retirement

9 Things You May Not Know About Social Security Retirement Benefits

Social Security Benefits

On the face of it, Social Security benefits seem straightforward. You simply fill out some paperwork when you retire and start receiving your monthly amount.

Unfortunately, many people do just that. They may glance at their Social Security statement now and then but don’t put much thought into it beyond that. Meanwhile, others may assume they’re not entitled to benefits and leave money on the table.

The truth is many people don’t maximize their Social Security benefits, either because they don’t understand how the system works or they need the money before reaching their full retirement age. Once you’re aware of Social Security’s many nuances, you can use the system to your advantage.

Here are 9 things you probably didn’t know about Social Security benefits (but should):

#1: Reaching age 62 is significant when it comes to Social Security.

When it comes to claiming Social Security benefits, a variety of important things take place when you turn 62.

First, the Social Security Administration officially calculates your benefit amount when you reach age 62. That’s because 62 is the age you can begin claiming benefits if you choose. Up until this point, the benefit information on your Social Security statements is merely an estimate.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s always wise to start your benefits at age 62. In fact, by claiming your benefits at age 62 instead of when you reach full retirement age (currently, between age 66 and 67 depending what year you were born), you may decrease your monthly benefit amount by as much as 30%.

You’re also eligible for cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) beginning at age 62—even if you don’t claim your benefits right away. Since the Consumer Price Index determines COLA, eligibility can pay off in high-inflation years. For instance, some groups are estimating the increase will be as high as 10.8% in 2023 to account for rising price levels.  

#2: Your Social Security statement now shows you how much your benefits will increase each year by waiting to claim them.

Indeed, the Social Security Administration recently redesigned their statements to clearly show the differences in your benefit amount based on the year you start taking them. And you don’t have to wait until you’re eligible for Social Security to see what this means for you.

Check it out! Go to ssa.gov and set up an account, so you can view your Social Security benefits at any time.

#3: You must work at least 10 years (40 credits) to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits.

Once you’re eligible for Social Security benefits, your highest 35 years of indexed earnings determine your benefit amount. Index means that the SSA adjusts your actual earnings to account for changes in average wages over time. However, if you keep working after claiming your benefits and report higher wages, they will replace one or more lower-wage years with your higher earnings.

For example, many women leave the workforce or cut back their working hours to raise children and restart their careers later. Those later years of earnings will replace the zero or low-wage years, thus increasing the ultimate benefit amount. This can also apply to people who change jobs to start their own business or work for a start-up and take a temporary pay cut as a result.

#4: Your Full Retirement Age (FRA) is an important milestone.

Your full retirement age (FRA) is the age you’re eligible to receive your full Social Security retirement benefits. It’s important to note that full doesn’t necessarily mean maximum, however.

If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your FRA is 66. For those born between 1955 and 1960, FRA then gradually increases until it reaches 67. Anyone born in 1960 or later reaches their FRA at age 67.

Reaching your FRA is significant for several reasons:

  • Reaching your FRA does not mean you have to start taking benefits. You can delay your benefits until age 70.
  • Each month you delay taking benefits after reaching your FRA, your benefit increases. This is true until age 70. For example, if your FRA is 66, you can increase your benefit amount by as much as 32% if you wait until age 70 to claim your benefits. Your benefit amount at age 70 would also be roughly 77% higher than if you began claiming Social Security benefits at age 62.
  • If you claim your benefits before reaching your FRA and continue to work, you may be subject to the SSA’s Retirement Earnings Test. This may reduce or even eliminate your benefit temporarily. For example, the Social Security earnings limit is $1,630 per month or $19,560 per year in 2022 for anyone receiving benefits prior to reaching FRA. If you exceed these thresholds, you can expect the SSA to withhold $1 from your benefits check for every $2 you earn above the limit.

Remember: Everything about Social Security supports work. So, your benefit will continue to grow as you continue working and your earnings increase.

#5: Age 70 is another significant age when it comes to Social Security benefits.

You must start taking Social Security benefits by age 70. Delaying past age 70 will not increase your benefits. However, any cost-of-living adjustments will apply.  

If you work past age 70 and your earnings are higher than any of the previous 35 years used to calculate your benefit, your benefit will increase. Those higher earnings will replace a year where you didn’t earn as much.

#6: If you’re married, divorced, or widowed, it pays to understand your spousal benefits.

As with many government benefits, there are many rules when it comes to Social Security spousal benefits. The following flow charts may come in handy to determine your eligibility.

In the meantime, here are a few basics that are good to know:

  • A lower-earning spouse can collect a spousal benefit up to 50% of the higher earner’s FRA. Meanwhile, a widow or widower can collect up to 100% of the deceased spouse’s benefit.
  • Because a widow or widower can collect up to 100% of a deceased spouse benefit, it makes sense for the higher earner to max out their benefit by waiting until age 70 to claim.
  • It may pay to keep tabs on your ex-spouse if you were married for at least 10 years. A divorced spouse can file for a spousal benefit even if the ex-spouse has not yet claimed if both parties are at least 62 years old and have been divorced for more than two years.
  • If your ex-spouse dies, the picture changes. As the surviving ex-spouse, you can claim a survivor benefit as early as 60. You can also allow your own retirement benefit to grow until age 70. Alternatively, you can claim a reduced retirement benefit early. Then, you can switch to a higher survivor benefit at full retirement age.
  • If you’re married, you must wait until the higher earner files for benefits to claim benefits on their record.

#7: Benefits are taxable at the federal level and potentially at the state level.

In 2022, you must pay taxes on your Social Security benefits if you file a federal tax return as an individual and your taxable income exceeds $25,000 ($32,000 for married couples filing jointly). If your taxable income is between $25,000 and $34,000 ($32,000 and $44,000 if filing jointly), you’ll pay taxes on 50% of your benefit amount. For income levels above those thresholds, you’ll pay taxes on 85% of your benefit amount.

In addition, most states don’t tax Social Security benefits. However, some do, so be sure to check your state tax requirements.

#8: Beware of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)

If you also receive pension benefits based on earnings from jobs that Social Security doesn’t cover (and therefore aren’t subject to the Social Security payroll tax), the windfall elimination provision (WEP) may reduce your benefit amount. WEP reductions don’t appear on your Social Security statement. So, they can come as a surprise if you’re not aware of it.

#9: The Government Pension Offset (GPO) may affect your spousal benefits.

The Government Pension Offset (GPO) affects spouses, widows, and widowers with pensions from a federal, state, or local government job. It may reduce your Social Security benefits in some cases. Specifically, if you receive a pension from your government job and didn’t pay Social Security taxes while you had that job, the SSA will reduce your spousal benefits by two-thirds of the amount of your pension. There are exemptions, however.

To Maximize Your Social Security Benefits, Consider Working with a Financial Professional

Social Security is a complex topic that many people don’t fully understand. While the above list certainly isn’t exhaustive, hopefully it gives you a better understanding of how the system works. It may also give you a starting point to do your own research.

In addition, consider working with a trusted financial advisor, who can help you maximize your Social Security benefits. A financial advisor can also help you develop a comprehensive financial plan for your future, so you can retire on your terms.

To learn more about how Curtis Financial Planning helps self-made women and female-led households secure their financial future, please start here.

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Women and Long-Term Care Insurance: Preparing for Your Future Well-Being

Women and Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance is important for a wide variety of individuals to have. But women face a unique set of challenges that often makes it even more important. For starters, women tend to live longer than men after retirement age, which often means women should be financially prepared for more years than the average.

Long-term care insurance can help you become more financially and emotionally prepared for the future. But that’s not the only reason you might consider it. Women are also more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, making it crucial that long-term care insurance is there to fall back on when you need it most. The same is true when your partner falls ill, since women often become caretakers for their husbands later in life.

But the truth is that long-term care insurance is complicated, and it isn’t necessary for everyone. So, let’s talk about who needs and qualifies for it, how it works, and the benefits and downsides.

How to Determine if You Need Long-Term Care Insurance

70% of people turning age 65 will need some type of long-term care services in their lifetime. Long-term care services include assistance with activities of daily living. Activities like bathing, eating, medication management, and dressing are some of the most common. There are many different reasons that someone might need this type of assistance. Often, it’s due to an injury, degenerative health condition, or a cognitive disorder like Alzheimer’s.

When you are working with a professional to determine what types of insurance coverage you need, their first question in terms of long-term care insurance might be: is there someone who will take care of you in the unfortunate circumstance that you may no longer be able to care for yourself? As a result, individuals without spouses or children often seek long-term care insurance earlier in life than others.

Who Qualifies for Long-Term Care Insurance?

This may come as a surprise, but not everyone is eligible for long-term care insurance. There are no age requirements for purchasing long-term care insurance. But getting the timing right is crucial because several pre-existing conditions will render you ineligible. A few of these include:

  • AIDS
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s
  • MS
  • Any dementia or progressive neurological condition
  • A stroke
  • Metastatic cancer

If you’re in good health and eligible, the optimal age range to shop for long-term care insurance is between 57 and 65.  Keep in mind that premiums go up as you get older.

How Does It Work?

The benefits and specifics of your long-term care insurance will vary depending on the policy. Some policies involve direct payments to care providers, while others offer reimbursement to the policyholder. Most policies require that a professional service take place to receive the benefit, regardless of the way it is paid out. This means that individuals can’t receive care from a family member and then request compensation. However, if this family member is part of a home care agency, that is a different story.

Benefits and Downsides

There are several benefits to obtaining long-term care insurance. Typically, these types of care plans are flexible, making it easy to structure them to meet a variety of unique needs. Long-term care can take place in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or in your home, depending on your comfort level and other individual factors.

And having long-term care insurance in place when you need it can help you avoid having your post-retirement budget derailed by exorbitant and unexpected nursing home bills. But there are downsides to consider here, too. Primarily, the health restrictions and cost-prohibitive long-term care policy options.

The best way to determine whether long-term care insurance is right for you is to speak with a professional. Everyone is different, and your needs are different, too. If you’d like to speak with a financial planner about how long-term care insurance may fit into your retirement plan, we’d love to chat.

Download your free guide: What Issues Should I Consider When Purchasing Long-Term Care Insurance?



For more information on women and long-term care insurance, check out our recent Financial Finesse podcast episode:

What Every Woman Needs To Know About Long-Term Care Insurance.


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S3 E1: What Every Woman Needs To Know About Long-Term Care Insurance

As You Plan For Retirement, Don’t Forget About Long-Term Care Insurance

As women, we have a number of unique considerations when it comes to planning for a financially secure retirement. One topic that comes up repeatedly with my female clients is long-term care insurance–what is it, who needs it, and is it worth paying for? And the answer is: it depends. 

The truth is, long-term care insurance is a complicated issue. While it may make good sense for some women, there are still many factors to consider before purchasing a policy. To help explain the ins and outs of long-term care insurance and clear up some of the more common misconceptions about it, I invited Liz Eshleman onto the Financial Finesse podcast for a very enlightening discussion. 

Liz is a long-term care planning specialist and founder of Eshleman Insurance Services in Sacramento, California. Her mission is to help individuals and families avoid the devastating financial and emotional consequences of not having a long-term care plan in place.

I’ve partnered with Liz on many long-term care planning situations for my clients and could think of no one better to join me for this discussion. I hope you find this episode as illuminating as I did!

Tweetable Quotes

Liz Eshleman on long-term care insurance coverage:

You don't have to crisis-manage on day one... But people sometimes think, well, if I can't get unlimited (coverage), why would I buy this at all? Which I think is missing the point. Click To Tweet

Episode Highlights

  • [04:00] Liz explains who long-term care insurance is for and why a mobility issue might cause problems for you, even if you’re otherwise healthy.
  • [07:38] We talk about the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on long-term care and your eligibility to purchase insurance if you’ve tested positive for the virus.
  • [08:58] Liz lists some of the more surprising health issues that could make you ineligible for long-term care insurance.
  • [14:50] We discuss the various types of long-term care insurance products on the market today.
  • [20:12] Liz gives a real-life example of when and how an initial claim is triggered.
  • [26:00] Liz shares some of the other benefits of long-term care insurance, specifically having access to a long-term care manager.
  • [40:38] We wrap up our discussion by talking about the potential drawbacks of long-term care insurance for women and how it plays into your financial plan.

Links Relevant To This Episode

Morningstar: 100 Must-Know Statistics About Long-Term Care (Pandemic Edition)

[Of Independent Means] Women and Long-Term Care Insurance: Preparing For Your Future Well-Being

Free Guide: What Issues Should I Consider When Purchasing Long-Term Care Insurance?

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https://youtu.be/5n8Hx9JjaUY

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S2 E2: Sticking To Your Investment Plan In Times Of Uncertainty

Sticking To Your Investment Plan In Times Of Uncertainty

Staying The Course - Even When It Hurts

In my second episode of Financial Finesse Season 2: What Keeps You Up At Night?, I talk about investing in stocks during periods of uncertainty. And I think we can all agree that things look pretty uncertain right now. The good news is, that doesn’t mean your financial plan needs to suffer. 

If investing in stocks feels scary to you, you’re not alone. Many investors can’t stomach the volatility that comes with investing in the stock market, so they either avoid it altogether or end up selling their stocks when they start to lose value. This presents two problems: first, investing in stocks is necessary for most people to achieve their long-term financial goals; and second, trading in and out of stocks at inopportune times can lead to permanent loss of capital. 

In this episode, I go into some of the technical details of why these two problems occur, but more importantly, I explain why having an investment plan and sticking to it over the long run is the best way to avoid them. I hope you find my message reassuring, and as always, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want to discuss your investment plan in more detail. 

Episode Highlights

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S2 E2 Transcript: Sticking To Your Investment Plan In Times Of Uncertainty

00:01

Hi, I’m Cathy Curtis, welcome to Season Two, Episode Two of the Financial Finesse podcast. In this season, I’m talking about what keeps you up at night. And as investments in the stock market are right up there when it comes to things that people worry about, I’m going to talk today about sticking with your investment plan during periods of uncertainty. And let’s face it, how much more uncertain can things get than they are right now.

There are two key money concepts that I’d like to get across to you today, that will hopefully give you greater peace of mind when it comes to investing. One is that you must invest a good portion of your savings in stocks, in order for it to grow, and last your lifetime. And second, how important it is to have a long-term view when it comes to investing.

Now I’m just going to take a brief moment and explain something, a couple of concepts that you’ll hear me talking about a lot. When I say stocks throughout this podcast, I don’t necessarily mean that you can go out and buy individual stocks, that that’s what you’re going to do. Investing in stocks includes investing in mutual funds or exchange traded funds as well, both passive index funds and actively managed funds. And when I say the market, I’m using the S&P 500 as a proxy for the market. The S&P 500 is a stock index made up of 500 of the largest US companies. It’s as good a proxy as any for the US economy and for the concepts that I am explaining to you today.

All right. So in order to accept these concepts, that you must invest a good portion of your savings in stocks, and how important it is to have a long-term view when you do, you have to understand and embrace the fact that investing in the stock market is risky with the capital or the way you know stocks are risky is by their volatility. Markets go up and down day by day, week by week, month by month. Sometimes they go down a lot. And for a longer period of time that is uncomfortable. But that’s a characteristic of stocks. And it’s what we must endure to get the higher returns that stocks reward us with over longer periods of time.

So just to visualize this contrast, investing in stocks to investing your money in a CD, a CD’s value doesn’t fluctuate, you buy it knowing you’re going to get a certain amount of interest. But currently, you’ll get less than 1% invested in a CD with no upside potential. So for example, if you invested $10,000 in a CD, today, at 1%, in 10 years, you’d have a little over $11,000 in 20 years, you’d have a little over $12,000. Contrast to investing in the stock market, with the average 8% return in 10 years, you’d have over $21,000, and in 20 years, you’d have over $46,000. This is a perfect example of the power of compounding interest, and why the higher return you can get from the stock market compounds exponentially over time.

The greater return on stocks is particularly important when you take into account inflation. Inflation means that your living expenses go up year after year, and they’ll definitely be higher in retirement. If you are earning 1% on a CD and inflation is 2%. It won’t be long before inflation as eroded the spending power of the money in that CD. In contrast, if you can earn a higher return on stocks, it will outpace inflation, and keep your spending power intact for your retirement years when you are no longer earning an income or a salary.

When you pay too much attention to the volatility of the market, it’s really easy to get scared and want to sell out to feel safe. This is a mistake because it is too hard to know when to get back into the market. While you are trying to decide you will most likely, proven by many, many studies, miss out on the very best days and hurt your long-term returns. Many people, maybe even you, got scared out of the market in 2008 in the depths of the global recession, and you may or may not have gotten back in. Yes, it took longer than past recessions for markets to fully recover. But by 2013 you would have been back to where you were and probably better off if you had rebalanced your portfolio when the markets dropped.

04:57

According to Goldman Sachs, the 10-year annualized return between 2009 and 2019 was 15%–higher than the normal and one of the highest 10-year returns since 1880. The typical 10-year return since 1880 is 9%. But again, it wasn’t always smooth sailing in that 10-year 2009 to 2019 period. If you recall, at the end of 2018, there was a scary market crash of about 20%. But that has recovered quickly as well.

Let’s just look at this year as an example, when COVID was spreading quickly to the US in February, investors panicked, and their widespread selling of stocks caused the S&P 500 to go down 34%. Since March 26, however, the index has completely recovered and more.

If you were one of the people that panicked and sold, then watched the market go up, up, up, since then, you’re probably thinking, well, now it’s overvalued, so I’m going to sit out longer. This isn’t the way to run a sound investment plan.

So how do you stick with your investment plan in times of great uncertainty? Well, the first step is to believe in your plan from the start. So let’s take the steps. To make a long-term plan, it’s important to write down the kind of lifestyle you want for the future, along with what expectations you have for the next 30 years. Because that’s really why you invest your money, to make sure that you have it when you need it after you retire. And you no longer are able to earn a salary income, your portfolio becomes your source of income along with social security or if you’re lucky, a pension. So you’re making a plan to get there. And I have to say that most people I know don’t want to reduce their lifestyle in retirement. And investing is one way to ensure that you don’t have to.

Secondly, you’re going to implement the plan, which a big part of this is determining the amount of risk you need to reach your goals and invest accordingly. For most people, this means a majority of their money should be invested in stocks. But whether it’s 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, you need to stay with it and rebalance periodically and ignore the short-term volatility.

Lastly, you need to stick with it. No matter what, stay with your plan. Unless something drastically changes with the United States or global economic systems, history should be a comfort to you.

Now I’m going to talk about why sticking with an investment plan is so important for women in particular. Unfortunately, the statistics show that women are more likely to have a savings shortfall than men in retirement. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that women get paid less than men for the same work, and that women are more likely to be in and out of the workplace because of family care needs. Therefore, they can’t save as much as men over their lifetimes. Until these realities change, in order for women to close the savings gap, they need to have a plan, stay with the plan even in times of great uncertainty, save and invest more than you think you need, and get over the fear of investing.

Thank you for listening. Again. If you’d like to hear more from me, follow me on Twitter: @CathyCurtis, or on Facebook. I have a business page called Women and Money.

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Episode 5 Transcript: What Advisors Do For Their Clients

00:00

Welcome to Episode Five of the Financial Finesse podcast. In today’s podcast, I invite you into my financial advisor mastermind group. If you don’t know what a mastermind group is, it’s a peer to peer mentoring group where you get support and advice on issues you may be facing in running your business or in your life.

00:23

My mastermind group has been invaluable to me in supporting me in building my financial advisory practice, keeping up on industry news, and deepening my knowledge of issues that affect my clients.

00:40

There are five of us in our group, and we live in all different parts of the country. And as we are all lifelong learners, we met through a professional development program. We all clicked, and we decided to take our meetings on a more intimate level and start this mastermind

01:00

program.

01:02

And for today, we’re not going to do our usual masterminding. Instead, I’ve asked all the group members to share a story about how they’ve helped a client and a little bit about their firm. And this way, I hope you’ll get an insight into how financial advisors help their clients build really successful financial lives.

01:36

And Maura, why don’t you start?

01:40

Hey, thanks, Cathy. So, to introduce myself, my name is Maura Griffon. My firm is called Blue Spark Financial, and we’re based in New York City and in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, where we have been sequestered here during the shutdown.

02:00

So we manage about 130 million for 70 families, households, mostly headed by single women. So that is basically our clientele, is women who are on their own, either because of divorce, or death of a spouse. Sometimes it’s women who’ve always been single, and their parents have died, or they’ve adopted a child and that child is now going to college. But people who have something going on in their lives that’s caused a transition and a shift in how they think about money. Many of them have never managed money

02:43

on their own, for these big issues, maybe they’ve saved money, but they don’t. They’re now approaching retirement and they don’t know how to de-accumulate. Sometimes that’s a word, they’re like, oh, I love that word. I know how to accumulate but I don’t know how to de-accumulate.

03:00

So and it’s, it’s emotional. Money is emotional, especially in these times. And so if there’s a common denominator to all of all of our clients, it’s that,

03:13

again, mostly women, but also they’ve got a finite portfolio of money, a pot of money that they need to last them for the rest of their lives. And, you know, I think it’s that combination of emotional support, as well as, you know, deep understanding of the technicalities of taxes and estate planning, and basically all the components of what goes into true financial planning. And I you know, I also want to mention that we are, we’re fee only fiduciary firm, which means that we put our clients’ interests above our own, that we’re not salespeople. We’re acting on the, we’re on the same side of the table as clients.

04:02

The you know, we often ask questions like, what does money mean to you? And you know, often people are not even thinking about money. They’re thinking about having enough of it, but they’re not thinking about what money can do to get them their best lives. And so it’s you know, it’s peeling apart that onion of how to use the resources and create align your values with what they want, what they’re spending on and what their goals are.

04:39

So it’s a lot like coaching in that way. It’s helping people find their purpose, and then being able to create a financial plan around that purpose and goal, that aligns the financial planning and the investment planning as well.

04:59

Most of

05:00

My clients tend to be, you know, conservative because they are worried about, you know, having this money last. And so at the core of what we do is what we call an endowment method of investing. Some people call it a, it’s similar to a bucket strategy, which some of you may have heard of, but it’s basically it helps clients sleep at night because it approaches the investment portfolio, not from a position of are you conservative, or are you risky, it’s a matter of a timeline. And so say that from now to five years out, we have that is the safety portion of the portfolio. So they know they can pay their bills, and that no matter what the market does, it can have wild swings up and down, but they know that their income is steady, and they’re going to be getting that monthly paycheck. And that helps

06:00

A lot of people and then there’s that five to 10 year portion of the portfolio. And that’s got big cap stocks, dividend paying, it’s got REITs, it’s got, you know, kind of solid equities, but a little out on the risk scale from bonds and cash equivalents. And then that 10 years plus, which, as we all know, the economic cycle goes up and down. But that can be invested in riskier and riskier equities, like small caps and international and emerging markets and some of those things that have their cycles and have their day. But that’s and that feeds then into the safety portion of the portfolio. So it’s an ongoing dynamic strategy. Maura I love that you’re going into the details of this and

06:51

I really appreciate it so our viewers can get an idea of like a practical way that we help. Can you give

07:00

A brief story of a client situation that you where you really felt like you added some value to their financial life, given all of these things that that you do, and we all do for our clients. Sure. So I have one client who

07:19

lost her husband. And so again, had had a pot of money that was largely invested in US large caps. She hadn’t paid much attention. And you know, it, it was a time when the market went down. And so she saw her portfolio, go from one number to another number, and it was frightening and so to be able to reallocate that portfolio, according to her needs, and to see what she was going to spend it on. So that means untangling a lot. A lot of issues like, like spending and upcoming taxes.

08:00

And how to, you know, digging into the best ways to save on taxes. And basically creating that timeline using assumptions about the future because obviously we can never know. But that calmed her and to be able to see it as it’s not just a lump of stocks and bonds that this is it’s invested according to her needs and timeline. I’m sure she gets a lot of comfort out of that. Had she ever used an advisor before? I know her husband had, okay. Yeah, and that’s pretty common with women where the husband handles the financial matters solely. And then the woman’s on her own and really needs some support. Precisely she said that she would had never been invited to the meetings and when she did they, the advisor didn’t talk to her.

08:58

So she tells me that she

09:00

loves working with me because I listen.

09:04

Good listening skills are critical. And I think many of us women have them. Don’t you know you all agree? Yeah.

09:15

Anything else you’d like to add?

09:19

Just that I love this group. And thanks Cathy for putting this together. Great. Thank you, Maura, great stories. And good. I know you do great work for your clients. Thanks Bev would you like to go next? Sure, sure. Um, my name is Beverly Cox. I’m an independent Certified Financial Planner and a chartered advisor in philanthropy. And I’ll go a little slightly different direction than Maura and just tell you a story of a particular client but I have been a financial planner for 30 years. And I have lots of stories and the ones that I really appreciate the most are the ones where I’ve been allowed to be

10:00

for decades involved in someone’s financial and really their whole life because of that relationship. So they have grown up with me obviously over the last 30 years and accepted me into their lives and allowed me is which is the way I look at it to love and support and be of service to them as they evolve through their own lives. So in those days, 30 years ago, most people came into financial services business through the insurance store, and that was me as well. So

10:36

and then I’ve evolved into the CFP and of financial comprehensive financial planning, but I have a number of widow clients that I seem to attract and I have a great deal of affinity for them. As single women who are usually as Maura was saying not been at the table or not been as involved when they when they did have a spouse

11:00

and so they do appreciate the help and they need the help. And I like that situation. So this is a story of one of them. So her name is Jane, which is not her name. And she was happily married with two children, one in high school and one in in junior high school. Both she and her husband who was an older man were working at well-paying but high stress jobs. And one of the biggest financial goals that they had from early on was to pay the total cost of college for these girls and particularly at name brand schools they wanted.

11:39

Although he had some health problems, Jane’s husband tragically, unexpectedly died. And

11:48

it was a horrible time, I was there for that as well. And it was heartbreaking. And so other than taking care of her needs of the moment in terms of cash and

12:00

making sure she felt secure, I did very little planning, we really, I think it’s part of my job as a planner, to hold space for that experience that you have to allow the person I believe to go through. There is a process of grief and loss and, and it’s not where your head is right? It’s like you have to emotionally allow that process to happen. So my job is to be there and to stay with that and then to when that client  is signaling and allowing me to talk about her future then we can go more into okay, let’s make some plans. So and in my experience, it can take more than a year to get my particular widow clients to that point. And that’s fine with me. That’s fine with me. So a quick question here during that year, how often do you meet with this client and is it via phone, face to face

13:00

kind of setups? Coffee dates,

13:04

which she was probably an hour away from where I was living and we would, we talked a lot, we actually did and I in those days especially I was going to client’s homes, so we probably went together.

13:18

We probably saw each other four or five times that year, then would be on the phone. So it’s like, you know, what I think we represent is we are a safety connection, right? A connection you’ve allowed me in, you allowed me to know what’s going on with you financially. Now use me and use my strength when you don’t have it. Use me for questions. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll go find the answer for you. So I just feel like we are a resource that is so much beyond managing money as well, right? That if you allow us to, if you let us have this kind of relationship with you, then you get the full

14:00

foundation of talents and skills that we can bring to the table. So, that answer your question? Yes. Very good. So I want to go on with this story if it’s okay. Okay, so in the first few years after we, we made it through and she was ready to do some planning, we actually did a lot of the plans that are in place and solidified her future. And that and she was tenacious, and this was a wonderful quality and she deposited and contributed to her 401k to the max every year. And part of that was matched by her company, which was great. We took some of the insurance proceeds from her husband’s policy and purchased a permanent life insurance policy for her and that was to cover some of the responsibilities if she were not there for her girls. She also had a large policy through her employer as well for that

14:59

and but it also

15:00

There’s cash value life insurance provided a place to accumulate excess reserves money that she could get to if she needed to and was also not at risk. So we had this safety net again, emergency money if needed. So we obtained as well an investment that can be turned into a guaranteed stream of income for her retirement. If that were what we needed to do. We wanted to put the potential in place so that we knew there were these streams of income that could serve her. We reviewed long term care insurance policies, alternatives, and we chose a traditional Long Term Care Policy for her because now Jane as a widow with these two girls, she wanted very much to protect

15:46

any kind of devastation financially that might happen to her own future. So that was important to her and that policy gives her a lot of peace of mind and it still does. So those early investments have been the foundation of what

16:00

We have done as she has, has had more money, we have done more with her money in terms of investments. And again, she’s socking as much as she can into her 401k. Every year, we went to a good estate planning attorney together, and we had the documents drawn up. And through the years, she has gone now since two more reviews with that estate planning attorney and we are always involved in any changes, suggestions that estate planning attorney has. So we’ve kept her docs up to date, which also gives her a great deal of peace of mind. So we also did a lot with cash flow. So cash management and I have found this with lots of clients that allow me a lot of time in their lives is that a lot of it is about a transition that they’re going through at some particular moment where it’s like okay, how do we finance that? How do we find the money for that? So we were going from you know, they had two good incomes to now we’re at one

17:00

income. She does have a widow’s pension, but it was still a different financial situation. There was lots of jockeying and balancing for different conflicting things that are going on. How are we going to save for these girls’ colleges, run a household, buy and sell cars, she had some relatives that needed some financial assistance sometimes, and then maintaining and repairing, refreshing her longtime home through all these years. So all those extra expenses were identified as we could and planned for. And through the years, we did take advantage of the cash value in this life insurance that she had accumulated. A HELOC a home equity line of credit that we had in place on the home. And even credit cards with zero percent programs were taken advantage of over the years if you needed the money and that’s where you could get it. That’s a financial transaction to manage. And that was my job. So she was super helpful to me. Because

18:00

she was a good saver. So I worried about and planned for the big picture. And then she just kept plugging away. So that’s an important part of any of any relationship is to have that enthusiastic client that’s helping her own situation. So have you, what your story is telling a perfect example of what a truly comprehensive financial plan is, where you’re looking at everything, you’re looking at cash flow, you’re looking at risk, and you’re helping them with insurance, and you’re looking at their estate plan and all the other issues that go into a truly comprehensive plan. So I’m really glad that you shared with us that broad array of issues that we help our clients with. So thanks so much for that story. Thank you. And Steph, would you like to go next, Stephanie Bruno? Sure. Cathy, I love your podcast, and I’m honored to be here.

19:00

Part of it today and I’m really honored to be part of this group of women who are so smart and also bring me a lot of joy. I’m Steph Bruno, my firm is Sea to Peak Financial Advisors. We have offices in Denver and Seattle, and I too am a fee only firm. So I enjoy working with executives that are complex and busy. Most of my clients are first generation wealth, they have just worked hard and done very well and they just need really good help. It’s important to me to not only help my clients grow their wealth, but to also see that make a difference in their lives. So I’ve incorporated life planning, you know, Cathy talked about before, it’s sort of brainstorming our client situations. I look at it if you think of like a jigsaw puzzle. Some people can do a jigsaw puzzle without looking at the picture on the box which is really difficult but

20:00

I think if you look at the picture on the box, and you look at all these pieces that we have, and then you say, what’s the best way to organize these pieces to get to that picture? I think about that’s what we do. And that’s what we can do if we have a really good life plan.

20:17

I’ll give you an example of how I think this made a difference. And one of my clients lives, I have this great client, she’s an environmental engineer, loved her work, loved the purpose behind it. But she had been working 60 to 80 hours a week. She had a lot of international travel. And she was also a little tired of the corporate bureaucracy. So she wanted to do something different. So we engage a life planning process to figure out, well what do you really want your life to look like? And what we came up with is she really only wanted to work about 40%. She wanted to spend about 20% of her time doing some nonprofit work. She wanted to spend about a

21:00

another 20% of time working on a novel. And really then just having a lot of fun. So once we figured out what the end what she wanted it to look like, the next stage that we went to is she had to figure out what that work was going to look like. So we work through an encore career handbook. So that helped her figure out what is this work I’m going to do, that’s going to be 40%, but yet still really fill me up as a person and meet that purpose piece of it. So she enjoyed the work that she did. She just wanted to do less of it. So she decided she was going to do some consulting work. And that also she was going to serve on corporate boards as well. And so that would provide some income. She had been on her board at her company, so it’s going to be a nice steppingstone to doing that work. And so once we had these two pieces in place, then the next part was to look at what does the financial plan look like?

22:00

We had to look at a lot of different scenarios, you know, starting off, what if she doesn’t make any money the first year? Or what if over this timeframe, she makes enough money to support herself, but not enough to save for retirement. She also had corporate stock. So we had to look at, what if the corporate stock dropped by 50%? How was her plan going to be affected? We were working to reduce that concentration. But she still had some. And of course, we wanted to look at what if it all worked out, right? Like, what’s the dream here? And if everything goes according to plan, what is that going to look like?

22:37

When I think of this client, she is a rock star.

22:42

I think all of my clients are. I love the work that I do, and I love my clients, but I think she in particular, really embraced this process. And I think that’s part of what made it successful.

22:54

We also had to look at what were some of the technical issues around her benefits. So as I mentioned,

23:00

I work with executives. They’ve got a lot of complex benefit plans. And they have different distributions and payouts and those types of things as well. And so one of the things we knew was that at age 55, she got much better deferred compensation payouts. Also at age 55. As she stepped away from work, she would be able to withdraw money from her 401k plan without penalty, should she need those funds. And of course, we had to plan for the fact that she was going to need some liquidity, right. We wanted to make sure that we had some safe cash set aside. So as she embraced this next phase of her life, that she really wasn’t worried about the money. She was secure in that process and could really go for it.

23:44

So this client, she went through this process, and today she has a consulting practice where she

23:53

does consulting projects, but only the ones she picks and chooses. She does work for two corporate boards.

24:00

She’s about ready to send her novel into her agent. And this is not just a novel she wrote over the weekend. She’s worked for three years with a writing coach, and is sending it off, and her encore career has been so successful, that we just updated her life plan to include her home on Martha’s Vineyard where she’s currently spending the summer so

24:23

yeah, yeah. Yeah, it just shows to me that when you have really good planning, combined with a good vision of what you want your life to look like, what can truly happen.

24:36

Steph that is such a great story. And you know, it’s a perfect example of something that we all do called scenario planning, where you look at several different iterations of the plan, depending on what they want to do, you know, their most audacious goals and then maybe if that doesn’t work out a little lesser, but it sounds like she reached all her audacious goals, which is amazing.

25:01

I’m sure she loves you for it. I’m sure she thinks you’re a rock star too.

25:06

Cathy.

25:08

Okay, thank you. Tanya.

25:11

I am Tanya Nichols. I love being with you guys. This group is one of the most I look forward to our time together. Every two weeks more than just about any other meetings I attend.

25:25

I really get a lot out of just hearing just all of these ladies telling their stories, even today, you can kind of pick up all the strengths and talents that they have in their brain to their clients. So thanks for having me. Um, I run an investment firm for women within a few years of retirement in northern Minnesota and Duluth on Lake Superior. And

25:49

I just was going to my kind of story for today was about a new client actually. And she was referred to me and she’s not quite divorced, yet.

26:00

In the process of going through a divorce, and I loved Steph’s story where, where her, her client was able to really get clear about her vision. And then step by step get through it. And this client is in this phase of transition, where her vision is really clouded by uncertainty. Much like what Bev was talking about with widows for example, and the major transition with something like losing a spouse or, or even retirement, all those transitions can make things somewhat cloudy. And so she is getting divorced. And it’s been discussed, but it’s not quite. It keeps getting there’s hang ups and anybody who’s ever been through one kind of knows how that goes.

26:44

But she’s been in a situation where she has felt no personal agency over her money. She’s been a really successful executive. She’s been the earner in her family. However, she’s had no agency over her

27:00

wealth creation and the money that she’s saved over the years. Her husband has been primarily responsible for that. And so as a result, there’s like a lot of money avoidance going on for her. And so what was interesting about her and these kind of cases, I love to get involved with at this stage, just finding me by she asked some friends for introductions and referrals. And through a friend of a friend, she came to my website and check this. And

27:35

she scheduled this first call and just that exercise for her because she’s never had an advisor. She’s never even logged into her accounts at this point. Her husband handled everything and she’s a successful high-powered executive yet at home, she did not have this power. And so just purely making that phone call to me was

28:00

Like step one in her taking her financial life on and taking control of her future. And then by call two, she had every login for every single one of her accounts, and she had a list for me of her net worth and all of her assets. And watching that unfold for someone is really exciting because a lot of my clients are really successful, yet they don’t feel good about their money. They’re women in this retirement age who grew up and likely became successful in an industry, which most industries where leadership was dominated by males. And so they found a way to get a seat at the table, sometimes by shrinking and yet now here they are, and they’re successful, and they’re the ones who run the table. Yet they still are almost hiding their success or they feel almost bad about their money. And so part of the work that we’re doing or that we hope to do is really help all of our clients feel good about their money and their wealth and their success. So

29:00

This particular client, we’re just getting started. And some of the most important work we’re doing at the beginning, is just giving her permission to let go of you can’t do everything at once, which is what many of my brilliant colleagues have alluded, alluded to. So for her, I could spend all day talking about are you saving enough for retirement, even though she’s close to 60, it’s not the priority, the priority is getting moved on this divorce. And so stage one, we resolved that the first step is to build a reserves out of her investments and help her decide which investments she could use to fund a reserve account, so that she feels secure and that she’s got her own, you know, bucket of cash reserves to take care of these immediate expenses, like lawyers bills and a new condo and some of these things that she needs to act on. And then her homework is really to go meet with that divorce attorney and get moving on this divorce because until she does that, I think it’s

30:00

gonna be really hard to get clear about where she’s going. So, stage one for her is building these reserves and getting her all of her different accounts. She’s got like 13 different accounts at different places. And so we’re going to work to get all of those consolidated and simplified so that she can continue with this personal agency over her dollars. And then we’ve postponed some of the planning, like regarding retirement, and how much should she be saving and is there enough and where she’s going to live permanently, all that is kind of set to later, but I’m giving her permission to say or helping her give herself permission to say I’ll get to that. But right now we need to address these items first. So our mission really is to help our clients feel good about their success and their money. And as Beth mentioned, it’s like one of the greatest privileges to be involved in these stories with people.

30:53

So I feel grateful to be doing this kind of work with people.

31:00

I can’t tell you how valuable it is to hear you all share your stories. There’s been pieces of every single one of your businesses that I’ve brought into my own with my client relationships, and to brainstorm and solve for some of these issues with clients is just invaluable to me. So thanks for having me, Cathy. I agree with you, Tanya. This group is invaluable and I wanted to touch on something that you said and it’s a theme throughout as, as you could see a lot of us work with women, not exclusively not we don’t all work with women exclusively. But there is a common theme with women where they don’t own their power financially. And I think that all of us are really dedicated to helping women do that. And either in ways where they can feel more free to spend, or we also let them know when maybe they need to not spend so much and but in all ways we want them to get empowered around their

32:00

money. So thanks so much for that story, Tanya.

32:05

So now it’s my turn.

32:07

So I work with mainly independent women. And when I say independent women, I mean women that are responsible for the finances, and it could be whether because they’re widowed, divorced, maybe they’re in a partnership, but they make the money and they have the decision making over money, things like that. But mostly women, I do have some men clients. And a typical situation for me, is a woman who is retired and has lived in the family home for decades. And all of a sudden starts to think about how much longer do I want to live in this home? And, and do I want to keep maintaining it, the roof and the yard and you know, it’s hard as you get older, you lose your

33:00

strength you, you have to be careful of getting up on ladders and doing all those things. And but it’s such an emotional decision to leave the family home. So the first thing you do is you tackle that, right? You have conversations around, doing that making that big giant decision to sell the family home and move into more of a retirement community situation. So I’m there to support them through the thought process. And in doing that, secondly, it’s the financials. And this is where the number crunching comes in, where you determine whether they can afford to sell the family home and I’m thinking about a woman in particular that I’m working with right now. But this is fairly common situation for me and my clients. So I use specialized software to input all the numbers. What if you sold your home for this much or you got this much proceeds? And what can you afford to buy? Is your next place a retirement

34:00

community and will that work for you for the rest of your life. And we have such long lifespans, I usually use 95 to 100 for lifespans to make sure that they don’t run out of money if they make this big move. So I give them peace of mind over the financial decision. First, it’s helping them get through the emotions. And then next is the finances. And there are a couple of other issues involved with this move. And that is, what do you do with all the stuff you have in your house? This is a daunting thing. This one particular client was a single child and one of the only nieces in the family and she ended up with all the silver, like five sets of silver and five sets of China. Well, and you know, you can imagine all the furniture and everything else she inherited over the years. So that made this move even harder and more gut wrenching for her because her kids, nobody wants that stuff anymore. Her adult

35:00

children did want it, what do you do with it? So it’s working through things like that, helping them let go of things and, and issues that will help them move forward. So I find great satisfaction and in helping clients through situations like that, because I really feel like I’m being a helper to them and, it just makes them feel better about such a major life transition.

35:31

So I hope that um, now that we’ve all told our stories and let you know who we are, I hope that you’ve enjoyed this and got a little bit of a peek into the kind of issues that financial advisors help their clients with, and how we support each other through this wonderful mastermind. And I want to say to all of you, I love you all. And thank you so much for participating in this podcast. And maybe we’ll do it again sometime.

36:00

Thank you, Cathy. Thanks Cathy.

36:06

Bye.

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Episode 5: What Advisors Do For Their Clients

Client Success Stories From My Financial Advisor Mastermind Group

In this episode of Financial Finesse, I’m pleased to welcome the brilliant ladies of my Financial Advisor Mastermind Group:

  • Maura Griffon of Blue Spark Financial
  • Beverly Cox of B. Cox Planning
  • Stephanie Bruno of Sea To Peak Financial Advisors
  • Tanya Nichols of Align Financial

The five of us meet twice per month to share ideas, support each other in developing our businesses, and deepen our knowledge on issues that affect our clients. I’ve learned so much from this group of women, as they are all successful, independent financial advisors and business owners who go above and beyond when it comes to the work they do with their clients. 

Which is why I’m so grateful they agreed to be part of today’s episode and share their client success stories. I hope our conversation gives you a deeper understanding of how exceptional financial advisors help their clients. In addition, I believe it’s a great example of how participating in a peer-to-peer mentoring group like this one raises the bar for all of us–and ultimately elevates the level of service we provide. 

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Episode 2: The Value of a Good Financial Advisor

My Conversation With Melissa Joy, CFP®

In this episode of Financial Finesse, I have the pleasure of chatting with Melissa Joy of Pearl Planning, an independent, women-owned financial planning firm based in Michigan. Melissa and I met through an advisor peer group and have a lot in common when it comes to our careers and how we manage our financial planning businesses. I thought she’d be the perfect guest to discuss the value of a good financial advisor and what to look for when hiring a financial parter.

Melissa and I discuss a range of topics, from the types of clients we work with to their most common pain points and how we look at each client’s entire financial picture to develop and implement a comprehensive financial plan. We also touch on the role of investments in a client’s financial plan and why neither of us makes it the focal point of our discussions despite our shared interest in the topic. Finally, we discuss the progress the financial advice industry has made in terms of service and technology, but why it still has a long way to go when it comes to encouraging more diversity among professionals joining the field. 

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Episode 2 Transcript: The Value of a Good Financial Advisor

00:03

Welcome to the Financial Finesse Podcast, where we’ll be discussing tips on how to handle your money and life with skill and style. Your host Cathy Curtis, CFP® has been helping make finance accessible and intriguing for women for almost 20 years. You’ll get savvy, actionable ideas, listening to her conversations with some of the coolest and smartest women on the planet. And now, here’s your host, Cathy Curtis.

00:37

All right. Hi, everyone. It’s Cathy Curtis. And this is episode number two of my new podcast Financial Finesse. Yeah, I am thrilled to be having a conversation with Melissa Joy, who is a financial advisor like me. We have a lot of similarities except she’s in Michigan and I’m in California, but other than that, we’re both independent businesses, women-owned firms. We do financial planning, retirement planning, investment management, we do holistic planning. And one of the reasons I wanted to have this conversation is I think there’s a lot of people out there that don’t really know what independent advisors do, and how much help we convey to people with their finances. People know about brokers and big banks and things like that. But there’s, there’s this whole other world of small, independent businesses, whose whole goal is to make sure that their clients leave really successful financial lives. And Melissa and I happen to be two of those people. So, we’re gonna share our experiences and why we’re doing what we’re doing and what kind of services we provide and hopefully you will find it very interesting. But before we start, it is cocktail hour. And it just so happens that Melissa and I are taking a little break from drinking this week. So we’re actually not going to be drinking any alcohol, but we thought we would share our favorite. For me it’s wine. So I’m going to start. And if I was drinking right now, I’d be drinking a Lynmar Estate Chardonnay. Lynmar is winery up in Sebastopol, California. It’s my absolute favorite winery in Sonoma County. They also make a wonderful Pinot Noir. And every Chardonnay they make is great. They’re not open right now. But they are going to be open soon and I can’t wait to go back up and sit on their beautiful patio. So, Melissa, welcome to my podcast. And hi Cathy. Hi. It’s so good to see you. And why don’t you share what you would be drinking right now?

02:49

Well, I’m dreaming of wines from California, but I feel like I need to be loyal to the home, the home state, the home field and mention I love IPAs and Bell’s Brewery here in Michigan makes Two Hearted which is just my favorite beer. We had it the keg in our wedding 12 years ago and still have it in the fridge today. So shout out to Michigan IPAs.

03:16

Yay. I love a good IPA. Definitely beer really hits the spot more when it’s super hot. And you told me you’re in 78 degrees right now in your office and I’m about to say

03:27

the office is warm.

03:31

That would be pretty tasty right now. Sounds good to me. Yeah. So also I want to add I am wearing my pearls in honor of Melissa because her firm is Pearl Planning. Am I doing that Pearl Planning right? That’s perfect. Yes.

03:46

Tell us about why you named it Pearl Planning.

03:49

Well, a couple reasons.

03:52

A pearl is something that is a challenge, a piece of sand, a grain that’s an irritation that turns into something beautiful. And don’t we know that our financial lives have those moments to where you need resilience, it’s not always perfect. And, and for me, it’s personal as well. So my grandmother was Vera Pearl and my daughter is named Josephine Pearl. And so there’s that legacy of the past as well as the possibility of the future. And that’s a perfect fit. So our tagline is no grit, no pearl.

04:28

I love that so much. I really do. No grit, no Pearl, it’s perfect. I have a Pearl in my life too. My dad worked for Rand McNally maps and you’re a map person. I love maps. Yeah. He worked for Rand McNally for many years, and his secretary was named Pearl. And she used to travel. We didn’t travel as six kids. We were homebound all the time. But his secretary traveled, and she’d bring back exotic stuff from like Japan and places like that. And so we always loved Pearl. So that’s a special name in my life too. Let’s get on with how we’re working with our clients right now. And, um, what kind of clients we work with and things like that. We’re very similar in a lot of ways. We’ve both been 20 years in the financial services business. We’re independent businesses. I, I work with women mainly. And the triggers that clients come to me for are usually they inherited money, and they don’t know what to do with it. And we all know how emotional money is, and they’re worried that they’re, they’re going to blow it. They want to really make sure they plan for their future, and also women who are nearing retirement and want to plan for retirement. Those are the triggers for me and the kind of clients that I work with. What about you?

06:00

I think you have a terrific focus on working with women. I find that oftentimes women reach out to me, but oftentimes they’re in heterosexual couples. So it’s a man and woman working together. And more recently, I’ve been starting to work with people who are younger. So more in Gen X and Gen Y or millennial. And I find people are reaching out to me because they say, Gosh, I’m maxing out my 401k. And what’s next? Like, I don’t know where this money that I’m accumulating should go. I also find, I have a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst designation and right now I I’m questioning whether that spike in divorces may be occurring because I’ve been talking to quite a few people who are going through a divorce and then word of mouth. You know, clients will mention me to other clients and it’s certainly I’m so appreciative that they feel confident to share my name in a way that they know I will help their friends. So those are some of the reasons that people reach out but there’s often a pain point like you described and how would you describe inheritance as a pain point? Yeah. Well, there’s so much emotion tied to taking, you know, doing the right thing for money. And it’s a, it’s a huge transition.

07:27

Oh, my gosh, I mean, I hear the word. I’m so anxious around this money all the time. But it’s definitely, there’s definitely a lot of mixed emotions around it. And same with heading to retirement. Oh, yeah. People are scared. I mean, you have an income coming in every month and the confusion around how am I going to get paid when I’m retired?

07:52

Right, totally. What does that paycheck look like and I can’t believe that we aren’t able to articulate that more easily. I make sure when I’m doing a retirement discussion to not only talk about the actual like which account what dates all that good stuff. Yes. So like some trends in retirement because I don’t think we’re educated enough on the life of a retiree.

08:17

I don’t either. And also, knowing that spending changes throughout retirement, you know, I’m sure a lot of it has to do with how energetic and healthy you are.

08:30

Yes. Are you younger than status age or older than status age?

08:35

Oh, I like that. I haven’t.

08:38

Because I mean, like I don’t know, we’re both young at heart. We met each other through kind of an advisor peer group where we probably are topping out at the high end of the age group but I feel like I’m just getting started and sometimes people start to kind of separate themselves into the stay at home a little bit more just you know, because of health or whatever.

09:00

But you know what, we have the experience, but we also have the joy and the enthusiasm. So we’ve got the best of all worlds. Right? Well

09:09

share with you a little bit. We’re pretty darn passionate about what we do.

09:13

Yeah, definitely. And so what are some of the ways that you help somebody through these pain points that they come to you with? Whether it be wanting to know when to retire, or they’re going through a divorce? What’s your process?

09:27

So my process is to first listen, so I want to hear what that pain point is. And I want as soon as possible in our discussions for the client to feel comfortable being vulnerable. So I, you can’t just tell somebody, hey, it’s okay to trust me. It has to be based on you know, what they’re hearing from me how I’m listening. I want to make sure that I’m able to listen to them and their needs, and hopefully also I can hear about that anxiety that you’re describing, or they feel comfortable enough articulating that to me, I find that so many people, women, especially, but maybe it’s just because women are able to articulate it. They think they’re not doing well enough. And I just described a lot of the clients that come to me are doing great. Yeah. And they need to hear that from somebody else because they see everybody else seemingly doing well. And you and I both know that behind the scenes, every American household is different and a lot of them are very financially vulnerable, even if they look pretty secure from the outside looking in. So

10:40

yeah, I’m trying to hear what they need.

10:43

Well, okay, so the listening thing is so big, and you share it a number of times, I think listening to a client more than you talk is so, so important, especially in the early stages of the relationship. And I think that’s, that’s why one complaint that I have heard from my female clients that in the past, if they’ve gone to an advisor, they don’t feel like they’re listened to enough, either. It’s a woman in a couple and the advisor doesn’t necessarily pitch themselves to them. Yeah, yeah, I think that’s changing because I think all of us advisors are so aware that women are involved in the financial decisions in the household and they need to be listened to too. But listening is a skill that not everybody has.

11:28

So I think you’ve told me that you kind of that’s your superpower, right? I

11:33

did tell you that is my superpower. And I love it. I’m a good listener. So if I interrupt you, I’m sorry.

11:43

I try really hard not to interrupt people.

11:46

But that’s terrific.

11:47

So okay. So you listen, you get all the information you can about the person situation and then what happens.

11:54

So then we do a data gathering meeting, and I also use technology to gather information from the client. And then we spend a couple hours in a plan presentation. So I will go over both those pain points that the client brought up, and hopefully answer them. And when I address them, I make sure I really work hard to make sure that I don’t tell them, here’s what you’re going to do. I’m making a conversation. It’s a consultation where they make the ultimate decision. I think there’s huge increase in buy-in. I think there’s huge increase in the likelihood of implementation. And it just feels like more that you’re the quarterback of your financial life. I’m a coach that’s helping you to call the play.

12:43

Okay, you know what that reminds me of a therapist relationship where you tell them something, they go, well, what do you think about that? You don’t do

12:52

that. Do you? No I mean, I usually know the direction we’re going to go but I want their input and feedback. So my Action List during that time presentation is blank. And I create the Action List after but to take an example in the retirement space, let’s say they’re approaching retirement, they’re ready. They think they’re ready. Well, I’ll look at how much money can we spend what you know, loose ends need be tied up with how would your money be invested? How do you coordinate your financial life with your life goals, and you may not have even explored what life looks like or feels like after you’re retired, so they may need a connection to someone that’s going to help coach them in how to be a successful retiree. And we’ll talk about the statistics in retirement actually, you end up sometimes spending less money in retirement and in successive years, there’s a deflation in spending, not an inflation. Yeah. So I’ll educate them on that and help them understand both you know, this statistical analysis but also the reality of what we’re seeing in terms of retiree behaviors.

14:02

Right. You know, another thing I tell clients that I think is really helpful when you’re planning is, okay, you do a plan. It seems like a static event, but it’s really not. It’s a live, ongoing thing. And both of us work with clients on an ongoing basis. I believe you do, right? I have a family there with me year after year after year, we revisit their plan every year, or when an event happens, something big changes in their life. So you don’t just do a plan, a one-time thing and go, okay, this is what it is. Good luck. See you. We work with our clients ongoing to make sure that they stay with the plan. Things happen. There’s always an unexpected event that will happen and we help them pivot and make the plan work. So I really think that’s one of the true many values of an advisor is helping a client stay on course, stick with their plan and when something big changes, help them through it to come up with a solution. And I know that’s probably exactly what you’re doing with your clients as well.

15:12

I call that the magic of financial planning because it’s not transactional. Although you can find a financial plan that’s just delivery. Here you go. You’re on your way. And I do think honestly that in many cases, people say they’re financial planners, and they’re using the plan to sell either an investment strategy or a product or to turn it into an assets under management relationship. And that’s not to say that we don’t manage investments, because you and I both do, but to me, the process the repeated once a year, or four in my case, process of revisiting the financial plan, refreshing, updating and upgrading results is a compound return of good financial decisions. And it’s that process that is amazing. It’s so powerful. It’s very difficult to describe, which is why I’m so excited that you thought this would be a good topic for us to

16:11

discuss. Yeah.

16:13

But it is really important. And you know, one of the things I should have mentioned, we’re not just talking about their pain points. We’re also, I know you do this too Cathy, we’re looking at the entirety of their financial life. And there may be a variety of things that are we see as low hanging fruit that they would have never thought of. So we are using the process of financial planning to uncover other planning opportunities that are important, important for them to be discussing.

16:42

Oh, yeah. And think about all the things we need to be educated on as CFPs. Right. It makes my head spin. And I do this for a living. I can’t even imagine how someone who was not educated in this, never had to be educated in it, can learn everything they need to know. I mean, both Melissa and I, today we’re on a webinar about Medicare. And I know people don’t know all the ins and outs of Medicare, and when they need a Medicare website, their eyes cross yet, and you can make mistakes. That’s the thing with a lot of these financial issues, you can make mistakes unless you get the best advice. So we help with a lot of different issues. Let’s talk about the investment piece just a little bit because I do manage investments for my clients, but I look at it as a whole. So it’s a process where you start with the financial plan, you determine what the client needs for return. So how much risk do they need to take in their investments to reach their goals? That’s kind of one of the most important things I try and figure out because unless somebody is really risk tolerant just wants high growth and can handle the volatility, most of my clients I put in an age and timeframe appropriate portfolio so that they can feel good year in year out. And they understand when things get volatile that they’re going to get through it and stay with it and they’re going to reach their goals. And I think that’s also another value add for advisors like us is that we keep our clients in the market through thick and thin even though it is so hard sometimes. I mean, this year is a perfect example of that. I’ve been doing this for 20 years like you I’ve never seen anything like it.

18:48

I agree I’ve been doing it. My first day on the job was June of 98. So I got a chance to see the end of the tech bubble. And then right into a bear market. So this is my third bear market if it ends up where we’re at then the shortest, for sure. But March was, and I you know, of course the story is not yet finished. But March was such a crazy month as an advisor. And just between you me and the audience, like financial advisors are not immune to feeling awful and like you’ve been punched in the stomach just like clients. Yes, I think I would, you know, mention that if you’re listening to this podcast and you’re talking to financial planners, you know, you want to be listening to their investment process to make sure that they are not their process. Is it vulnerable to behavioral biases of the planner themself. So I work really hard to kind of set some real defined process so that I don’t kind of bail on it because I know a lot of advisors that are like, well, this is what we do all the time. Except in a way where we bailed on everything and you know, went to cash for half of the portfolio and then spent the next two years trying to get back in. It’s not just clients that do that.

20:10

So, it’s so important to have a good process in investments because we’re all human,

20:16

totally. And I got my start first being kind of a research analyst on investments only. And then I developed an investment department at a registered investment advisor. So investing was my first love in this business. I loved the research end of the process, and it was fun to develop to build an organizational structure for how to invest. And then I woke up one day and I kind of felt like the world of investing didn’t feel that new anymore or novel and I’m someone who loves, you know, a new challenge, often. Mm hmm. I felt like I climbed that mountain. So I still have that love of investing but I feel like you know, making it something where you don’t need to change just like you said, and, and you’re really hearing from the client. And your goal is to get a portfolio that they can live with in March of 2020, as well as 2019. Two radically different environments.

21:19

Yes, it’s almost like

21:22

the investment piece should be the least complicated piece of this process, wealth management process we’re talking about. Totally, right. Yes, financial lives are so complicated because things can be unpredictable, and change happens. But an investment process can be set. There’s science around it, and you don’t fiddle with it too much and you’re going to be okay. And totally, it sounds simple. It is but it just takes discipline. It takes discipline in a process and the good financial advisors approach investments in that way. They really do. And I it sounds like we’re both on the same page. I, by the way, we have that in common too. When I was in my teens, I used to track stocks by hand. I loved stocks so much. I thought this is so fascinating. Um, I read Forbes and Fortune, just to figure out why some companies were more successful than others. I just loved it. Now, right now, I don’t do stock picking. I’m not that kind of an advisor, but I still love it. So it sounds like you’ve got that real love of the whole thing.

22:40

Yeah, and I, it’s interesting. I think we have a little bit of an advantage there. Because so many financial planners nowadays, especially if they are in a larger firm, may never have made the investment decisions themselves because as firms grow, they have investment departments. They have strategies. And I don’t think that gives us a superpower, like a different return set. But what it does is we can talk. I can get very technical talking about investments. But I don’t need to do that every day. Because for the most part, you know, our financial planning. conversations are, you know, really, they’re about financial planning. They’re about everything else in life. And certainly we’re addressing investments, but it’s not a 90 minute two hour conversation on investing only, right? But when we need to get deep on that investing, when you need a tax aware strategy, because you’re high net worth and you have taxable assets, when it’s time to rebalance, or when you need someone that you can have confidence in to help you say don’t sell your entire account in March of 2020. Then it helps to have someone that’s kind of, you know, made big investment decisions in the past.

24:00

You know, you brought up another really good topic, and that is tax planning. Neither of us are CPAs or accountants, and we do not do taxes. However, as part of the CFP curriculum, we need to know about tax and tax is so important. It’s almost like it’s the well, I think having enough insurance is kind of the basis of a good financial plan to protect yourself from risk. But I also think taxes are key and people care so much about taxes, they don’t want to pay more taxes, and they have to, and so good advisors know about tax. And the truth is most people who prepare taxes, don’t do the pre planning that you need to do before the end of the year to put into place tax saving strategies. They do the taxes but then it’s too late. You really need to do tax planning in probably October or November. And so I always have a special tax planning meeting where I look and see what techniques could they use whether it’s more charitable giving, Donor Advised funds, Roth conversions, tax loss harvesting, I know some of these terms are getting a little technical, but that’s another value that independent advisor can add is to, it’s almost like it’s an adjunct to your taxes, your tax professional, they can help you with that as well.

25:32

I so agree, so there’s so many things you just said where I’m just like, absolutely. So first, because most people just think that their tax preparer you know, it’s prepare the taxes, get it done one time a year, it’s after the year’s over so the calendar year deadline matters and so many of your tax decisions, then it’s a process for tax planning is not a part of the conversation and it costs more to do tax planning, frankly. In many cases, but and I’m seeing all the time that there are, especially if you were really more investment focused as a financial professional versus a holistic financial planner or comprehensive financial planner, then there are things that are occurring in taxable accounts where I just I see money just leaving the accounts or leaving, you know, the network statement. So, you know, some ideas that I always try to mention are, what is your strategy for cost basis reporting? Like, how have you selected that average cost? Is it minimum tax? Is it first in first out, so that’s a choice. Mm hmm. And oftentimes, I find that it’s not the most tax aware choice. Also, if you are managing, you know, if you have 10 accounts are they each managed with their own strategy or if you look at them all together, I call that household. Then you could be more tax aware by owning the assets that have a higher tax cost, maybe in tax deferred or tax-exempt account, making decisions for where you access your money before you’re required to take money out of your retirement plans. Again, that’s just location. Right? Yeah. So important. There’s so many things that I know that you and I would just do, as part of our process that if you’re just getting investment advice versus financial planning, even if you think you have a financial planner, in some cases, then that may be missing.

27:40

Yes, exactly. You know, a few things both of us have brought up is technology. Okay. I think for people to understand how advisors like us use technology is so important. Because someone might think, oh, well, you’re a small firm. Do you have the resources that a bigger firm has to help us. And the world of financial technology is so incredible, that literally we can do anything that a bigger firm can do. And it gets better and better and better. Tax planning software, financial planning software, investment management software, really the sky’s the limit on it. I know my budget for technology is quite large. And I want to keep it that way. Because when I find a tool that is useful to me and makes it easier to analyze a situation, I jumped on it. And I know you you’re a little bit of a geek, so you probably are exactly the same way. Right?

28:44

Yes, I am. I you know, what I find in your very large enterprises is there’s a big-money contract that gives software solutions across the board and as an independent firm owner, I’m allowed to look around and pick, oftentimes more modern technology. So like my financial planning software isn’t just like put your numbers in and the plan pops out, because so much of the plan is our conversation. I have an educational component that is more of a presentation. And then I have the analysis side which I use the software for. But it’s a newer software that didn’t exist five years ago. And it’s fantastic. And I like to, to evaluate, you know, what is the best user experience for my clients with the software that I use for myself, as well as what are the analytical capabilities. It’s really amazing what the FinTech world, that’s what we call it, is doing and it’s funny, I moved into my new offices when I opened my company in 2018. And across the hall from me, was a woman who had a FinTech startup. In our little town in Michigan. She creates financial literacy apps for banks. And there’s just fascinating things going on.

30:08

I’m so grateful that I can be an advisor right now because there’s so many wonderful tools for us to use. And I’m, I’m similar to you I find the technology is what I use to really understand my client’s situation on an analytical level, so that then I can talk to them about all the strategies that will benefit them. So the technology is really for me, um, a way of interfacing with the client. It’s as much as they want. I find most of my clients want conversation. Yes, they want to look at the numbers and I have the numbers all ready. Another trend that I really noticed, I don’t know about you, is I use hardly any paper anymore. I mean, paperless office for what’s been a long time. When I started, I read, um, Joel Bruckenstein’s book about the paperless office. I don’t know. Do you remember that?

31:08

I don’t remember the book, but I know him.

31:10

Yeah, it was a game changer. For me. It was such a game changer. I’m so grateful to him. Anyway, so I’m paperless. And I find more and more, my clients don’t want paper. So I usually do an interactive meeting with a big computer screen, showing them the data I need them to see. And I’ll say, now I can print out this view, none of them want to print it out. And that’s so gratifying to me because it means that the conversation was so useful to them. They take notes, we’ve got you know, follow up things to do and all that and I follow up with a to do list, but they don’t need a big stack of paper so that they feel comfortable with our relationship and what we’re talking about. My time.

31:58

Yeah, tying things together. First of all, I was just thinking about finding what we were the modernization of financial planning software. And just all of the resources we have technology wise, that used to be so much work, like when I first started in the business, and I was fortunate to be kind of trained by some pioneers in financial planning that had started in the early 80s. And they would be crunching numbers and entering the investments into let’s say, Morningstar. Yeah, and it would be hours upon hours. And then, in addition, the, you know, kind of the value of the financial plan, I feel like was by the weight of the number of pages that you printed out. And it was like a book. Yeah, and it was a lot of like, I don’t know, it was just dry language, where I use a lot of visuals and technology is a communication tool as well as an analytical tool and I agree with you. Yeah, I, in my office, we have a rinky dink printer that we almost never use. Same goes for mail, you know, everything is, other than my 94-year-old client, everybody else is fully good with email. Right. And, and, you know, I feel like even though the plans weigh less, the value has just skyrocketed of a financial planner. You can get that old school, you know, Excel technology printout from, you know, any little website. But there’s wisdom that you’re getting with financial planning with our analytical capabilities and our complex strategies that we can we can discuss with clients nowadays.

33:45

Yes, I so agree with you. So I’m going to circle back just to the beginning, and we’re both going to talk about why we became financial advisors. So why don’t you start with what motivated you to do this work?

34:01

Well, I say that completely, I’m a financial planner because of serendipity. So, you know, when I was growing up, I wanted to be an attorney. And I majored in political science. And frankly, like, I looked at the state of the world, and I was like, just not inspired in learning more about politics or political systems is, frankly, a little bit depressing. And I just stumbled into an office job and a financial planner’s office, my answer to a want ad, so they still had those. There were newspapers back then, that you bought that were physical papers and I circled want ads. Yeah, I, my dad was a mortgage banker and executive. And so I had experience in offices. I knew I was good with numbers. I liked research. I thought it could, you know, pay the bills for a while before and then I’ll figure out what I want to do when I grow up. And so I kind of had a job for a while, not a career, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t go to that office to say, hey, you just found your next financial planner. And thinking of filing, I was like, I’m the person who can file things I, I’ll do everything you don’t want to do because it was a two-person office. So I got to learn a lot of stuff. And I was happy to learn it. And eventually, I went to a larger firm that had an investment research department, or well they basically had one of their partners was doing investment research, and they wanted him to be focusing his time with clients. And so they needed to reassign that research job. And they thought I had some capabilities and was coachable or teachable. And so I got that investment research job in addition to my administrative assistant job, so I’m kind of a mailroom to C suite kind of story in a small firm.

35:53

This is how many people got jobs and worked their way up in the past, isn’t it?

35:59

Totally I mean, we need a, you know, we don’t have an ER kind of show to tell you how cool our jobs are. So we really need, you know, one of these new Netflix shows to be all about being a financial planner in a

36:16

way that can we go on it, we got to be on it.

36:21

Really? Yeah, it’ll be the next like, you know, Trading Places or you know, Home Improvement show. It’s a money makeover, right? So I didn’t even know my first day on the job. I didn’t know anything about investing. But it’s a really wonderful, extraordinary career. And the more responsibility I got, the more I loved things. And so I you know, got licenses and training and I always worked in a comprehensive financial planning firm. So there was definitely when there were possibilities that I could become a partner. Then I knew even though I was still doing the investment side of things, only that I needed that CFP in order to reflect the values of the company. And I’ll tell you the, the education component to me was less real world than I hope it will be in the future. And I think they’ve changed some things with case studies and things like that, but it was pretty clinical. But I feel like when you get through the Certified Financial Planner process, which I did mid-career,

37:32

that

37:33

something it just changed my perspective. And I knew quite a bit before but it just gave me such a more robust knowledge of how to approach talking about money with people.

37:46

Yeah, you know, I’m just wanting for our listeners, I want to explain a couple of terms. So we keep talking about comprehensive financial planning, and then yes, CFP. So when you’re a certified financial planner, CFP, you get to know, a lot of different things you need to know about investments and employee benefits and insurance and estate planning. That’s what comprehensive mean. So it means you’re looking at the whole person in all aspects of their financial life. And both Melissa and I are trained in that. And that’s what we love to do. And that’s what we mean about it being comprehensive. Like, it’s the whole thing.

38:25

Your whole world. Right and I think another difference perhaps, but I think we may share this. For me, the goal is not for you to have the most money at the end of your life. The goal is for you to have the most fulfilling life, the life that you wanted to lead, and to have your money be a resource for that. So it’s different than the goal. Certainly we want your account to grow. But we also want to expand your boundaries and if you have a dream, we want to help you make it happen if we can,

38:59

Right. Definitely. And that’s where the listening comes in, what do they really want? So we just have a few more minutes. I’m just going to quickly say how I got.

39:09

Yeah, I want to hear your story tell me.

39:11

Um, I was in another career for a good long time. And I was selling product. And I didn’t feel like I was really helping anyone. I was making money for a corporation. I wasn’t doing anything that was people to people. And I really wanted that and then combined with my love of stocks, investing personal finance. I decided to do this career and I found out that you can do it independently. So I started right off the bat on my own, which, when I look back, it was crazy. But my whole goal was to not have another bad boss, which I had many of in the corporate world. And I wanted to be independent and it was a struggle. It took several years to get it going. I’m so glad I stuck with it. And I just love what I do. I love this career so much. And I know we both totally share that love of helping people and feeling challenged every day and feeling good about what we do. I love it.

40:21

It’s an amazing career. It’s a helping profession. And you need to be in the right situation for that.

40:27

Yes. And we both share this too. We both want more women in this profession. What’s the gap right now on how many financial advisors are women. I’m talking about in the independent? Is it like 15%?

40:40

That’s the number I always hear, and I will always devote time to encouraging more women to join our profession. I think our voice makes the whole profession more prepared to work with the women investors. And of course, in many cases, women do reach out to other women and we need more of them. And if we can get, but we also are educating our peers, our male peers, about how to think on behalf of both of their clients that they’re working with a couple who’s a man or a woman?

41:15

Yes, absolutely.

41:17

And we, you know, same goes in this month with the need for more racial diversity in our profession, which is even more staggeringly low than the female numbers.

41:30

Oh, it’s so low, like 3% or something like that. Yeah, I am so encouraged by the activities of the last month in that area. And I know I’m going to do all I can to highlight other advisors, black advisors and other types, you know, and, and I know you are too. We’re both committed to doing that. And, yeah,

41:57

I’ve worked on some

42:02

volunteer councils for women advisors. And, you know, as you make a commitment to being active and changing the ratio, as we’re both discussing, then, you know, you can’t just pick, you know, one group of people and it is all about the we need to see a profession that we would be proud to encourage people to join. And there are some challenges when you’re such a minority, whether you’re female or people of color and black people, and we also need, it’s going to make our profession better it’s going to make working in our profession better for us and, and everyone, and it’s also going to have, I think, a huge impact on the wealth gap that exists in our country. Both for women as well as for black and people of color. Yes. And people of color. I just think from the ground up that financial advice access is one of the critical components.

43:07

Yes, I so agree. Thank you for bringing that up such an important issue. So it’s time to close but I wanted us both to share ways we could be contacted and I know you have a podcast as well. So why don’t you share your website info, how you can be contacted, all those things.

43:27

Perfect, then my website is pearlplan.com so pearl we already discussed and then just plan.com and I have a blog on the website that I frequently update so you can hear you know, new information about my webinar replays on the blog as well. And then our new podcasts which the company started, me and Melissa Fradenburg, my colleague, is called 52 Pearls: Weekly Money Wisdom. And we also do on social media, you could follow our page on Facebook Pearl Planning, as well as I’m on LinkedIn. And we do a weekly financial tip of just a bite sized piece of information that people could implement into their lives. So the podcast was a takeoff on that series, which we started in 2018.

44:25

Fantastic, I love it that you have a podcast we have to share podcast tips.

44:29

Well, I have a feeling you’ll be a guest on the podcast sometime soon.

44:35

If you would be willing,

44:37

Great, I’d love to. So I also write, I have a blog Of Independent Means. Curtisfinancialplanning.com. This is my new podcast, which I don’t think it’s on Apple iTunes yet because it’s new. But anyway, I don’t even know where it can be found to tell you the truth. But I hope you enjoy this discussion. I totally enjoyed it. Melissa, thank you so much for joining me. And I know we’re gonna collaborate on a lot of things in the future.

45:09

Time flies whenever we chat so

45:11

we got to keep it up. Definitely. Okay, well, you have a good night. I know it’s later for you than me. I’m gonna go enjoy some dinner. Good. Oh, and I’ll share the recording with you.

45:25

Awesome. Thank you so much, Cathy.

45:26

Bye. Bye.

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CARES Act Review Part II: Retirement Account Provisions

Photo Credit: Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash

There are several retirement account provisions in the CARES ACT meant to reduce your tax liability or help with current cash flow or both. Here are the details:

1. RMD-REQUIRED MINIMUM DISTRIBUTIONS

You don’t have to take your RMD (Required Minimum Distribution) for 2020, whether it be from an IRA (regular, Simple, SEP), inherited IRA, 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans or 457(b) plans.

PLANNING TIP: If you already withdrew your RMD for 2020, and the withdrawal has been within 60 days, you can redeposit it to your account and avoid tax. If a distribution was taken more than 60 days ago and you can qualify for the coronavirus-related distribution (described below) you can redeposit it and avoid tax. Note: Non-spouse inherited IRA beneficiaries cannot redeposit the withdrawal. 

2CORONAVIRUS DISTRIBUTIONS FROM RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS  – new more tax-friendly rules 

For 2020, the 10% penalty will be waived for taking an early distribution from your IRA or employer plan. Previously, distributions before the age of 59 1/2 incurred a 10% penalty in addition to tax owed (with a few hardship withdrawal exceptions).

  • The distribution can be up to $100,000
  • It must be taken in 2020
  • The income is spread over 3 years for tax purposes unless you proactively elect to include it all in 2020
  • Beginning on the day after receipt of a Coronavirus-related distribution, an individual has up to three years to repay the amount as qualified rollover distribution (in one or multiple payments). Any distribution going back to January 1, 2020 qualifies

PLANNING TIP:  If you elect to take a distribution, it may be beneficial to include the entire distribution in 2020 if you expect your income to significantly decline in 2020 and be higher in future years).​​​​​​

PLANNING TIP: In a perfect world, withdrawing from retirement accounts early should be a last resort. These accounts get tax-deferral benefits to incentivize us to save for our future non-earning years. The compounding that happens when the money is left to grow tax-deferred is invaluable in building a nest egg. However, keeping that caution in mind, these are challenging times and the loosening up of these rules may be very helpful to many people. The good news is that there is a way to pay it back and avoid tax and penalties.

 Eligibility (very broad):

  •  People diagnosed with COVID-19, or have a spouse or dependents diagnosed with the virus.
  •  People who are experiencing adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, furloughed, laid off, reduced hours, unable to work because of childcare issues, and a handful of other similar reasons.
  •  Business owners that had to close or operate under reduced hours
  •  Meet some other reason that the IRS decides to say is OK

3. ​​​​​​​COMPANY RETIREMENT PLAN LOANS – a provision to further expand company retirement plan loans (like from a 401(k):

  • The maximum amount of an allowable plan loan doubled from $50,000 to $100,000
  • The loan may be for up to the present value of the participant’s account
  • Payment on plan loan otherwise owed may be delayed for one year

In addition, the usual 20% mandatory tax withholding for non-direct rollovers from company plans is waived for 2020.  However, you will still need to pay tax (at tax time) on any amounts that you don’t roll back into a retirement plan within 60 days.

Next up: A review of enhanced Unemployment Benefits in the CARES Act

If you missed Part I: Stimulus Payments go here.

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Curtis Financial Planning