Life Insurance: How Much Do You Really Need?

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.   Mark Twain

There is a great deal to take away from this quote by Mark Twain. I concur with his sentiment. However, dying at any time presents an unacceptable financial risk to survivors unless the deceased is fully insured for life insurance.

The risk of a pre-mature death is a catastrophic failure of one’s dreams and goals. In today’s society, individuals ‘mortgage’ [French word meaning payable unto death] their futures by borrowing against their potential wages. The result of an untimely death is that the bills all come due at a most inopportune time. [Read more…]

Risk Management: Considering Statistics

The trouble ain’t that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right.

This quote by Mark Twain is a wonderful starting point in a discussion about managing risk in a personal financial plan. One of the areas which needs to be addressed is the statistical odds of an event occurring. Fools (which I make it a point to never call anyone) and lightning provide a wonderful opportunity to discuss some math concepts and risk management.

Everyone has heard the statistical odds of being struck by lightning are approximately one in a million. This statistic is based on the average of reported lightning strikes in the U.S. The math works this way: 310,000,000 (U.S. Population) / 280 (Average annual lightning deaths and injuries) = 1 in 1,107,143. Which is approximately, give or take, one in a million (U.S. National Weather Service).

Now here is where an individual can play and have some fun with statistics. The state within which you live has a tremendous impact on one’s odds of being struck by lightning, which many mean that ‘fools’ are smarter than for which Mr. Twain gives them credit. Those who live in Montana (the Big Sky State!) have a greater statistical chance of being struck by lightning – roughly 1 in 249,550. On the other end of the continuum is California. Residents of that state have the lowest statistical odds of being struck by lightning. So the lesson for each of us is that risk can be managed. Fools do not live in Montana in order to increase their chances of ‘not’ being struck by lightning. [Read more…]

Family-focused advisors offer personal touch

Editor’s note: President and co-founder of Paraklete ® Financial, Inc., Susan Tillery CPA, PFS, CFP, was recently interviewed by Reuters concerning the rising demand for financial services.

(Reuters) – Baltimore financial adviser Lyle Benson describes his work as that of “Personal CFO” or chief financial officer.

His boutique financial planning firm manages money, but it also does everything from bill paying to estate planning, even assisting clients’ adult children negotiate terms for their first automobile purchase or mortgage.

“We coordinate and work with all of our clients’ advisers” including attorneys, accountants and insurance agents, says Benson. “We make sure everyone is on the same page and working together.”

The services necessary to quarterback a client’s complete financial life, often referred to as family office services, are not just for the ultra-rich. Benson says anyone with investable assets of more than $2 million can benefit from such comprehensive oversight. At his firm, those services are used by more than 30 percent of clients. Please click here to continue reading

Risk Transfer in the Financial Planning Process

No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his well-being, to risk his body, to risk his life, in a great cause. —Teddy Roosevelt

I have been looking for an opportunity to use this wonderful quote by Teddy Roosevelt. It is from an article in the New York Times (12/08/1915). The article is a summary of his remarks for the Harvard Advocate in which he promotes the need for military curriculum at schools of higher learning.

The purpose of today’s posting is not to advocate for military curriculum, which I do support, but to discuss risk management in the personal financial planning process. It is human nature to seek security. Security may be defined as the absence of risk. Once the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter are met, the next need on the list for most of us is a sense of safety/security. [Read more…]

Financial Planning: An Orphan Looking for a Home – Part 6 in an 6 part series

Editor’s note: Portions of the following posting by Susan Tillery, CPS/PFS, CFP, appeared in the January 2011 edition of AICPA Wealth Management Insider Newsletter.

Clearly, financial planning has not yet arrived as a profession. Its structure (asset management and/or product placement, or fee for advice) has not been decided. Perhaps another platform is available. I would propose it is a platform that only CPA’s can build. It can be built by CPA’s who will seize this moment in time; who will “adopt” financial planning and  take it to the professional level by offering “true fee-only” independent, objective financial planning.

The CPA is the clients’ trusted advisor and no one is more qualified and suited to offer comprehensive, independent, objective financial planning to your clients than they are. A CPA can attain the AICPA’s PFS designation and help present financial planning as a true profession by taking it to this next level. The CPA/PFS can help keep financial planning from being given over to the regulators. The AICPA has been working very hard to keep this from happening.  They even submitted a comment letter to the SEC strongly opposing the creation of a possible FINRA or other self-regulatory organization oversight for investment advisers. Why? Because this will take financial planning down a level. [Read more…]

Financial Planning: An Orphan Looking for a Home – Part 5 in an 6 part series

Editor’s note: Portions of the following posting by Susan Tillery, CPS/PFS, CFP, appeared in the January 2011 edition of AICPA Wealth Management Insider Newsletter.

Financial planning needs to be a “stand alone” discipline devoid of conflicts of interest and the moral dilemmas which accompany them.

Financial Planning, without national certification, without universally recognized standards, and without recognition as a profession, has found itself in the midst of a storm of regulatory inquiry. Everyone from consumer groups to Congress wants to regulate this orphan of professional disciplines.

The sky is not falling; the world is not coming to an end even though the media and some financial advisers continue to create a state of fear to facilitate their own agendas. The reality of what is actually happening is that the financial services sector is in the midst of a great moral dilemma. The exact meaning of a dilemma is a situation in which you have to choose between two equally unpleasant alternatives. [Read more…]

Continuing the theme of Praxis – Part 4 in an 6 part series

Aristotle said: “Whatever we learn to do, we learn by actually doing it (Praxis); men come to be builders, for instance, by building, and harp players by playing the harp. In the same way, by doing just acts we come to be just; by doing self-controlled acts, we come to be self-controlled; and by doing brave acts, we become brave.”

Personal financial planners, must not only have knowledge and experience, they most also possess ethics. And if we follow along Aristotle’s line of reasoning, ethics or “just acts” are acquired by ‘doing just acts/being ethical.’ And in financial services, ‘doing just acts/being ethical’ is a challenge. [Read more…]

Nothing ever becomes real till it’s experienced – Part 3 in an 6 part series

“Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced – Even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it . . .”

This quote by John Keats has been a part of my life for the last four decades. And I have been waiting for a venue to apply it. My series of blog postings on the personal financial planning profession has provided just such an opportunity. The quote is from a letter by Keats to his brother and sister, George and Georgiana. The letter is long, but the sum of the matter is that knowledge acquired from books has little merit until actually applied in life.

And in point of fact, his observations have been supported by several studies and decades of research. The “sum and substance” of the studies is that “experts” in their various fields are experts as a result of the time they have put into their profession. This correlation between “time in grade” and superior performance is across all disciplines.  Everyone from a chess grand-master to a physician benefits by time practicing their profession. [Read more…]

Why can’t we be friends? Part 2 in an 6 part series

It was in 1975 during my enlistment with the U.S. Air Force that I first heard the song “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” by the American Funk band War. The song was the title track of an album, which bore the same name. This song, like many by the band, was socio-political in nature and addressed the senseless animosity between races in the United States. Also, NASA played this song was played during the linking of U.S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts for the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project.

I would like for all of the various financial planning credentialing entities to hold hands and sing: “Why can’t we be friends?” The needless bickering and infighting is senseless, without purpose, and detracts from the profession. All of this ‘chest thumping’ about ‘my credential is better than your credential’ is a waste of their membership’s valuable resources (dues). [Read more…]

Of elephants, blind men & financial planning —Part 1 in a 6 part series

The endless bickering over the regulation of financial planners is wearisome at best. It seems that every organization and entity is on this bandwagon: the Government Accountability Office, the Security and Exchange Commission, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the Federal Trade Commission and the Financial Planning Coalition. And the sum total of all their time, talent and treasure are the following findings: No single law governs providers of financial planning services. Therefore,

• Almost anyone can call themselves a financial planner.
• Financial planners may have an inherent conflict of interest in selling products from which they receive a commission or managing assets from which they will receive asset management fees
• Consumers are confused by the numerous titles and designations that financial planners may use.
These results are not new and are the same conclusions, which were made over 30 years ago! [Read more…]