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.

4 Things Every Retiree Must Know Before Buying an Annuity

4 Things Every Retiree Must Know Before Buying an Annuity

Why is the world of retirement finances so scary? The answer is one you’ve probably come to know all too well: the future is uncertain. You’re uncertain about how long you’ll live because, after all, you don’t want to outlive your assets. And the nightmarish vision of forever losing one’s nest egg to an uncertain stock market can reel like an old-school motion picture.


For some, this is just a little jitter in the stomach every now and again, and for others, the fear of an unpredictable future is persistent and gnawing. But it is the same for everyone: the lack of full assurance is a nasty pill no one wants to swallow.


Enter Annuities.


These products offer some sort of a guarantee; for instance, that you’ll never lose your principal amount or that they will pay you a set amount until the day you die. In other words, it comes with a reassuring promise to put your fears and uncertainty to rest, which is probably why annuities are such a popular choice nowadays (and why it is such an easy sell for agents).


But here’s what you need to understand about annuities: all “guarantees” will come at a very high cost. Insurance companies are masters at risk and reward, so they aren’t going to offer you a product in which they lose at the numbers game. I’m not here to say that all annuities are the spawn of hell like some advisors are in the habit of doing. But I do want to make sure you don’t buy one without knowing the downsides and complications. There are many of them, but here are just a few.


The Upfront Promises Can Change—Check the Fine Print

As I just said, these products are complex. Some disclosure documents are 100 pages longs. In fact, I’ve come across some variable annuity disclosures that were over 700 pages (some light reading for an August evening, right?).


And within the acres of legalese, there are often some measures that will protect the insurance company if times get rough. For instance, from what I’ve seen, they can increase rider fees, lower interest rate caps, increase spreads, and let participation rates plummet. To translate, in simple terms, that means “if the promise we made you is getting us into trouble, we’ll just back out of it.”


I know this from personal experience. Back in my earlier, more naïve days of financial planning, I suggested that my dad buy an indexed annuity. The product promised a 110% participation rate, which means that whatever the S&P 500 was doing, he would get 110% of that. But I noticed something peculiar tucked away in the pages: that rate could drop to 50% at the company’s discretion. We talked with the company representative and he assured us again and again how unlikely it was for it to drop. So, I dismissed it and sold it to my dad.

Guess what fell to 50% the very next year?


You see, what you have to realize about annuities, is that the company is always doubly protected. Like the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true…well…I think you know the rest.


You Can Really Tie Up Your Money

The worst part of many annuities is that they have surrender periods. In the case of my dad, his surrender period was seven years. Even though he hated it, he couldn’t get out of his annuity without paying steep surrender penalties. Typically these periods are around seven to twelve years, but I’ve seen some as high as seventeen. And the penalties for cashing out early? They might be anywhere from 8-20% of your principal.


This doesn’t necessarily mean annuities are terrible products. It just means they are really, really hard to escape. So make sure you understand what you are getting into!


There Are Often Large Fees—Or Whatever They Call Them

The fees in an annuity are usually as high as 3-4% once you add up the rider fees, mutual fund fees, and mortality and risk fees.


And what if someone told you that the annuity they’re selling doesn’t have any fees? In that case, just remember that the insurance company will make that money back somehow. For instance, in a fixed annuity, they often have a cap on the amount of return you can get. I’ve found that these kinds of hidden costs come out to around 3-4% most of the time—maybe even worse. Just because they aren’t called fees, doesn’t mean they won’t cost you big time!


There Are Huge Conflicts of Interest

Agents who sell annuities often make high commissions. I’ve seen them as high as 10% upfront, maybe even more. And, for many annuities, agents aren’t even required to have a securities license to sell them because the annuity is considered an insurance product (even if it requires the salesperson to give investment advice). Here’s where that can get really sticky: you don’t have to disclose any conflicts of interest for insurance products. Therefore, a salesman can sell you an annuity without telling you about his fat commission. You can see why this has led many experts in the industry to the conclusion that annuities are sold, not bought. The products you buy should help your retirement plan. It shouldn’t help someone else’s and hurt yours in the process.


The Bottom Line

I’m not against the annuities as long as the buyer is making the choice after a fair representation of the pros and cons, but that is exactly the problem: It isn’t very often that people are given a fair representation that isn’t overblown with sales propaganda. That is why it is always a good idea to put the brakes on before getting into an annuity. Think about getting a second (or even a third) opinion. You won’t regret it.


If you want a second opinion on a specific annuity option and whether it is right for you, you can always call Seniormark at 937-492-8800. We specialize in the retirement transition, and we are here to help!

How to Find Trustworthy Help For Retirement Planning

How to Find Trustworthy Help For Retirement Planning

Good help is difficult to come by these days. And when it comes to choosing an expert to help you make critical decisions for retirement, rollover your 401(k), or manage your investments, those willing to act in your best interest seem few and far between. There are just too many ways advisors can take advantage of their clients for financial gain.


Some people are just crooks. I’ve definitely seen enough of that! And others, though they aren’t bad people, are led astray by high commissions that line their pockets at the client’s expense.


That’s why you need some guidelines for finding a retirement planner who truly has your best interests in mind. They all say they do, but it takes some discernment to know which ones are the most trustworthy.


Without further ado, let’s put first things first…


Don’t Get Stuck With A Sales Person—Choose a Fiduciary!

This is by far the most important way to find good help.




Well… fiduciaries are ethically and legally required to act in your best interest. That doesn’t mean they always will. After all, legislation cannot make a dishonest person honest. However, you are significantly better off choosing a fiduciary who is held to a legal standard than someone who isn’t.


There are other governmental standards for advisors and financial planners who aren’t fiduciaries, but they are significantly more lax. And, unfortunately, some people take advantage of the extra slack on the leash.


In deciding whether someone is a fiduciary or not, don’t be misled by titles such as “financial advisor” or “wealth manager.” There’s nothing wrong with these titles, but anyone can slap them on a business card. So, when it comes down to assessing quality—the titles don’t mean much of anything. Just because someone says they are an advisor, doesn’t mean it’s in their heart to give you the best advice.


Instead of relying on titles, you should simply ask (point blank) if he or she is legally mandated to pursue your best interest. In other words, it is best to just ask, “Are you legally required to act as a fiduciary on my behalf?” It is even better if you can get the statement in writing.


Consider a Fee-Only Advisor

Fee-only advisors don’t receive commissions based on their sales. They are paid either a flat fee or a percentage of your assets that they manage, and that is it. A fee-based manager, on the other hand, is also paid commissions on the products they sell. Most of the time, this isn’t a big deal.


But what if one of these said products awards them a fat commission with every sale?  And what if, despite the fact that the product isn’t at all right for you, they decide to sell it to you anyway? Do you see the conflict of interest and the potential devastation to your portfolio?


This is why it is best to choose a fee-only manager, or at least maintain a healthy level of skepticism with those who have significant conflicts of interest.


Beyond this, I would just ask that you remain sensitive to any red flags. Before you choose to work with anyone during this crucial time of financial transition, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do they take the time to educate you about your options?
  • Can they back up their advice with sound, understandable reasoning?
  • Do they begin and end with an analysis with your unique situation?
  • Do they give you time to process without rushing your decisions?


Sound retirement planning advice is always educational. It is always transparent. It is always you-centered. It is never rushed.


This doesn’t necessarily mean they will lecture you about the ins and outs of the stock for hours on end, and it doesn’t mean they won’t ever miss a relevant aspect of your financial situation when giving you advice. I’m not trying to hold retirement planners to impossible standards.


But I’m also trying to keep you safe from those who only seek to take advantage of you. According to ARRP’s article, Managing Your Money Manager,” “the government estimates that Individual Retirement Accounts alone lose $17 billion a year to ‘me first’ investment advice from salespeople who wring commissions and fees from their trusting clients.”


We don’t want your money to become a part of that statistic.


Want a Certified Financial Planner to analyze your investment portfolio at no cost to you? Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 for a free no-obligation consultation.


Why You Should Consider Working In Retirement

Why You Should Consider Working In Retirement

(Even If You Don’t Need the Money)

Work? Retirement? The two words don’t even sound like they belong in the same sentence. After all, retirement is for relaxation. Retirement is for grandkids. Retirement is for vacations and bucketlisting.


But wait just a minute.


Although all of those things are true, studies show that regular work is also on the agenda, nestled in-between the couch sitting as well as babysitting. According to a Merill Lynch Retirement Study, 72% of pre-retirees age 50 and up will work in some capacity during their retirement.


This raises the question: Why are so many soon-to-be retirees planning to spend time working, the same thing they’ve likely been doing for the last 40 years?


It’s Not All About the Dollar Signs

As it turns out, there are a lot of reasons, and not all of them are financially related. Participants of the Merrill Lynch Study reported working in order to

  • Stay mentally active
  • Stay socially connected
  • Maintain a sense of identity and self worth

…as well as many other valid reasons. Surprisingly, staying mentally active was the number one cited reason. Money was still a consideration, especially considering that many retirees have not saved enough for a 20-year-or-more retirement, but those other motives definitely pulled their weight in the statistics.


And, fortunately, these desires were not left unfulfilled. The study also indicated that retirees who are working in retirement get out what they put in. As it turns out, working retirees reported feeling 10% prouder, 17% more connected to others, and 17% more stimulated than their non-working counterparts! It seems the sense of accomplishment, social interactions, and work environment provided a sense of overall well-being.


The Bottom Line

The point is today’s retirees and pre-retirees refuse to see retirement as the end. They are, instead, viewing it as a new horizon, a new beginning, a springboard instead of a landing pad. According to the study, many do take a 2.5 year break from work after retiring, but they are using that rest to recharge rather than wind down.


From working with my clients, I’ve heard some of their ideas for work. One client of mine does woodworking projects for people. Others give private music lessons. I even know a couple that travels down the east coast, selling kettle corn at local festivals during the summer. I remember them telling me all about the fun of traveling from year to year and the relationships they’ve built with some of the locals. Doesn’t that sound like fun?


You see, work and retirement only sound like they don’t belong in the same sentence if you consider work to be stressful or boring. However, if you can make money doing what you like, working will turn into a passion rather than a drag. In fact, you just might find that work and retirement is a match made in heaven.


Do You Have Retirement Questions?

Deciding whether or not to work is just one of many decisions you will have to make as you transition to retirement. Luckily, our Life After Work series of workshops seeks to cover the three critical areas of a successful retirement transition: Medicare, Social Security, and 401(k) planning. You can sign up for just one or all three. No high-pressure sales pitches here, just in-depth discussion about what you need to know as you approach retirement.   Our Welcome to Medicare workshop is Thursday, June 25, beginning at 5:30 on Zoom.  Call our office at 937-492-8800 or head on over to our web page and sign up for a free workshop today!

Will I Be Able to Afford Medicare?

Will I Be Able to Afford Medicare?

The shortest and most honest answer is “I don’t know”. But I know this doesn’t help you answer the most pressing questions weighing on your mind as you approach retirement age. Am I ready? Or Should I delay my retirement? And most of all—how am I going to afford health care without my employer insurance?


So here’s what I am going to do. Using my 20+ years of experience working with retirees, I am going to lay out a framework for what to expect when it comes to Medicare expenses. These will just be “in-the-ballpark” figures, but I believe they will help you come to a decision. You just might find that Medicare falls squarely into your budget.


So let’s get started with some good news.


Medicare Part A (Inpatient Care) Is Free

As long as you’ve paid into Social Security for at least 10 years, social security will return the favor with no associated Part A premium.


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

This figure is adjusted for high income, but most people don’t fall into the high-income category. $144.60 will be your monthly premium unless you make $87,000 per year or more as an individual or $174,000 filing jointly.


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: Medicare Advantage or Original (traditional) Medicare.


The Traditional Medicare Route

If you choose the Traditional Medicare route, you will want Medicare Supplement Insurance to fill in the gaps of what Medicare doesn’t cover. Otherwise, there will be no limit to your out-of-pocket spending. The premiums for a Medicare Supplement range from $45-146 per month. However, we often recommend a plan G, which typically costs $110 per month. This is a fairly standard premium. It puts into perspective what you can expect a Medicare Supplement Plan to cost.


To cover your medications, you will also need a Part D prescription drug plan, which will cost in additional premium anywhere between $14 to $128 monthly. The average cost for a drug plan is $42 in 2020. The out-of-pocket costs associated with Part D vary greatly depending on your medications. It is impossible to estimate without knowing your specific situation.


The Medicare Advantage Route

Offered as an alternative to Traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage is often the cheaper option when it comes to premiums. They are offered for prices within the range of $0-163 monthly with the average premium being approximately $23 per month. The Part D prescription drug plan is almost always rolled into the plan.


Caution: Check For Possible Out-of-pocket Costs

At first glance, it looks like the Medicare Advantage route is the obvious choice. But this fails to take into account the risk of out-of-pocket costs. With a Medicare Supplement (only available with Original Medicare), the maximum out-of-pocket (for Medicare approved expenses) is only $198 annually for Plan G. However, in an advantage plan, it is more of a pay-as-you-go approach. There are less 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!


The Costs At a Glance

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 still concerned about being able to afford Medicare, contact us 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 are a lot circumstances that may prevent you from retiring. But I believe that the affordability of health insurance shouldn’t be one.


Disclaimer: Numbers are based on Ohio 45365.


Turning 65 soon and not sure what to do?  Our next workshop is quickly approaching on June 25.  Click here to sign up for our free Medicare workshop. No high-pressure sales pitches here, just in-depth discussion about the ins and outs of Medicare!

Top 5 Retirement Myths You Probably Believe

Top 5 Retirement Myths You Probably Believe

We only use ten percent of our brains. Napoleon was short. It takes seven years to digest a piece of gum.


Myths like these are pervasive and stubborn. Perhaps you are just now realizing the above statements are even myths at all! Regardless, whether you first heard them on an evening sitcom, around the dinner table, or as a warning before your mom gave you a stick of juicy fruit when you were a kid, they were easy to pick up and difficult to get rid of.


But unlike these common household myths, which are basically harmless, widely held false beliefs about retirement can lead to unexpected bills, sore disappointments, or missed opportunities.


That is why I’ve compiled some of the more common and destructive retirement myths, so you can let them go and grab ahold of a better, more secure retirement.


  1. “Health Insurance in Retirement? Won’t Medicare Take Care of All That?”

This is a big one. Many people think that, just because the government provides Medicare for those 65 and over, the program is designed to meet all of their healthcare needs. This is, unfortunately, not the case. In truth, it’s not even close.


You see, Medicare has very costly gaps, ranging from small, pesky copays to potentially devastating out-of-pocket spending. Firstly, Medicare simply doesn’t cover vision, hearing, dental, or long-term care. And then—in other areas such as skilled nursing, hospital stays, medications, and much more—the coverage is limited. These gaps will not always be overly expensive, but—since there is no out-of-pocket spending limit with Medicare—one major health crisis can quickly turn into a financial crisis as well.


That is why we recommend talking to an advisor about getting a Medicare Supplement Plan to fill in those gaps or, if that is too expensive, a Medicare Advantage Plan that will put a cap on your potential out-of-pocket spending.


  1. “Social Security Will Take Care of Most of My Income, Right?”

Although Social Security isn’t going broke and skipping out on promised benefits like some believe, the program is not (and was never) designed to provide anyone’s full retirement income.


In fact, according to Social Security’s website, the government program is only designed to replace about 40% of a person’s pre-retirement income. As a general rule of thumb, many financial advisors predict that retirees will need 70-80% of their pre-retirement income to live comfortably That leaves 30-40% up to your nest egg. Can your nest egg handle it? 



  1. “Work? Retirement? Those Two Words Don’t Belong in the Same Sentence.”

People are living longer, and living longer means having more time on your hands. When people only lived ten or so years after age 65, it made sense to think of retirement as a time to wind down and call it quits. But now that the average life expectancy is approximately 85 years, continuing to work (at least part time) makes a lot of sense.


According to a Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, 72% of pre-retirees 50 and older say that they plan to work at some point in their retirement. Additionally, the same study showed that 47% of current retirees have worked or plan to work sometime in retirement.


  1. “Starting a New Career is For Young People, Not Retirees.”

But perhaps you don’t want to go back to the stress of your former career. Or maybe you the whole reason you retired is because you weren’t physically capable of performing the backbreaking labor.


Well, in that case, why not bust another myth and start afresh? Why not take a hobby or a lifelong aspiration and make a new career out of it?


I think Christian writer and thinker, C.S. Lewis, said it best: “You’re never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream.”


And, according the aforementioned Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, many agree. In fact, nearly three-fifths (58%) of working retirees believe retirement is a good time to switch careers. So dream big. There’s more room to take career risks when you have a nest egg to lean on.


Maybe you can even start your own business. Did you know that retirees are three times more likely to be business owners or self-employed than pre-retirees?


  1. “Retirement Consists of Two Steps: Clock Out and Walk Out.”

Unfortunately, that’s just how you quit working. It’s not how you truly retire. Retirement involves careful planning and a long list of to-dos. This list must include signing up for Medicare, purchasing supplemental coverage, deciding when and how to take Social Security, considering rolling over your 401(k), as well as other non-financial items such as travel plans or simply deciding how you are going to use your extra 40 plus hours a week.


Do You Need Some Expert Guidance Concerning Your Retirement Transition?

In that case, you are in the right place. In our Life After Work workshops, we discuss retirement transition.  Sign up today for our free workshop.


Our Workshop Promise To You

  1. There will be no high-pressure sales and no obligations, just insight about your retirement transition.
  2. You will feel less overwhelmed and anxious about your decisions and options.


Some may not think we will live up to our promises, but that is just another common retirement myth! Our next workshop will be held virtually on Zoom on June 25 at 5:30 pm.  We hope you will come to learn more.  The workshop is free!  Sign up today at!


How to Lower Health Care Costs in Retirement—The 4 Best Ways

How to Lower Health Care Costs in Retirement—The 4 Best Ways

Did you know that a recent Fidelity study shows that the average couple can expect to spend $260,000 on health care expenses in retirement? Well, unfortunately, that is the current figure circling around the retirement blogosphere. And that isn’t even taking into account the possibility of long term care such as an extended nursing home stay, a consideration which escalates the estimation well into the three hundred thousands.


It can’t be true, can it?


I know, when I saw that figure in print for the first time, I was surprised as well. But as I begin adding up all of the possible costs—really crunching the numbers—I found out it was a lot more probable than I originally thought.


So what are you to do? If you are still working, the answer is common sense: save more to cover the costs. But if you are beginning the retirement transition right now, it’s too late for that strategy. You need something to lessen the burden—and fast!


Although these four ways won’t slash that number in half by any means, they can certainly help keep your health care costs in check:


1.  Sign Up For Medicare On Time To Avoid Penalties

You must sign up during the six-month period surrounding your 65th birthday or else pay hefty penalties that continue for your entire life! Unless you have a qualifying reason, everyone should sign up for Medicare parts A and B. And unless you are on an Advantage plan with a drug plan rolled into the deal, you should sign up for Part D. Because, if you miss it by just one year, you will accrue $4,248 worth of penalties over your lifetime, assuming you live 20 years after 65.


2.  Take Advantage of the Preventive Services Provided by Medicare

Like the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and Medicare agrees. While Medicare covers very few things in full, the program covers every penny of many preventive services including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Flu Shots
  • Various cancer screenings
  • Obesity screenings and counseling
  • Annual “wellness” visits
  • Tobacco use cessation counseling

Now I am not saying you should spend all of your golden years sitting in cold waiting rooms. Rather, the core of this advice is simple: take care of yourself. Take the tiny steps now, so you can avoid the big health issues later. Catch the problems in their inception, so what could have been a free office visit and quick fix doesn’t end up costing you an arm and a leg in hospital bills.


According to a study conducted by Age Wave, pre-retirees and retirees say the two most important ingredients to a happy retirement are health (81% of respondents) and financial security (58% of respondents). The funny thing is that taking preventive measures often helps both.


3.  Cut Prescription Drug Costs

It is not difficult to see that the cost of drugs, especially for those with chronic illness, contributes its fair share to that $260,000 figure in health care expenses. Sure, you have a Part D Drug Plan, but there are still expensive coverage gaps.


But the good news is there are a few things you can do to lessen the burden. You can switch to generics. You can try mail order. Some people are even splitting pills to split the bill with certain medications.


For more specific details to help you cut drug costs, read this:  “How to afford meds in the donut hole”.


4.  Beat the Medicare Supplement Creep by Shopping Around!

If you don’t have a Medicare Supplement, I would strongly recommend getting one. And if you do and you’ve been in the same one for 3-5 years, I strongly recommend that you shop around.




Because Medicare Supplement premiums naturally creep up year-by-year, and they rarely come back down. The best news is you don’t even have to change coverage when you switch. Because of standardization, any and all of Medicare’s 11 lettered plans (A-N) offer the same exact benefits no matter which company you purchase it from. It is not uncommon for people to save $40-50 per month by switching. I’ve even seen savings as high as $100 per month or more.


The point is it pays to bargain shop! And it will pay to put some or all of these health care cost cutting ideas to the test.


Want to check and see what you could save by switching? Use our free Medicare Supplement quoting tool.   No contact information required.   Or call our office and we can give you a free quote over the phone!  937-492-8800

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 up 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:



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.



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 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?

Call our office to schedule a free one-on-one appointment to have an in-depth discussion about the ins and outs of Medicare.  During this time, we offer phone appointments, Zoom appointments, and in-person appointments to fit your level of comfort.  Call us today at 937-492-8800.

5 Social Security Terms You Need to Know

5 Social Security Terms You Need to Know

As you approach the exciting (but often overwhelming) milestone of retirement, the topic of Social Security comes up much more often, and it is easy to see why. Nearly nine out of ten individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits, and—as an average—these benefits comprise about 33% of the income of older Americans. As retirement age comes around the bend, you will have to make a decision that will affect these benefits for the rest of your life: when to start taking Social Security.


To help you reach a confident decision, you first need to understand the terms. That is why I have compiled a list of 5 terms that you are likely to hear thrown around on the news, in articles, or in conversations with friends or professional advisors. Let’s get started.


1.  Primary Insurance Amount (PIA)

Your PIA is your full retirement benefit based off 35 of the highest earning years of your career. So, that is why it often pays off to work a couple more years if you are making the most you’ve ever made: it could have a significant effect on your PIA!  You will receive this full retirement benefit if you wait to collect your benefits at your full retirement age (which I will discuss next).


2.  Full Retirement Age (FRA)

The FRA, as I previously said, is the age that you can receive your full, unreduced retirement benefit. If you take it early (for instance, at 62), your benefit will be reduced. And if you delay beyond your FRA, it will be greatly increased! This age used to be 65 for everyone, but it is gradually increasing each year. If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your FRA is 66. If not, you can find out your FRA here.


3.  Break-even Point/ Break-even Analysis

When I am discussing when to take Social Security, I always remind people that it is a tradeoff. You can have more, smaller checks now or fewer, bigger checks later. For example, if you claim at 62 right now rather than 66, you will receive 4 more years worth of checks (48 to be exact), but those checks will be 25% smaller.


The break-even point then, is the age when the decision to delay starts paying off. Depending on how you think about Social Security, this can be an important

determination if you have a much lower than average life expectancy. Why? Because you may not live long enough for the bigger checks to pay off.


For a more concrete, thorough explanation of the break-even point, click here.


4.  Survivor Benefits

If someone dies, they can pass on their full benefit to their spouse (or child or parent in special cases). This benefit, called a survivor benefit, can replace the spouse’s benefit if it is higher. This is important to consider, especially for the “breadwinner” of the family. If you are main income earner, it pays even more to wait to take Social Security because your benefit can outlive you, making your personal break-even point (see above) less important.


5.  Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)

The government realizes that inflation can reduce the buying power of your benefit. Therefore, Social Security increases your benefit every year to keep up with inflation. This is called a COLA, which—although not a carbonated beverage—is also quite refreshing. (Please forgive my lame joke.)


Well, there you have it! If you read through this whole post, you have familiarized yourself with some of the most confusing acronyms and terms you will likely encounter as you explore Social Security. My hope is that this will aid your understanding as you look to make one of the most important decisions of your retirement: when to take Social Security.


Wondering When You Should Take Social Security?


Read our blog entitled “When to Take Social Security—4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Decision?” This is a great primer to get you started.


Or, you can call our office and we can answer your questions or direct you to someone who can.  Call us at 937-492-8800.

How to Foster Meaningful Friendships in Retirement

How to Foster Meaningful Friendships in Retirement


At Seniormark, we talk a lot about health insurance and other financial concerns, which makes a great deal of sense. Medicare, Social Security, and 401(k) planning are all essential parts of a successful retirement transition. But I also think it is beneficial to discuss cultivating meaningful relationships in retirement.


Because when you leave work, you aren’t just leaving behind an income stream and your employer health insurance. You are also leaving behind a day brimming with social interactions: chit-chat at the water cooler, lunch in the teacher’s lounge, everything from light office banter to the deep bond of team goals and shared achievement.

And if there is one thing we know about these kinds of social interactions, it is that they are vitally important to nearly every area of your life.  In fact, consider how low social interaction affects just one of your major life domains: your health. Cited by a Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, low social interaction is as bad for your health as

  • Smoking fifteen cigarettes a day
  • Being an alcoholic
  • Never exercising

And it is also twice as bad as obesity!

It’s like all of the worst possible things you can do for your health are not nearly as bad as being friendless.


So, that leaves you with the challenge: how are you going to fill the gaping social hole left behind after you exit full-time employment? Well, to get you started making friends that last, here are some helpful pieces of advice:


  1. Recognize Other Retirees Want Strong Friendships, Too!

According to, 43% percent of seniors report feeling lonely. And I am not talking about once in a while, like when a spouse is gone on a fishing or shopping trip. I am talking about persistent loneliness that drags a person down week after week. The people who comprise that 43% figure are all around you. They’re the neighbor you see on his front porch on your daily walk, the woman behind you in the checkout line at the grocery store, the man who sits in the back pew at church.

Don’t you think they want to make a connection with you, perhaps even more than you want to make a connection with them?

Why is it then that we always think our company will bother, inconvenience, or disinterest others? The thoughts are pervasive and often keep us from taking that first step: She is probably too busy. Why would he want to go grab lunch with me? They’ve got plenty of friends; why would they take the time to make any more?

Luckily, those thoughts just aren’t true. Many retirees struggle to make friends and desire to develop close relationships. Others, although they may have lots of friends, have plenty of room in their life for more. After all, friendships aren’t like marriage; they aren’t exclusive!


  1. Reconnect With Old Friends or Distant Family Members.

Friends move away. Family members get busy with their own lives. And the next thing you know, the only time you see these people is at class reunions and for a brief moment at Christmas or Easter.


But in all of this lies an opportunity. One invitation to go get drinks or coffee could start up a thriving friendship once again. You must remember that these are people you have a history with. It isn’t like striking up a random chat with someone on the street. You have common ground, a place to reconnect.


Now, you might not be able to “pick up exactly where you left off” with everyone, but maybe that’s not always the goal. You can talk about old times to break the ice, but perhaps the relationships will start afresh, not from where you left off, but from where you are right now.


So what are you waiting for? You probably still have their contact information in an address book somewhere or in your phone. Think of the things you used to laugh about together, the things you may still have in common. They are only a call away.


  1. Reach Out to Others In Your Community

As I soon as I decided I was going to write a blog post about the topic of friendship, I knew I had to speak to my mother-in-law to get her two cents. As we discussed, she kept coming back to two simple words: reach out. I think it’s because those two words mean so much to her.


Although she lost her husband recently, she has managed to avoid the isolation and loneliness that often comes with that kind of deep grief. She is now in a small group of widowed women who share life together. They travel—to places like St. Louis and San Antonio. They see movies and visit fireworks shows. But aside from the flashy stuff, they often just sit around and talk.


How did she get so lucky?


Someone reached out to her. In her grief, the group decided to call her up, to comfort her, to invite her to join them on their adventures.


What made them think of her?


She reached out to someone else. When her neighbor, one of the ringleaders of their small gang, lost her husband months before, my mother-in-law decided to visit and comfort her. When the same thing happened to my mother-in-law, you can guess who was the first person on their minds and in their hearts.


The moral of the story is that showing yourself friendly is always the best way to make friends. So volunteer at a blood drive or soup kitchen. Serve in a women or men’s group at church. Go visit the widow across the street who needs your few words of comfort.


In other words, in the wise words of my mother-in-law, reach out.


Seniormark Wants to Reach Out to You During Your Retirement Transition!

Confused about Medicare? Unsure of when and how to take Social Security? Wondering what to do with your 401(k) at work? Seniormark’s staff handles all of these weighty concerns with patient and friendly guidance. Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation and receive the help you need.


Get a Second Look Before Buying an Annuity or Your Money May Be Held For Ransom

Get a Second Look Before Buying an Annuity or Your Money May Be Held For Ransom

Two clients of mine, a couple, came into my office one morning, and they mentioned they were heading over to meet with a financial advisor about their Equity Indexed Annuity after their appointment with me. Just as a fair warning, I shared with them what I have learned about the dangers of some annuities, making it a point to mention that some have steep surrender penalties that can extend anywhere from 7-17 years. What I didn’t know then is that they can be even worse than that.


They seemed surprised. Why hadn’t their advisor mentioned those downsides? They would ask him, they concluded, and then come back to finish up some business with me.


They did come back, and with some very concerning news. “He made it sound like we could never take all our money out without penalties,” they said.


And now they surprised me. I asked for their disclosure document, researched the product, and—to my frustrated astonishment—found it to be true: this annuity was basically holding their money for ransom.


You see, according to the rules of this particular EIA, they can never take out their money as a lump sum. Even after they have passed away, their kids will not be able take out their money as a lump sum either. The only way the couple can is by taking it out 10% each year for ten years after a five-year deferral period.

If they refuse to play by those rules and take out their money as lump sum anyhow, the penalties would eat up all their returns, bonuses, and more. They would only get $164,555, which is $61,859 less than their account value of $226,414 and about 10,000 less than what they originally paid into the annuity five years ago! In other words, they would have lost 27% of their money after having been invested for five years.


This illiquidity might be tolerable if the returns were decent, but that is not the case with their annuity. It has a cap of 3%. This means that no matter how good the markets are, the most return they can get is 3%. Period. All in all, this is a terrible deal.


Now, this is not to say that all annuities are bad or that all of them will tie up your money like this one will. But this example does serve as a warning that you can hardly be too cautious around these complicated products. Why? Because annuity salesmen (even those who call themselves “financial advisors”) may not tell you about these downsides.


My clients were not told about these penalties. Instead, they were sold on the guarantees, the promises of market returns without market risk and an upfront 10% bonus. Then, with a skewed perception of what they were getting themselves into, they signed away full rights to their money forever.


So, before you sign anything, I always recommend getting a second opinion, just to make sure the annuity is being portrayed as it really is. I am convinced that if all the pros and cons were laid bare, significantly fewer people would purchase them.


Thinking about getting into an annuity? Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 and a Certified Financial Planner will give you a second opinion on whether or not it is right for you!