (and the most expensive) claims.

 

So how does an insurance company cope? They let their premiums creep up even more, even faster. Click. Click. Click. But unlike a rollercoaster, the premium will never peak. It will never come back down.

 

Beat the Creep by Shopping Around!

But fortunately, most people don’t have to be stuck on that ever-climbing rollercoaster. Even if you have less-than-perfect health, you can shop around. As I said before—if you haven’t switched your Medicare Supplement Plan for 3-5 years or more, you’re probably paying too much! It’s time to switch.

 

Some More Good News

And this doesn’t mean you have to reduce your coverage either. You can get the exact same benefits for much less. Because of standardization, a plan F at one company is identical to a plan F at any other company. The same goes for all 11 Medicare Supplement Plans. So as long as the provider is decently rated (we usually recommend a B+ or above), you can go with the least expensive plan without sacrificing anything!

 

The bottom line is this: there’s really no reason to not take a look. We’ve had clients save hundreds a year by switching. So check the competition. Bargain hunt. Shop. You have nothing to lose, and a much lower premium to gain.

 

Need a quick way to compare Supplement prices? Use our Supplement Quoting tool to get you started. If you have any questions about what you find, call Seniormark at 937-492-8800. We’re here to help.

 

Resources

7 Reasons Why You Should Choose a Retirement Advisor (Instead of a Salesperson)

7 Reasons Why You Should Choose a Retirement Advisor (Instead of a Salesperson)

Are you turning 65 soon and thinking about retirement? Then buckle up. An onslaught of sales mail is coming your way. You might even get a few sales calls and knocks on your door as well. Salespeople are definitely assertive. And once you are between 3-6 months of your 65th birthday, hundreds of them will be vying for your attention, Medicare Advantage Plans and Supplement insurance extended in hand.

 

But I don’t think you should buy from them.

 

It’s not that I have a special vendetta against salespeople. You just have a better choice available: the reserved, resourceful guys on the fringes of the chaos, just waiting for you to come to them. That’s right, I recommend seeing a retirement advisor, and here’s why:

 

Advisors Have More Certification

I’m not saying there aren’t well-studied salespeople, but it isn’t the norm. An advisor, on the other hand, will almost always have some form of certification. They have to. Because they aren’t just sweet talking you into a healthcare plan, they are working with you to develop a comprehensive retirement strategy based on your unique situation. You need skill to do this. You need to know your industry backwards and forwards. This takes reading the right books and completing the right classes. It takes a certain level of certified expertise.

But be careful: Not all certifications are equal.  Here is a link to some of the most significant certifications.

 

They Specialize

Be leery of those who “specialize” in Medicare Supplements, Long-term care insurance, home and auto, life insurance, annuities, rollovers, and pet insurance. If their list is long and their Santa bag of products is larger, there is a good chance they’re the proverbial Jack-of-all trades who is—unfortunately—a master at none. Typically, an advisor isn’t like this. They will pick a few areas of finance or insurance and specialize. Their specialization leads to mastery. And their mastery leads to good advice and service.

 

They Are Accessible

They have an office space, so you know where to find them. They have office hours, so you know when they are available. When you call, they pick up. When you email, they respond. Predictability is the key. This is because their job isn’t just to sell (although they do this as well); it is to service their products afterwards. Claim issues? Questions? Concerns? An advisor sticks around long enough to tackle them.

 

They Educate You

The goal of an advisor is not to decide for you. It is to educate you, so you can make a decision for yourself. They will give you recommendations, of course. They aren’t just going to slap down 11 supplements, 24 drug plans, and several dozen Advantage Plans and say, “Choose!” But the point is, you make the choice to buy. You know the advantages and disadvantages of different options (because they taught you).  And you become the driving force of your own fate. So when plans go well, you don’t just have an advisor to thank; you can also thank yourself.

 

They Challenge You

Advisors aren’t just “yes men”. They are straight up with you. When you wander onto a questionable path, they care enough to stop you. I remember when a client of ours stormed in, fighting mad about the weak points of his employer plan. He wanted to get off it immediately and onto Medicare. But I knew this was an emotionally charged decision. Sometimes employer plans can be frustrating, but it was going to be way more expensive for him to get on Medicare. It took quite a bit of convincing, but I challenged him. It’s what an advisor does. Your first instincts are not always the best ones.

 

They Give You Time to Process

A lot of salespeople try to communicate something called “urgency”. This isn’t always a bad thing. Some situations are just urgent! For instance, I almost always recommend getting on Medicare when you are first eligible because not doing so can result in life long penalties. But a lot of this communicated “urgency” is just to rush you into buying a product. But advisors give you time to think things over. They realize that you want a methodical approach, a framework for weighing all your options.

 

They Are Client-Centered

 An advisor focuses on you, not the product. The whole process starts with an analysis of your situation and ends with your decision. Advisors advise people that buy products. Salesmen sell products that people buy.  This seems like splitting hairs, but listen to the people around you. Have you ever heard someone say, “Yeah, this guy came by my house and sold me this?” Notice the lack of agency. They didn’t buy it. Someone sold it to them. That is a sure sign of a product-centered approach: a sense of buyer’s guilt and a subtle, underlying regret.

 

Before I end this post, I want to make something very clear. I am not saying that salesmen are bad people. And I am not saying that all advisors are these haloed angels in disguise. But I know what it is like to be on both sides. I’ve worked for a large brokerage firm, a large insurance company, and a large bank. And in all 3, I had the same problem: I felt bound by the ever-present pressure of sales quotas. I tried to advise and do what was best for the client, but—for all intents and purposes—I was a salesperson. My job was to sell products that people buy.

 

Now that I’ve switched sides, I will never go back. The advising side is just better. It is better for clients. And it’s better for everyone, really.

 

But enough about me. Now back to you. You are approaching retirement, readying yourself to leave that stressful job behind and explore new hobbies, new places, and new experiences. Or maybe you just want to stay local and spend more time with family.

But whatever your situation, I want to make a suggestion. As an advisor, I want to advise. Whoever you choose to help you with retirement, makes sure it is someone you can absolutely trust. Makes sure it is a person who is knowledgeable in the area you need the most help. And make sure they aren’t just there to sell products to people, but rather to invest in people who buy products.

 

Your retirement decisions are just that important.

 

If you are confused and interested in some Medicare planning help, click here to sign up for our free workshop! No high-pressure sales pitches here, just in-depth discussion and Q and A about Medicare.

 

Do You Know How Much Money Your 401(k) Could Lose This Year?

Do You Know How Much Money Your 401(k) Could Lose This Year?

In other words, I’m asking, “Do you know your risk?”

 

But I didn’t ask it that way because I know that, for a lot of people, risk is this abstract, distant, otherworldly life force. They know it has an effect on their portfolio, but not to what extent or—in all reality—how.

 

Tell me if this scenario resonates with you.

You are stuffed in a room with 100 or so of your coworkers of all ages. A well-dressed financial rep enters the room. He’s here to talk about your 401(k).

 

Speaking in generalities, he outlines 5 different portfolios from conservative to aggressive: “If you’re a riskier person, you might want to go with the more aggressive portfolio. If you’re more careful or getting ready to retire, you might want to go with one of these more conservative ones.”

 

After a good amount of explanation, he asks you to choose. So you do…kind of haphazardly. You pick one that you think matches your risk tolerance, or maybe you pick one considered to be “middle of the road”. You’re not sure what you got yourself into, but…hey…how bad can it possibly be?

 

Of course, this scenario plays out in a lot of different ways. But, from my 19 years of experience, it’s typical. The only problem is, it doesn’t reveal what’s really important to you: how much money you could lose or gain. You don’t really understand. You just choose, and risk remains some abstract, otherworldly concept.

 

So let’s get it back into orbit. In fact, let’s land it right in your neighborhood with some meat and bones substance. Do you remember which of those 5 portfolios you chose?

Well…here they are, demystified, showing you in-the-ballpark figures for how much you could stand to lose and gain in a given year:

  • Conservative (33 risk score): -10% or +20%
  • Moderately Conservative (47 risk score): -18% or +32%
  • Moderate (59 risk score): -24% or +40%
  • Moderately Aggressive (68 risk score): -28% or +46%
  • Aggressive (72 risk score): -32% or + 48%

Note: Risk Scores are based on a scale of 1-100 with 100 being the most aggressive.

 

They might have slight variance in risk scores, percentages, and names from company to company. Your particular portfolio may be a bit different, but this is the typical landscape of the 401(k) options offered to you.

 

This means that—with a $100,000 401(k)—you could stand to lose $32,000 with the aggressive option, $24,000 with the moderate option, and $10,000 with the conservative. All in one year.

 

In light of what you chose, how does that make you feel?

If you are comfortable with the loss and gain, you made a good choice. If you’re scared, you didn’t, and you need someone to make adjustments so your portfolio matches your risk tolerance. Simple, right?

 

You have just experienced a wonderful taste of a personalized risk analysis.

This is what I do with my clients. I sit them down. I analyze their portfolio. I tell them what percentage they could lose or gain in a year.  And then I ask a very important, very telling question: “If you were to lose (insert dollar amount of potential loss here), would you be comfortable with that?”

 

They have one of three reactions:

  1. “Oh no, that’s way too much.”
  2. “Yes, I’m comfortable with that.”
  3. “Yes, and I would be comfortable with more loss if it means more gain.”

 

In my practice, working mostly with soon-to-be retirees, I usually get the first reaction the most. And for good reason too! People who will be retiring soon should have a conservative portfolio. They shouldn’t invest aggressively like a 25 year-old because they just don’t have the time to make up for losses.

 

But if they never check the risk of their portfolio, they will never make those necessary adjustments.  And when the economy takes a turn for the worse (eventually it will), they could lose one-third of their money when they need it most. They might even make a fear-based decision to pull their money out, locking them into those losses for good.

 

I don’t usually show so much urgency, but I know how important it is. I’m not going to knock down your door, but I will implore you now.

 

Don’t let this be you.

 

Need a personalized risk analysis at no cost to you? Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation.

 

Wondering what to do with your 401(k) after you retire?  Consider attending our 401(k) workshop offering, designed to help you answer your most pressing questions. There are no high-pressure sales attempts here, just an in-depth and informative discussion about your options. Click here to discover more. 

 

5 Strategies to Get the Most Benefits Out of Your Social Security

5 Strategies to Get the Most Benefits Out of Your Social Security

It’s human nature to want to get the most out of everything. That’s why “stretching your dollar” appeals work so well.  It’s also why people spend 15 minutes scrounging that last bit of toothpaste from the tube (you know you’ve done it).

 

As you are approaching retirement, you’ll want to do the same thing with your Social Security.

 

Of course, there are a lot of strategies to consider, and this list definitely won’t be exhaustive (unless you want a Encyclopedia Britannica-length blog post). But if you have just started thinking about Social Security and how you’re going to squeeze those last few dollar signs out of the tube…this is a good place start.

 

Boost Benefits While Your Income Has Peaked

Social Security bases your benefits on your income over 35 years. They pick your highest income years and do some mind-bending, brain-busting, soul-sucking math equations and bam! Out pops your PIA, which is your monthly Social Security Check. Here’s the moral of the story: higher average earnings over 35 years= higher PIA= more money in your Social Security check every month.

 

I take it you are earning more now than you did when you were 30? So what would happen if you would work a few extra years, making your peak income? Those lower income years (when you were just scraping by) could drop out of the equation, leading to a better Social Security check. According to Elaine Floyd, a Certified Financial Planner from Savvy Social Security Planning, waiting to retire until 70 as opposed to 62 will you earn you an extra $31,000 in increased Social Security benefits. It’s not a lot, but taken along with an extra eight years of fat income, it might very well be worth the extra work. Or—as Floyd put it—the extra $31,000 is like “icing on the cake.”

 

Maximize Your Money By Delaying Benefits

Good things come to those who wait. Delaying benefits until 70, 67, or even 65 can be difficult. It will take a strong financial situation, strong health, and a strong will. But your patience will be worth it in the end.

 

In fact, your benefit payment goes up by 8% for every year after full retirement age that you delay. That’s a lot of cash. So unless you can’t afford to wait or you have a low life expectancy, I recommend waiting.

 

Take Advantage of Spousal Benefits

Spousal benefits are 50% of the other spouse’s PIA (monthly Social Security check). For couples where one spouse is obviously the “breadwinner” of the two, this is especially beneficial to know. Because—a lot of times—half of the higher income earner’s Social Security check is way more than the full amount of the lower income earning spouse. And you can’t take both. But keep in mind, in order to claim spousal benefits, you have to have been legally married for at least one year and be at least 62. It’s also important to note that both the husband and wife cannot claim spousal benefits at the same time, and—it almost goes without saying—they stop when you are no longer married.

 

Collect Benefits From a Divorced Spouse

You may never want to see them again, but you may want to see their money. Don’t worry…this isn’t stealing! It won’t affect their benefits at all. It works exactly like spousal benefits. You get 50% of what your ex-wife or husband gets in their Social Security check. The only key here is that you have to have been married for 10 years and not be remarried.

 

Collect Survivor Benefits

If your spouse has passed on, you can collect his or her benefits on their behalf. You will have to forfeit your own check, but a lot of times your husband or wife’s check is better anyways.

So there you have it—5 ways to maximize your social security. But it is important to realize: Social Security (like all things involved with the government) is very complicated. It takes a person with a lot of expertise to help you get the most out of your social security, just like it takes a person with a lot of muscle to work out that last bit of toothpaste.

Wondering when you should start Social Security benefits? Have Social Security questions that need answered? Discover more about our free Social Security workshop designed to help you answer your most pressing questions.

The #1 Reason Why You Should Enroll in Medicare Part A

The #1 Reason Why You Should Enroll in Medicare Part A

(Even If You’re Still Working)

Whether or not you should sign up for Part B while still actively employed is a little more questionable. I mean, why pay that $134 a month premium if you’re employer plan is doing a fine job at a cheaper price. But Part A is not like that. There are basically no downsides to enrolling once you’ve turned 65. Why, you ask?

Because It’s Free!

Of course, that is neglecting the fact that you’ve paid into social security for about 40 years and—therefore—have earned it. But—wherever you stand on the proverbial “free lunch” debate— this does not change the fact that Medicare Part A has no associated premium. If you are approaching 65 and have paid into Social Security for at least 10 years, there is no reason to delay.

There is only one reason why you would want to opt out of Part A…

Health Savings Accounts

If your have an HSA and wish to continue contributing to it, you may want to delay Part A. Of course, you can still have an HSA. And you can still use it to pay medical expenses. But you cannot put any money into it after you enroll in Medicare. There are some people who do, of course—whether unknowingly or purposefully—but this is not a wise choice. If the IRS audits you, you will be subject to a stiff penalty. According to IRS publication 969, the penalty is 6% of your contribution and its interest until you remove the funds from your HSA.

But other than that, you should definitely enroll in Part A if you are approaching 65. All those years of the government dipping into your earnings have paid off—if only in a small way. There may not be such a thing as a “free lunch”, but there is such a thing as taking advantage of what you’ve so rightfully earned.

We know. Medicare is confusing. Still have questions?  Just contact Seniormark at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation, or sign up for our next workshop!