Making a Retirement Budget

Believe it or not, a retirement budget leads to more fun in retirement! In addition, making a retirement budget helps you avoid one of the biggest retirement mistakes people make – which is spending too much too soon.”

Quoted above is an except from an about.com, Money over 55, article. (View full article here- http://moneyover55.about.com/od/budgetingsaving/a/How-To-Make-A-Retirement-Budget.htm)

Why is making a retirement budget so important? There are many factors that you may end up having no control over when it comes to retirement income, such as when you retire, your Social Security, and the rate of inflation. The one thing you CAN control is your personal spending.

It seems as though many retirees throw the budget out the window when they finally have that retirement check coming in, and unwise or excessive spending can end up being a huge detriment if the retirement funds are not covering what is leaving your bank account.

Others haven’t had to budget in many years and are used to living comfortably without much worry for the balance on their credit card. This can all change when you are suddenly on a fixed income.

The wise course of action is to look at your spending habits now and see where you can start adjusting and adapting to make a smooth transition into retired life.

This type of planning is not difficult and can be started with only a few hours of time, but it’s easy to put off. Why not start working on it today?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Your last 6 to 12 months worth of bank account statements
  • Your last 6 to 12 months worth of credit card statements
  • Last two paystubs for you (and your spouse if you are married)
  • 10-12 colored highlighters
  • Last year’s tax return

Use the information on the items above to see where your money has been going and use the highlighters to group expenses into categories.

Above referenced article gives 5 steps to using this information to create your retirement budget.

STEP 1 – Make a list of all your fixed or required monthly obligations.

To make a super effective retirement budget, break this list down into three parts:

  • Essentials: This includes expenses that cover food, clothing, housing, transportation and health care.
  • Non-essential monthly obligations: Although we all may think of cable TV as an essential, it is not. Non-essentials are things like cable, cell phone, gym memberships, subscriptions and other items you receive bills for.
  • Required non-monthly expenses: Items like property taxes, insurance premiums, auto registration and home warranties may come up once a year. Be sure to take these periodic expenses and calculate their cost on a monthly basis and include it in your retirement budget.

STEP 2 – Research your costs for health care before and after retirement.

  • Get estimates from your employer, from AARP sponsored health plans, for from an independent health insurance agent (Cornerstone has over 75 Licensed Representatives across the Nation) so you have accurate idea of these costs by expected retirement age. Account for these costs on your after-retirement budget.

STEP 3 – List all your flexible or optional expenses.

  • This all the fun stuff, like travel, hobbies, sports and entertainment.

STEP 4 – Write down some thoughts on how you want to spend your time in retirement.

  • Ask your spouse to do this also. Think about the things you want to be able to spend money on in retirement. Begin to think about changes you may be willing to make that would reallocate money from items that are less important to items that are more important.

STEP 5 – Calculate Fixed verses Flex

  • Total all your expenses.
  • Total all your fixed expenses separately.
  • Divide your fixed expenses into your total expenses.

How much of your retirement income will go toward fixed expenses? Does this align with your thoughts in Step 4 on how you want to spend your time in retirement?

The About.com article concludes with the following thought: “As a general rule of thumb, if you want more fun in retirement, find ways to lower fixed expenses so you can have more flex to spend on the hobbies and interests you most enjoy!”

Cornerstone Representatives are trained to help you make the most of your retirement in a number of different ways. Are you possibly paying too much for your health or life insurance as mentioned in step 2? Are your investments giving you all the earnings they could? Our agents are available, free of charge to answer these types of questions for you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like help in planning your retirement budget!

Lost Life Insurance Policies

Did you know that in the last few decades an estimated $1 BILLION dollars in life insurance benefits remain unclaimed? How is this possible? The answer is simple. Lost Life Insurance Policies. In this week’s post, we’d like to reference a recent article found on Yahoo Finance entitled “Life Insurers Pressed on Lost Policies.”*

The article begins by mentioning a woman, named Mary Lou, who was surprised to receive a check for $7,000 more than a decade after the death of her father. The check was from unclaimed life insurance policies her father had taken out previously, that his family had no knowledge of.

At the time of her father’s death, Mary Lou inquired with the insurance company with whom she knew he had policies, to see if there were any other accounts. She was told at the time that they didn’t owe her anything else. As it turns out, that $7,000 check was for three policies that she didn’t have a policy number for.

Mary Lou voices her concern for the situation as it may affect others, “Can you imagine all the millions or billions of dollars that belong to other people and they don’t know to claim it,” she says, in Yahoo’s article?

Backing up Mary Lou’s statement, state regulators estimate that over the decades life insurance companies have failed to pay well over $1 Billion in death benefits. The reason? Because it’s up to the beneficiaries to file a claim following death.  One industry official says that whatever the amount is, it’s a “very small percentage” of total claims paid. “We know the percentages represent real people and we’ve been working with policy makers on ways to ensure all policyholders get the benefits they deserve,” said the official, Bruce Ferguson of the American Council of Life Insurers.

Recognizing that new technology can help alleviate this problem, insurance companies in many states are being required to check old unclaimed policies against death databases, and to make payouts to those they owe.

Most insurance companies will probably not fight these regulations. Yahoo’s article went on to state that opposing a requirement to check the databases would be particularly difficult given that many insurance companies already check them when it’s in their interest- for example, to learn about the deaths of annuity customers because such deaths usually end the insurers duty to make payments under retirement-income contracts.

As many such modern systems are slowly being implemented into this industry, the process of handling insurance claims is no doubt going to undergo some changes. The article mentioned above referenced a number of such changes that are already taking place.

Of course we all look forward to a time when this process has been completely ironed out and everyone has a perfect way to keep track of all of the policies they and their family have. But in the mean time, the monetary figures mentioned most likely only strengthen your resolve not to be one of the many whose unclaimed benefits make up that staggering $1 Billion.

Taking advantage of free help which can keep you from becoming part of that statistic is definitely a wise course.

At Cornerstone, your advisor becomes your advisor for LIFE. They work with you to put together a portfolio with all of your information which we keep on file and make available to your beneficiaries when you pass away. This ensures that any policies you have are processed properly and your legacy is paid out to those you left it to.

Contact us today to set up an appointment where we can help you manage all of your insurance policies and investments in one place. Our services are always provided at NO COST to you!

*http://finance.yahoo.com/news/life-insurers-pressed-lost-policies-030100774.html

Financial Review: How to protect yourself from financial fraud

You’re at home on a Tuesday afternoon and you receive a phone call from a local retirement planner, offering to visit you at your home, explain the Medicare program and do a free financial review.

Of course, as an informed consumer, you are skeptical. “What are they going to try to sell me? Is this legitimate?” You may wonder. And these are valid questions. ANY time ANYONE wants to visit you at your home or wants you to divulge personal information, it’s your responsibility to do your due diligence and make sure the representative is legitimate. In a society filled with dishonesty, scams and scandals it can be hard to know who to trust! This article will discuss a few ways you can help ensure that you are dealing with who you THINK you’re dealing with and also that they give you the treatment you deserve.

Step 1- Identification

When you book an appointment with a representative over the phone, be sure to get their FULL name and the name of the Company they represent. Your first step is to make sure that they are licensed to do what they say they do. If they are representing an insurance company, or a group that works with insurance companies, they are required to have a state insurance license. You can easily go online and do a search for the Department of Insurance for the state you live in. Each website usually has something called a “Producer Search” which allows you to inquire by Insurance License Number, or by name.

When you find the name of the person you’re looking for you will want to verify that their license is current and active. If you have trouble finding them, don’t hesitate to contact them back and ask for a State Insurance License Number. If you still can’t find it, or if it’s not active, do not meet with this person! Contact their company back and ask for a manager. The company should be able to provide you with a different representative who can help you. You can also contact the state Department of Insurance for more information on that individual.

If you DO find them online, you’ll also want to search further and see which companies they’re licensed with. If you don’t immediately see a particular company listed, don’t be alarmed. Insurance Agents frequently become contracted with new companies as rates fluctuate and products change. They just want to be able to offer their clients the very best options! But sometimes these companies take time to reflect those contracts in the State’s online system.

Another issue is that sometimes an agent works with an agency of a certain name (For example: Jones Retirement Center) who has contracts with insurance companies (Like, John Hancock or Lincoln Financial) So the person on the phone might say: “This is Mike, with Jones Retirement Center.” but when you look him up online you don’t see any sort of contract listed for “Jones Retirement Center”, you only see “John Hancock and Lincoln Financial”. This is because the State sometimes only lists the contracts for actual Insurance Companies, not for the agencies they work through.

If this is the case, you’ll want to do another online search for the name of the agency they work for. So, using the example above “Jones Retirement Center in Financeville, Washington.” Most agencies have a website and you can use this site to review a little more about the company the agent represents and possibly even verify that the agent DOES in fact, work for that agency. (Many agencies list their representatives on their website.) You might also check other outside online listings such as Yellow-Pages or Google, to read reviews about this agency. If negativity seems prevalent with no response or explanation from the business, then you might want to turn elsewhere for your financial planning advice.

If the agent and agency clear all the above filters, the last thing you’d want to do, is just verify that they are who they SAID they are, when they come to your house for their appointment. Asking to see a driver’s license or insurance license will not throw an honest agent off-guard. They will be happy to share their credentials with you. Hopefully they’ll tell you that they appreciate your diligence and that they’re glad to be working with someone who has taken steps to protect themselves in this crazy world we live in.

Step 2- Fact Finding

If you went to a doctor for a check-up and he walked in the room and handed you a prescription for a heart medication, without ever talking to you, taking your blood pressure or running any other tests, you’d think he was crazy! He knows nothing about you or your situation, yet he’s trying to get you to take a drug for a heart condition! How can he even know you HAVE this condition? And even if he’s right, you might already be taking some other medication to treat it! Who knows how the two could affect each other!

It’s just as unreasonable, for a representative to come to your home and tell you that a certain product or service will best suit your needs, if they haven’t first done a financial review.

Also called a “Fact Finder” a financial review will let your agent know about everything you are and aren’t currently doing with your insurance, investments and savings. Having this information will allow them to inform you of possible problems and offer valid solutions.

It can be unsettling to divulge this type of personal information but keep in mind, you’ve already verified that this is a licensed and trained representative, working for a company that has a good reputation. It’s vital that they have a full picture of your financial situation BEFORE you purchase any new product, or they suggest any changes to your retirement plan.

You may be asked any of the following questions:

What types of investments do you currently have? What are the interest rates and total balance of those accounts? (They will want to see statements if you have them and might even call the company to confirm different details of your policies.)
What type of life insurance do you have? (This is another case where showing the agent your policy and letting them call the company for full details is definitely to your benefit.)
What are the balances of your checking and savings accounts?
What type of health insurance do you currently have?
What is the current state of your physical health?

Honestly answering all of these questions is the only way that your representative can truly evaluate your situation and offer real solutions that could change your life!

If your representative doesn’t take the time to do this type of review with you, they aren’t doing their job. To get the best service in this industry, you must demand it! Don’t settle for less. Give them your full attention, and they will give you theirs.

Together you can work toward a secure future for yourself and your family.

…You might also like

A financial review can help double your Benefits- HOW?

You may wonder why Cornerstone is constantly emphasizing the importance of having a regular financial review at least once a year. One of our sales managers recently encountered a situation, which is a great example why these reviews are so important!

The manager recently met with a client who we will refer to as Mrs. Jones. Mrs. Jones is 66 years old currently in good health and hasn’t had any major medical complications within the last five years. Mrs. Jones was very happy with all of her insurance policies and felt like she was set and did not need a financial review. To be on the safe side, she decided to let Cornerstone review her current policies to make sure everything was still in force and in good standing, and that there weren’t any oddities to the policies she might have been unaware of (seems like there’s always SOMETHING hidden in the small print. Right?)

The Life Insurance Policy Mrs. Jones had purchased many years before, was a whole life policy that had a $25,000 death benefit. Her monthly premium was $50, and she made it very clear that was the most she could afford to pay for her life insurance.

When our agent did some research into this life policy, he found that in the years Mrs. Jones had been paying premiums into her life insurance policy, it had accumulated over $10,000 of cash value! However, he explained to Mrs. Jones, that in the event of her death, her beneficiary (her daughter) would ONLY be entitled to the $25,000 death benefit, and NOT to the $10,000 of cash value! This was very upsetting to Mrs. Jones, because her main goal was to leave as much of a legacy behind to her daughter as possible, and it seemed like a waste to just lose that cash value that was rightfully hers!

So, through Cornerstone, Mrs. Jones was able to take out a new life insurance policy. Using the $10,000 of cash value that had grown within her old policy she was able to fund a new policy with a death benefit of $52,800- more than double her previous benefit! ALL of this money will go to her daughter when Mrs. Jones passes away. And best of all, her monthly premium stays exactly the same!

In just one simple (and FREE) financial review, Mrs. Jones was able to use an asset she already had and double the benefit that will be paid to her family with NO added monthly financial responsibility!

This is just one example of how beneficial a financial review can be!

Cornerstone has more than 60 trained professionals who will complete a financial review completely free and with no obligation to the client! It’s what we do! These meetings can take place in the comfort of your own home at a time convenient for you.

Contact us to set one up today!

843-376-3350

administration@cswta.com

 

Life Insurance is a powerful tool!

The Power of Life Insurance

Contributed by Life Insurance Specialist Matthew Gouin

I’ve helped seniors with their retirement for the last several years now and I’d like to share a few ideas that have helped others I’ve met along the way. Life Insurance can be a powerful tool and can be used for much more than covering one’s final expenses. There are many ways to use life insurance and I’m going to share a few.

The first is through Pension Maximization. When choosing a pension payout, you typically have several monthly options. Many retirees choose to take a partial amount to provide a widows benefit for their spouse. In doing so you will receive a lesser amount. I recommend taking the full amount and using the difference to invest in a life insurance policy. You can provide a large lump sum to your spouse rather than a monthly payout.

In addition to Pension Maximization, many of my clients are choosing life insurance to leave behind a legacy or offset estate taxes. Instead of using a monthly income to pay premiums, we will utilize the Required Minimum Distribution or (RMD) from IRAs to pay annual premiums. This gives the client cheaper premiums by paying annually, an answer on how to use the mandatory RMD, and it also creates a tax free benefit to whomever you choose.

Many retirees I meet with have old life insurance policies saturated with cash value. If you cash in the policy you will forfeit your death benefit and pay taxes on part of that money. If you borrow against it, you must pay that loan back plus interest. In most cases when you pass away that cash value stays with the life insurance company. There are few options to use that cash value so what good is it? Did you know that you can use that cash value towards the purchase of a new policy? Even though you may be 10,20,30 years older you can utilize that cash value to work for you. Insurance companies are more concerned with the health of an applicant than their age. Last year I had an 80 year client issued Preferred due to her good health.

Through a 1035 Exchange, we can transfer the proceeds from an old life insurance policy to a new life insurance policy with no tax consequences. Ultimately, this provides clients with three options:

1) Pay the same premium and maximize death benefit

2) Keep the same death benefit and reduce premiums considerably, or

3) Sometimes a policy that is completely paid-up.

Whatever options you choose, Cornerstone is here to help! Contact us today for a free financial review!