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2020-spring-tiger

Debt that can eat you alive!

Have you ever thought about what your life would be like if you could eliminate all your debt? Increase your cash flow and make sure your retirement was secure? There are plenty of advisors to advise you on how to save and invest. Not many of them are talking about how to reduce or eliminate […]

Have you ever thought about what your life would be like if you could eliminate all your debt? Increase your cash flow and make sure your retirement was secure?

There are plenty of advisors to advise you on how to save and invest. Not many of them are talking about how to reduce or eliminate your debts. Nor are they addressing how to protect your family and secure your financial future all in the same conversation. If I could show you how to eliminate your debt, including your house in 9-years or less, would you be interested?

One thing is for sure – the interest rate you pay to the banks or credit card companies can keep you stuck in that revolving debt structure, unable to keep your head above water. In the way of electronic statements and paying your bills online, I think we miss seeing our true debt number. When you get a moment, pull up one of your credit card statements and find the interest rate you are paying. Second, look for the number of years it would take to pay off your debt with just minimum monthly payments. It can be quite surprising. I know credit is necessary at times when there’s an emergency, and you need to use it to buy a new refrigerator, or the furnace just went. But is it necessary when you see a sale and then just whip out your card to buy something? If you can pay it off before interest accrues, then yes, it was a great deal. As soon as interest hits the balance of that half-price sweater, jeans, or other items, then it doesn’t turn out to be such a good deal anymore. You’re not alone. Did you know that 8 in 10 Americans have debt? Student debt is the biggest bucket of debt plaguing younger Americans.

So, what’s the answer? Don’t live, don’t educate yourself, don’t start a family? Unrealistic as all of these are, we are all set up in the game of life. Money needs to be spent on these life items and many other things. Life is expensive. The choices we make can chain us to debt for a good part of our life, putting off saving for the future. The key is to use your money at least twice. Banks turn over our $1 deposit 7-times to make a profit. So how do we do it? The focus must be on eliminating and reducing our debt in the most strategic way. Paying 20%+ interest on credit cards must be a thing of the past. By utilizing products that allow us to borrow our own money while still getting the benefit of dividends. Deciding to create our own bank that we can tap into and pay ourselves the interest by securing that loan. We can take loans out on our own money and then get the reward of dividends paid back to ourselves. It’s no secret. Banks and other large companies have been utilizing this system for years. It is available to us but understand that not all companies or products are the same.

The goal is to shift inefficient dollars into being more efficient, tax-favored, and working harder for you. Look for ways to save money in your budget, plan for the expected and unexpected, minimize debt to create additional wealth. Remember when you were younger, and you got your first real job making real money. You thought, wow, this is great! I have enough money to pay for my housing, car, insurance, food, and some leftover. But then you get to a point when it wasn’t enough, so you find a different job making more money. Back to feeling like life was great. How many salary raises and job changes have gotten you to today? When will it be enough to sustain your lifestyle? Looking back to simpler times, how could I afford life then with so much less, and now I am struggling? Think about what’s changed. Try to think back to that place when life was less expensive. Maybe not all the way back to that studio or shared apartment but somewhere in the middle. You could conquer the world. Now maybe you’re just trying to make it through the week. If this feels like you, there is hope. There is something we can do today to reverse where you are. Take a good look at your budget and see if there are things that you can cut today to shift into a savings program. Get a good handle on where your money is going and utilize a system or philosophy for yourself that makes you think before you swipe. Talk to an advisor that is certified in the Debt Free Life program.

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Long term care – What is it? Who needs it? Should you have it?

Long term care is a range of support and services affecting your personal care needs. When you can’t do activities of daily living that includes bathing, dressing, toileting, incontinence care, transferring from a bed or chair, eating or you have severe cognitive impairment that requires substantial care then you need long-term care. Many of these […]

Long term care is a range of support and services affecting your personal care needs. When you can’t do activities of daily living that includes bathing, dressing, toileting, incontinence care, transferring from a bed or chair, eating or you have severe cognitive impairment that requires substantial care then you need long-term care. Many of these things we can take for granted, but as we age, or health becomes a challenge, it becomes more challenging to do these seemingly simple tasks. Long term care insurance is one way to help cover some of the costs that you would have to pay out of pocket for or have a family member assist you in your day to day routine.   

Medicare doesn’t cover long term care – the fact is it only covers a short term stay in a nursing facility but under strict guidelines that you are in a hospital for 3-days and then transfer directly to a facility because you are unable to return home but have expectations to return home and live independently.  It is important to get insurance while you are young and healthy as you must qualify in good health to get coverage. Many people say that it is an expensive insurance, but if you think about the costs associated with long term care, the insurance can be a bargain. Personal care with a home health aide can cost upwards of $22/hour, assisted living costs start at $3,500/month, and skilled care can be double assisted living costs. Paying for long term care insurance in advance of needing care instead of expending your life’s savings for care can be a huge value.

There are various levels of care, and they are adjusted as care needs change. Personal care can be given at home or in a facility which includes some basic daily needs. The next level is assisted living and then finally, skilled nursing care. The only covered services via Health and Human Services through Medicaid is skilled nursing care. You may have reduced quality of life if you don’t need that high level of care but don’t have insurance or assets to pay for the first steps of needing basic assistance.

Long term care insurance is a big part of your financial well being offering you peace of mind to know that if the unexpected happens, you won’t need to depend on your family or go through all of your assets to get the care you need. Once you reach the age of 65, you have a 70% chance of needing some form of long-term care during your lifetime. (Medicare and You, 2015) The unexpected need for care can arise at any age.  Over 50% of people on a claim are between the ages of 40-64. (Unum Ins Co)

If you are a business owner depending on how your business is structured, you can get a tax deduction based on your age and other factors when you buy long term care insurance through your business. This offering can be extended to your employees at no cost to you and can be part of your health insurance benefit package. They too can qualify for a tax deduction on their individual taxes. If you have a health savings account (HAS) premiums can be paid pre-tax.

Traditional long-term care insurance is still available but new products have given rise to alternative ways to protect assets, provide care and offer a different option versus a use it or lose it benefit. Hybrid whole life insurance policies have a rider add on that will allow you to pull forward the death benefit to use towards long term care while still leaving some death benefit coverage. There are one-time lump sum policies that allow you to carve out a piece of your savings and secure it for long term care needs instead of having a monthly payment moving into retirement years. If it turns out, you don’t need long-term care in each of these scenarios at some point your family will get the benefit of the insurance upon your death. Protecting yourself and your loved ones, taking the burden off your family to care for you is one of the best gifts you can give to you and them.

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Medicare as your employer plan?

Are your employer health insurance costs getting out of control?  Medicare may be an answer you’re not thinking about. Medicare is a federal health insurance program that is offered to American citizens turning 65 and other eligible individuals.  The two parts of original Medicare are parts A & B.  You can choose to add on […]

Are your employer health insurance costs getting out of control?  Medicare may be an answer you’re not thinking about.

Medicare is a federal health insurance program that is offered to American citizens turning 65 and other eligible individuals.  The two parts of original Medicare are parts A & B.  You can choose to add on a Supplement (options A – N; sometimes called Medigap) with a drug plan (Part D) or a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan to cover additional costs not covered by original Medicare.

Medicare does work with employer coverages, and you should enroll in Part A when you turn 65 as it’s free for most people.  Part A helps cover the hospital portion of the benefit, and Part B is the medical portion.  Part B does have a cost and is determined by your income.  The option to waive Part B is available if you have employer coverage on your own or through a spouse.  If you don’t have other health coverage deciding to waive Part B will cause a penalty if you don’t sign up when you’re first eligible.  Part A is primary if you work for an employer with less than 20 employees participating in the health plan and you must enroll when you turn 65 to avoid a penalty and delays in acquiring Part A.  If your employer has more than 20 employees on their health plan than you could also decide to waive Part A.

Some employers may make you take full Medicare benefits when you turn 65.  Why do they do this?  The Affordable Care Act that was established in 2010 and took effect in 2014 with many changes happening before that.  It created a different group and individual health plan coverages costing the employer and employee more money to cover older employees.  Moving employees age 65 and older to Medicare helps to control the out of pocket costs the employers and employees pay including deductible costs and costs when visiting the doctors, hospitals, surgeries, treatment, etc.  Many times, the Medicare benefits offer better coverage with low or no deductibles and low or no out of pocket costs making this a great alternative to traditional employer plans.

A review of current employer plans versus Medicare Benefits is established before deciding to move off of your work benefits.  We look at health, how often you go to the doctors, and what medications do you take regularly.  Second, we take a look at your budget and determine what the costs would be for each choice.  Finally, we look at your health network preferences like doctors, hospitals and pharmacies.  How important is it to have coverage when you travel?  Medicare supplements and advantage plans do have domestic travel coverage options that vary based on plan choice.  Medicare plans can also offer ancillary benefits and can include things like dental, vision and even gym memberships to an approved facility.

Employers can typically save money on employee benefits by moving their 65 and older employees off the group coverages.  The costs associated with older employees tend to be more per month than for younger employees.  The savings can be hundreds to thousands of dollars per month if the employee workforce is older.  Employers can reimburse employees for their Part B, Part D, and Medicare Supplement policies but IRS rules apply.  The Medicare benefit plan arrangements must be integrated with other group benefit plans.

*Medicare reimbursement arrangements will be considered to be “integrated” with another group health plan if:

  • The employer offers a group health plan other than the employer payment plan that does not consist solely of excepted benefits and offers minimum value coverage;
  • The employee participating in the employer payment plan is actually enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B;
  • The employer payment plan is available only to employees who are enrolled in Medicare Part A and B, or Part D; and

The employer payment plan is limited to reimbursement of Medicare Part B or D premiums and excepted benefits, including Medigap premiums.*

When age 65 is looming, it’s best to meet with a Medicare Planning Specialist who can take the anxiety off employers as well as employees and help decide and determine the best course of action for their health insurance coverages.  Good health coverage and saving money can be accomplished.

*Excerpt taken from IRS Notice 2015-17—Employer Payment Plans and the ACA’s Market Reforms 03.30.15*

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Are you scared to retire?

Miriam Zettlemoyer, Consultant Alliance Planning  Transitioning from working years into retirement years can be difficult.  It can create great anxiety and people sometimes rather not deal with what retirement would look like financially and just continue to work.  It can seem like the easier option.  The thought of what might be on the other side […]

Miriam Zettlemoyer, Consultant
Alliance Planning

 Transitioning from working years into retirement years can be difficult.  It can create great anxiety and people sometimes rather not deal with what retirement would look like financially and just continue to work.  It can seem like the easier option.  The thought of what might be on the other side is too daunting a task but at some point, in their life age, health and life forces you to take a look.  I always tell my clients that it might not be as bad as you think.  We start with the budget and we look at current working year’s budget to moving into retirement budget – needs versus wants come into play. Next, we look at income current versus retirement income.

Predictable income can include social security income, pensions if available and other assets like retirement accounts, annuities that can produce income if there is a shortfall between budget and income.  After doing the math on both those items we can determine if there is money for variable cost items like travel, gifting, hobbies or other.  Healthcare can be a big cost if your current employer was paying for your coverage 100% but you may find that moving into a Medicare supplement plan option could reduce your annual out of pocket costs for deductibles, co-insurance, co-pays and other even if the premiums were 100% covered by your employer.  Working with an advisor can help you also get your “stuff” in order and make you think of things that you would normally not be on your mind.  Are your wills and powers of attorneys current and say what you want them to say?  Are your beneficiaries up to date on all your accounts and policies?  Should I keep paying on my life insurance and do I still need it?  Will my car last 20 years in retirement or is that an expense I should budget for?  Lots of questions that can be difficult to think about, but relief follows once answered.  Putting a plan in place to make sure you don’t outlive your retirement can include downsizing, determining a way to reduce necessary expenses, working an extra year to increase your social security income, rolling over some assets into an income producing product, moving in with family and keeping variable expenses to a minimum.

We haven’t addressed or talked about additional health needs and long-term care that can drain the assets quickly.  This is a concern as we age, and health deteriorates that our expenses could increase and use up our assets for care needs. Assisted living costs on average are $3,500+ per month and skilled nursing costs are averaging over $7,500 per month. One of the planning options available to help cover the cost is Long-Term Care insurance. You must however purchase this when healthy and be sure that costs for the insurance even if they increase are manageable into retirement. The markets have allowed for some hybrid life insurance and long-term care options as well as a one-time deposit into a life policy to be used in long-term care situations. These newer products avoid the use it or lose it mentality of the traditional long-term care products that you pay for and if you don’t use then you forfeit all the paid premiums but still include some underwriting/health requirements in order to qualify. Contrary to widespread belief Medicare will not cover long-term care situations. Medicare covers a very limited amount of care in a nursing home and with strict rules of being in a hospital for at least three days and then transitioning directly to a skilled facility for care.

A good advisor will be able to show you different options, plan your budget and income and give you peace of mind when moving into retirement to cover all your basis.  The baby boomer generation include people born from 1946 to 1964 and they started turning 65 in 2011.  Since then there were 10,000 boomers turning 65 per day that will continue for another 12+ years until year 2030.  Are you one of them?  Are you ready?  Meet with your advisor today to review and make sure you have all your ducks in a row. If they aren’t asking you some of these questions it might be time to look for another advisor.  The sooner you start the planning process the better chance you will have for financial success.

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The Ultimate Opportunity

Many of us based on the business we are in are always looking for the opportunity to make the next deal or acquire the next big sale that will push us to the next level. I love meeting new people via networking events, and I am truly curious about who they are, what they do […]

Many of us based on the business we are in are always looking for the opportunity to make the next deal or acquire the next big sale that will push us to the next level. I love meeting new people via networking events, and I am truly curious about who they are, what they do and how they do it. It gives me a sense of who the person is, how they work, and it helps me to determine who I might be doing business with or referring my clients to. First impressions happen within 30 seconds of meeting someone but as we talk more we form a secondary perception of them. It turns into not a superficial look at who they are but a more intelligent look at who they Really are, and from there we can start to form a true opinion. I think of myself as a giving person, and I hope as you talk to me you get that impression. One thing that was lacking in my world of searching for the opportunity was the opportunity to give back. I took the time to determine where I was in my life and no matter where I looked I felt in a word; blessed. It was time to turn that blessing into a service to others.
The statistics of people all around the world and in our community lacking basic needs was daunting. Where could I start or how could I help to provide for all the needs of the less fortunate? Every charity you find seemingly only has one role or mission in providing a need. I came across a charity that donates to multiple organizations and causes. Meals were being provided for children, clean drinking water, breast cancer trials, support for veterans, literacy, behavioral therapy for children with autism, life-changing medications, and many more. How can one company provide all this and also manage to contribute locally? This was the ultimate opportunity. It offers a way to help the masses and create hope for those with little or no hope. Each charity that they contribute to has a 15-point vetting process. One caveat is that 85% of the donations must go to the cause allowing only 15% left for overhead costs. I signed up immediately to help their causes. They have donated over $3.0 million to charity in their 11 years in business. The impact that has been made is unbelievable. Almost 1.8 million meals provided, over 16,000 clinical trials for breast cancer, 6,500 veterans supported, 157,000 life-changing medications provided, close to 50,000 animals helped to find forever homes, and 50,000 people educated on heart health. The list goes on with several other amazing causes and additional donations to local charities.
This company is One Hope Wines. A charity-based wine company where each bottle goes to a specific charity. I know what you’re thinking, charity and wine – usually one aspect is lacking, but in this case, they have it figured out. Both the charities they donate to, and the wines they create are top notch. This is a fantastic way to meet with friends and drink delicious wine while giving back. The ultimate opportunity. We look for people to host a wine tasting party or an open house at your home or office. We educate you and your guests on the diverse types of wines, tasting each and share the charitable impact the wine offers. You enjoy a leisurely afternoon or evening with some great friends, family, and clients while giving back. Any orders from the party offer up a 10% donation to a local charity you select. Corporate gifting with branding options available as well as fundraising for your specific cause. This is the ultimate opportunity. Contact us at grapesandhope@gmail.com or visit our website at www.viaonehope.com/grapesandhope

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Networking, Finding Prospects, Creating Friends, and Building Relationships

I find myself networking or going to business events a couple of times a week.  Some professionals do it often and others not at all.  What is the right answer?  I guess it depends on what you are trying to accomplish with the task of attending.  Time has become such a commodity these days, and […]

I find myself networking or going to business events a couple of times a week.  Some professionals do it often and others not at all.  What is the right answer?  I guess it depends on what you are trying to accomplish with the task of attending.  Time has become such a commodity these days, and we never seem to have enough of it.  We are carting our kids off to sports and extra activities, working all day and keeping up with friends it’s a miracle anyone has time to check the social media sites or keep up with anything.  I’m always honored if I’m hosting an event for an organization or at home for a family function that people attend.  They could do a thousand other things and spend their time elsewhere, but they didn’t.  That is an honor.

One of the reasons I network is because I like going out to events be it daytime or evening and meet people.  You meet all sorts of people.  I’m curious about them, their story and find people to be quite interesting really.  It works as a way for me to prospect, casually meet them, determine if I’m a good fit to see if there’s a need I can fill with my services.  Of course, it works the other way too – my sisters will often ask if I know of a good HVAC person, accountant, or caterer or any service.  I like having a list of people that I have become friends with, built relationships with and whom I trust to refer to them.  Building this type of referral network can be added value to your clients and if you need services yourself.

There is a wrong way to do networking.  I’ve seen it – Hi, my name is Bob, I do this and this, here’s my card and they are off to speed date to the next person.  Never once asking me what I do, who I am or if there’s any interest in creating a relationship.  Not sure I will remember who Bob is or what he does just that he was rude in his introduction.  I believe having an interest in what people do and who they are will have a lasting impact on future connections with them.  The ability to create the “what can I do for you” attitude has been one that I’ve adapted and has worked quite well in building trust and friendship with business contacts as well as clients.  After networking, you will remember certain things about the people you have met.  You are likely to have a stack of business cards you’ve collected from the event.  A good way to continue the connection is to write an email, call or a short note to say you were happy to meet them and hope to connect with them soon.  It keeps you at the top of their mind for future referrals.

I have built a good business by networking so I will keep at it but I’ve also spent time in groups that didn’t amount to any business.  Remember your time is valuable.  It’s good to keep track of which events seem to be a good fit for your business.  You don’t want to end up wasting time at an event that has fifty other people in the room that do exactly what you do and are after the same business.  A good rule is to try an event or group a few times and see if anything comes from the relationships you’ve built.  I keep track of where my business comes from to see if my time is being spent where it should be.  If you are just starting to build your business, this is a great way to add to your book for newsletters or events.  It’s always good to ask people if they could be added to your mailing list or in the least have an ‘unsubscribe’ button.  Don’t just assume people are interested.

Years of networking has been fruitful both in finding prospects for my services and creating longtime friendships.  If you’re thinking of jumping in, don’t think, just start.  Attend a Chamber event or connect with a colleague to tag along and just do it.  Take a shot,  meet people, be interested in who they are, how they got where they are, learn what their story is and then find out what you can do for them.

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10 Reasons You Should Talk to a Financial Advisor

Throughout this journey we call life, so many things happen.  Think about it – you start grade school and in 13 years you’re graduating high school, regarded as an adult and making life long decisions that will impact you and your future family forever.   Most of us will spend a lifetime working on the career […]

Throughout this journey we call life, so many things happen.  Think about it – you start grade school and in 13 years you’re graduating high school, regarded as an adult and making life long decisions that will impact you and your future family forever.   Most of us will spend a lifetime working on the career we choose, buying a house, getting married, having a family, sending kids to college, retirement, weddings, funerals and all of the stuff in between.

It’s a lot.  It’s life. Some of us are prepared more than others and some sooner than most and some not at all.  All our hard work and decisions we make throughout life somehow end up typically dealing with finances, budget or money in some aspect.  Finding a trusted advisor is one of the first steps to being able to develop and create a plan to deal with all the situations that life will throw at you.  Here is a list of reasons why it’s important to communicate with your advisor and weigh their advice to help make educated decisions on your money.

#1 Graduating college – lots of debt with college loans – seek the advice of an advisor to help determine what’s the best way to pay it back, protect my parents from being responsible should something happen to you and save money for other things in life.

#2 Starting a family – if something happens to me how will my loved ones continue life without me financially; tax deduction?  That’s a good thing, right?  Saving for their college expenses. An advisor can help give you options and show you strategies that will have you protecting and saving for your new bundle(s).

#3 Buying a house – what’s a good interest rate?  How much house can I afford?  Another tax deduction, right?  An advisor can review what the expenses associated with buying versus renting can do to your budget.

#4 Saving for retirement – where are the best places to put my money for the future?  Contribute to an employer retirement plan or start my own retirement account?  An advisor can show you how investing in your retirement can solidify your future years.

#5 Insurance – should I have it, what kind and how much?  Starting a protection plan in your life is a good thing and imperative if people are depending on you for any reason.  An advisor can work with your budget and create a plan that will protect your family and change as needed with your journey.

#6 Death – a parent or other family member passes that will impact you financially in some way is a good time to connect with an advisor.  They can help you get through the estate options available to you and be a good sounding board at an emotional time.  Helping you make good decisions that can affect future life.

#7 Retirement – when to take social security?  What do I do with my employer retirement plan?  How will my budget be impacted in the transition into retirement?  This is a critical stage in life where an advisor can be a huge help to determine the best options in these questions and a hundred others you will have.

#8 Budgeting – it’s a good foundational start to all financial planning.  An advisor can help determine where your money is going and if costs are higher in some aspects of your budget than others like car insurance or interest rates.  Paying off debt can be a great time to connect with an advisor as well ensuring to pay off the higher interest rate debt first and then snowball the payments into other lower interest debt.

#9 Winning the lottery or an inheritance – if we were so fortunate to have this happen to us in our journey it can be full of endless ideas of what to do with the mullah.  An advisor can help plan the best attack on debt, savings and discretionary dollars to ensure you don’t run out of money in the first week.

#10 Starting a business – you have a great idea that you can transition into a business or it’s time to fly solo and make the jump to business ownership.  An advisor can explain the different options, discuss budgets, employees, salary and other important business decisions necessary to help you be successful in this new endeavor.

Wherever life takes you on this journey, it’s important to find that trusted advisor that you can lean on to help you move through life in the happiest parts and the saddest parts. Relying on a trusted advisor can assure you and your family, the decisions you make, will turn out better than just okay.

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The ABC’s of Medicare

Working in financial services, specifically in the senior markets, you are bound to get the question about Medicare. Can they make the system any more confusing? Medicare, not Medicaid, is a healthcare program for people 65 and over, those who are under 65 with certain disabilities and anyone with the end-stage renal disease. I will […]

Working in financial services, specifically in the senior markets, you are bound to get the question about Medicare. Can they make the system any more confusing? Medicare, not Medicaid, is a healthcare program for people 65 and over, those who are under 65 with certain disabilities and anyone with the end-stage renal disease. I will focus mostly on the 65 and over markets in this article although much will relate to the other two groups. Additionally, any special circumstances that don’t relate to the norm, please only use this as a guide. Best to seek the advice of a Medicare consultant for your specifics.

The alphabet soup they give you to decipher and the mountains of mail, books, and calls one gets when they are about to turn 65 can be quite overwhelming. I would not want to be part of the milestone, but it leaves us little option. At age 65, part A is granted to you. If you have worked 40 quarters or 10 years anytime in your life, part A is free for most. Part ‘A’ is what covers the hospitals. If you haven’t reached the 40 quarters, you haven’t paid enough in Medicare tax and will owe. Turning 65 also entitles you to part B.  Part ‘B’ is not free but it covers the doctors’ part of the plan. Usually, each of us turning 65 will pay about $121.80 (for 2016 or higher depending on your income) per month that will come out of your Social Security Income, or you can choose to pay it via check if you aren’t taking social security. If you are working and will continue to receive coverage from your employer, then do not participate in part B. Some people don’t realize they can delay this until they leave their employer’s coverage. These two parts are just original Medicare. It covers the hospitals (part A) and the doctors (part B) at about 80% coverage leaving you with about 20% to pay out of pocket with no caps. Additionally, each has their deductibles and co-insurance that are due when using the plan unless you add more coverage.

More coverage. That’s where things really start to get confusing. There are basically two routes you can choose. One is adding a supplement or Medigap policy to your original Medicare.  These have offerings of letters A-N. Each has different coverage options that help ‘supplement’ and pay for the deductibles of Parts A&B. A drug plan sometimes referred to as Part D,  also needs to be added to this option. It is Very important to have a drug plan even if you don’t take any medications currently. A separate plan or one included in the plan should be added to any of these choices. If you don’t and try to get one later, Medicare will impose a penalty per month for life being that you did not comply with credible drug coverage.

Another added coverage option to original Medicare is an Advantage plan. This is sometimes referred to as Part C. There are multiple options and carriers that offer these programs. They are county based so depending where you live depends on what is available to you. These plans have in and out of network options so best to be sure your doctor accepts the plan. Unlike the Supplement/Medigap plans, doctors, and hospitals that take Medicare will take the plan. The advantage plans also tend to have additional benefits like a drug plan that may be already included. Some may even have vision or dental benefits.

Which plan is best? Well, each person’s situation is different. When I meet with individuals we are reviewing their current coverage, health, how many times they go to the doctors per year, prescriptions, what is affordable from a budget standpoint, who accepts what coverage, do they travel, and other factors. A list of pros and cons for each plan option is used to determine the best choice.  It’s definitely not a one size fits all option. Even spouses can choose differently and don’t need to be on the same plan. Although sometimes discounts are offered for couples if they select the same plan, it isn’t always in their best interest.

Open enrollment for Medicare starts October 15th thru December 7th every year. Consider reviewing your options annually with your agent especially if you are on a stand-alone drug plan or an advantage plan. Things change every year or sometimes more often within the plan as well as your health. It’s good to stay on top of the best options for your health care coverage needs.

For more information or to book a meeting to discuss your situation please contact Miriam at 484-523-0573 or email at allianceplanning123@gmail.com

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Organizing Your Financial Stuff

If you had an emergency that landed you in the hospital for a few days, maybe weeks would your family, specifically your power of attorney, in charge of your financial stuff be able to manage with limited or no help from you? Trying to figure out someone’s financial picture or what needs to be done […]

If you had an emergency that landed you in the hospital for a few days, maybe weeks would your family, specifically your power of attorney, in charge of your financial stuff be able to manage with limited or no help from you? Trying to figure out someone’s financial picture or what needs to be done without guidance from you could be a bit tricky. You always think you have plenty of time, maybe tomorrow I will organize, gather my important papers, and set things up for my family. Financial confusion happens all too often when I help family members organize their loved ones financial information after an unexpected death, illness or injury.

Think about tax season. It comes around every year. We know the drill. I’ve been filing my taxes since I was 15. We know the mail begins to come with important tax information sometime in January but we all have until April 15th for filing sometimes later if you file an extension. Every year without fail one item gets misplaced – it isn’t put with the other tax information and I spend hours in search of it. Finally, exhausting all nooks and crannies I make the call into the company to have them resend a duplicate.

Organizing your stuff now while you are able is an important task that each of us should tackle sooner than later. It’s not easy but imagine if someone else had to do it for you. Here are some ideas and tidbits to make this an easy process.

Make sure you have updated and current power of attorney (both financial and healthcare), trust documents and wills in a safe place. Connect with your trustee or power of attorney(s) and confirm they know and remember they are your power of attorney. Additionally, tell them where the original documents can be found should they need them. Attorneys suggest updating them every time there is a life change – marriage, divorce, child, etc. and/or review every few years at least.

2  Document in an estate planner guide or even a notebook who is your accountant, attorney, financial planner, insurance agent, or other professional representatives you use on a regular basis.  Phone numbers, emails and address is also important as well as what they are responsible in helping you with.

3  Insurance policies – original policy documents for life, property & casualty, annuities, long term care, disability.  Outline insurances, insurance agents and policy beneficiaries if applicable. If you are still paying on the policy consider asking a 3rd party person to receive the bill in case you forget to pay it, you don’t want the policy to lapse especially long term care insurance.

Assets – qualified or non-qualified accounts including bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, valuables – current statements of each, financial representative/agent you work with, beneficiaries – make sure they are updated.  Retirement accounts can pass outside your will.

Funeral arrangements – burial plots, pre-paid funerals.  Important to note the funeral home, director, location of each. Additionally, consider completing a final wishes guide. This will take the burden off your loved ones trying to decide on what final decisions you would like versus them trying to figure this out.

6  Tax records should be kept for 7 years and any documentation you used to file your return like a W-2, 1099, etc. When in doubt keep it!

7 Finally another good thing to keep with your important papers is your passwords. We are an online generation. We tend to do everything online from communication via email, social media platforms, paying bills and managing our bank accounts. Without this simple word or conglomerate of symbols, numbers and letters it would be a difficult job to manage someone’s financial stuff.

It can be easy to be overwhelmed trying to organize decades of paperwork from the past. Take things one step at a time. Make a list and knock one off each week as necessary. You can also seek help from an organizer or planner working in the senior markets that specializes in organization. The goal is to have it organized and ready for your family or loved one to step in and take charge when needed leaving them in good shape to handle your finances and “stuff” with ease and clarity.

For more information or to book a meeting to discuss your situation please contact Miriam at 484-523-0573 or email at allianceplanning123@gmail.com

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building-your-team

Building Your Team

Using Benefits to Attract and Keep the Best You’ve launched your business, lined up some customers and are now ready to start building your staff. Before you start interviewing, however, you may want to think about employee benefits. The benefits package you offer can make a big difference in both who you attract and whether […]

Using Benefits to Attract and Keep the Best

You’ve launched your business, lined up some customers and are now ready to start building your staff. Before you start interviewing, however, you may want to think about employee benefits. The benefits package you offer can make a big difference in both who you attract and whether you’ll be able to hold on to them in the future.

Indeed, many employees these days judge the strength of a company by the quality of the benefits they provide.  Often the first perk offered by fledgling businesses is health insurance, followed shortly by some kind of retirement plan. As companies grow, however, a sweetened benefits package can be a particularly effective way of keeping people happy with their jobs and loyal to the company.

At University Medical Imaging—a 20-year-old company that provides MRIs, CAT scans, x-rays and ultrasound procedures—benefits planning gets a lot of attention these days. “We look at it constantly,” says Michael Lechner, practice administrator, noting that the company needs the right staff in order to provide quality patient care.

Finding good workers, however, is never easy, even with today’s high unemployment. And once the staff is trained and in place, Lechner says, it’s important to keep competitors from poaching the talent. “So we need to make sure that the grass always looks greener on our side,” he says.

The good news: Many of the most valued perks are relatively inexpensive for employers. Moreover, companies are allowed to create small classes of employees that qualify for enhanced benefits. That means a group of highly-valued executives might, for example, get improved life insurance coverage or an upgraded disability policy. Such offerings—while extremely meaningful to the employee—are both tax deductible and significantly less expensive than an increase in pay.

At the executive level, special benefits packages can be an important way to attract key employees and keep them on board. Aimed at the highly-compensated employee, these arrangements can often involve some kind of executive bonus or deferred compensation, often funded with permanent life insurance.

Companies can be very creative in designing these top-tier plans. Often, they come with a vesting schedule to keep the employee tied to the company. A deferred-compensation plan, for example, might offer key personnel an additional $40,000 a year for 10 years, requiring those executives to stay on the job for a decade in order to collect the full amount.

But these arrangements can offer more than golden handcuffs. A supplemental employee retirement plan or SERP, for example, can be designed to not only provide the executive with additional retirement income, but also to pay the company a death benefit if that employee should die. In some cases, this may even allow the company to recoup the cost of premium payments in the event of a death.

When it comes to benefits planning, however, one size does not fit all. Company perks tend to change as the business gets bigger, and offerings vary from industry to industry and from region to region. The employees themselves are a critical part of the planning equation.     Older employees, for example, may be primarily interested in health and retirement benefits, but studies show Gen Xers consider paid time-off an exceptional value.

That means companies can’t simply offer a richer benefits package and expect good results. Instead, companies need to make sure they are offering the right benefits—the ones that make a difference to their employees.

Finally, employers need to make sure they not only put together a good package, but also communicate the value to employees. After all, what good are the benefits if the employees have no idea they exist?

Provided by Miriam Zettlemoyer, a financial representative with MassMutual Eastern Pennsylvania, a MassMutual Agency; courtesy of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual)The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any Federal tax penalties. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. © 2014 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, MA 01111-0001 CRN201504-170817

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