Are You Enrolled?

October is open enrollment for most employee benefit plan for employers. Here are some things to think about as you choose your options:

• Health insurance: Does your plan offer a High Deductible with HSA option? These can be a great deal if you are generally healthy and don’t expect to need surgery or high-ticket testing in 2018. The premiums will be lower and you can deposit up to $6,920 into the Health Savings Account (family) for 2018. (plus $1,000 for those over 55). This gives you an adjustment against income on your tax return and you can take withdrawals from the account to pay for your medical and dental expenses. For more information on the tax benefits of these accounts see IRS Publication 969.

o Insurance for your children under age 26 – run the numbers to see if your plan may be cheaper for your adult child than what they can get on their own. ACA increased the age for adult children to remain on their parents’ policies. They can pay you monthly for the cost, and they should begin to build that into their budgets, but save money if you can save money.

• Life insurance: Do you and your spouse have enough life insurance to pay off debt, fund your kids’ education, and provide for your spouse until retirement? Check your existing policies and see if you might need to add some additional insurance. It is usually pretty reasonably priced through the group plan.
• Disability: Do you have the maximum amount of disability insurance?

• 401k plan: Are you at least contributing enough to get the employer match? Are you maximizing your contributions? If not, try to do a 1% increase per year until you are getting the full $18,500/year saved plus the catch-up of $6,000 for those over 55.

• Long-term care: Is this an option in your benefit plan? If so, take a close look at it and see if you can participate. If you are in your 50’s, take a close look at the plan and see if it is something you can afford. Traditional policies can be very expensive so see if the group insurance might meet a need.
This year take a close look at your options rather than just doing “same as last year.” You may find that you can save some money.
As a part of your evaluation, pull out the life insurance policies and note the dates so you are clear on whether you are getting close to the end of the term. We all thought we’d be rich by this point but maybe we still really need that insurance. Be sure you know what you need and for how long so you can take action if needed.

To your financial success!

You Just Never Know!

Someone that I know died last week. She wasn’t a friend, but was someone I have known for a long time, and most shocking, she was my age. Death is the one thing just about guaranteed to rock our worlds even if it is peripheral to our day-to-day lives. She has a daughter the same age as my son and my heart breaks for the family to lose someone from their immediate family. It is a hole that can never be filled and my prayers are with them especially today for her funeral.

That brings me to the awful topic of being prepared for such an event. With my clients, this is always a topic of conversation as we get new clients integrated so I want to share some of the important things that we discuss with them. You just never when “your day” might be and it is so much easier on those you leave behind if you take a few unpleasant steps to be ready. It is especially important if you are married to make sure your spouse has done these things as well. Death is hard enough without having to wrangle with legal things that could have been handled and were not.

So, the list:

  • Do you have current wills, properly executed in your current state of residence?
  • If so, do you know what they say?
    • Who is the executor, trustee and guardian for minor children?
    • Do you still want those people in those roles and are they still capable of fulfilling them?
    • If you have children in their late teens, even 18 or 19, is the plan specified in the will going to work? Moving them to your sister’s in Iowa may have seemed fine when they were 2 and 3, but now at 17 and 18, it just may not work.
      • My son just turned 18 and is still in high school. He may be legally of age but yikes, I would not want him on his own if something happened to both my husband and me!
    • Does the will still refer to a “credit shelter trust?” If so, you may want to consider updating it because the estate tax exclusion is much larger now than it was prior to 2010. This doesn’t mean your will isn’t valid, it just means that you need to understand what assets may end up in such a trust.
  • Do you have a Health Care Directive, valid in your current state of residence, and has it been updated within the last couple of years? This isn’t something you need if you die, but it is important if you are in an accident or have a catastrophic event. You can update these without an attorney if you so choose. Go to for the form and good information about completing it. Again, it needs to conform to your state’s requirements so be sure to pick your state of residence. If you are updating your will, attorneys typically update both powers of attorney as part of the package.
    • Are the people you have named in your directive still the appropriate people?
  • Do you have a Durable Financial Power of Attorney? Again, this is not helpful if you die but is critical if you are in an accident or are otherwise incapacitated. If you have divorced, you may want to update both powers of attorney if you have not already.
  • Do you know who the beneficiaries are on your insurance policy (both the policy through your employer and any individual policies that you have) and your retirement accounts? This includes IRAs, Roth IRAs, and employer-provided plans. Again, if you have divorced, you should update as those plans typically name the spouse.
    • Consider if your children are over 18 if it is appropriate to have them as contingent beneficiaries (or primary if you are not married). There are many considerations here so talk to a financial advisor or an estate attorney to fully understand your options and the impact. There are a lot of tax considerations as you look at retirement and other tax-deferred plans so be sure you are clear on that aspect as well.
  • Passwords: Does your spouse or your executor know where all of your passwords are? There are certainly workarounds, especially if you are married, but do you want your grieving spouse to be fumbling around trying to get access to your computer in order to pay the mortgage right after you died? This is a biggie as more and more of our lives are lived in the virtual world.
    • I believe that Facebook now has an authorization form that you can process online so that you can leave them access in the event of your death.
  • Letters to your children or other family members: Have you left anything for your kids that they can hold onto in the event of your death? When my dad died suddenly at my age 12, I would have given anything to have a note from him. I left letters with my will so that my kids will know what hopes and dreams I have for them. They were not so easy to write, and I hope they don’t get to read them for a long time, but it is important to me that they have something from me to them to hold onto when the time comes.
  • What is important to you? There may be specific things that you want specific people to have now that you are older. Your china, jewelry, scrapbooks and photo albums are all important items. If it is important to you that certain people get them (or don’t!) then you need a provision in your will to recognize that or at least to refer to such a list that you may prepare. Talk to your attorney about these things.
  • Special circumstances: As our kids grow, marry, divorce, have kids, get sick, get rich or poor, or have troubles, we may find that the plan we made when they were kids is not appropriate any longer. Step back and think about who will be your beneficiaries, how much money they will ultimately receive and how old they are. Are they mature and responsible or likely to blow through money quickly? There are a lot of estate planning tools available to address just about any situation so if you have some concerns about how your death will impact your heirs, talk to an estate planning attorney so that you can have a plan you feel good about.

We all hope that we will die in our sleep at a ripe old age, in perfect health but that is not the case for most. For some, death appears too quickly at the door. It is not fun to think about or talk about but being prepared today is the greatest gift that you can leave your family.

To your financial success (and your family’s)!


The Truth is: NOT Everyone Makes It Through


Before I was actually diagnosed with breast cancer, I honestly didn’t know much about it. I would see the pink ribbons, the bald-headed women talking and the horrible pictures of women who had lost their breasts and of course all the walks, runs and fund-raising events. But nothing ever really resonated with me, other than the things that I could do to prevent it. I figured I was pretty safe because NO ONE in my whole entire life had had cancer. But once you are diagnosed a WHOLE other world opens up and you begin to learn a lot, really fast.

Having watched the movie “Five” on Lifetime TV that depicts five different breast cancer stories and the impact that this disease has on everyone, including those around you, I have come to the conclusion that this disease isn’t “it” for me. I probably won’t know what “it” will be, but breast cancer will NOT cause my demise.

The movie starts with the story of a little girl wondering why her mom is in her room and wanting to know why all those people are in her home. It’s set in 1969, at a time when children were seen and not heard and neither were they told anything about “grown-up stuff” apparently. My heart went out to that child and I couldn’t imagine having my daughter in such a confused state when there was something obviously wrong with me.

The first thing I did was tell my family, including my daughter and sister. They have actually been my biggest supporters and cheering section, next to my husband, who is number one among all! I can’t say enough for my sisters-in-law and for the amazing support that I have received from my friends, subscribers to my newsletter, listeners to my radio show, the Diets In Review staff (whom I originally created this blog for) and audience, and total strangers who send me prayers and great vibes. Thank you all.

The little girl, Charlotte, grows up to become an oncologist and to help the subjects of the other four stories through their breast cancer battles, as well as struggling with her own diagnosis. The most poignant scene of the movie, to me, was when Charlotte reaches her 5-year survival mark and goes through the survival ceremony of “kissing the wall,” a wall of glass tiles she created in tribute to her mother’s battle. One of the storyline’s subjects was noticeably absent from the celebration. Nothing is said as to what happened to her or even when she passed, but I felt a huge sense of sadness that she was “gone.” But life continues on, Charlotte kisses the wall and all involved celebrate.

It was at that moment that I realized that I know that this won’t be my end. When I was first diagnosed, I was so scared. It was mainly fear of the unknown, not death. I can’t say for honest sure that I don’t fear death, but I accept it as part of life. Who can really tell you about it anyway? Those who have already passed on really aren’t telling a whole lot. It’s like a secret club that when you’re in, you’re in. The rest of us just speculate.

Now that I’ve gone through the surgery, started reconstruction, and put two chemo treatments under my belt, I feel empowered and really certain that it won’t be breast cancer that marks my end. But until that time comes, I will live my life to the fullest, enjoying every moment and trying my hardest NOT to sweat the small stuff. Besides everything else is gravy.



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