In a recent Monday Night Football game against the hated Bears, Green Bay Packer star Aaron Rodgers went down with down with a game ending injury. The second-string quarterback was Seneca Wallace who was at best an NFL journeyman with at best a checkered career. Needless to say the Packer’s high-octane offense came to a grinding halt and the Packers lost a key divisional game.
Seneca Wallace in this fan’s opinion was not a credible back-up plan, but rather a joke and an insult to loyal Packer fans everywhere. Regular readers of this blog know that I stress financial planning as a starting point for almost every financial endeavor you might undertake. Part of a sound financial plan involves planning for the curve balls that life sometimes throws at us. Here are some components of a solid back-up financial plan.
An emergency fund
This represents very liquid savings that are set-aside for emergencies such as job-loss, the need to replace your furnace on the coldest day of the year, unforeseen medical expenses, and other unexpected events that have a way of popping up in life. This is not money that is invested in stocks or mutual funds, but rather in a money market fund or a similar vehicle. Liquidity and little or no risk of loss are key. For example a CD that ties up your money for a period of time and assesses a penalty if you need it early is not a good vehicle for this money. The rule of thumb is 6-9 months of expenses, your actual need will vary and you should look at your own unique situation. If you don’t have enough right off the bat for an adequate emergency fund, accumulating this money should be a top savings priority.
Regular readers of this blog know that I have a healthy skeptiscm of many insurance and insurance-based financial products and many of the folks who sell them. However insurance is a key component of a financial plan for most people. The key is finding a competent financial professional who will assess your needs and sell you the insurance product that is right for the risk that you need to insure. I assist my clients in finding and working with insurance professionals of this type.
Life insurance is a basic component of a financial plan for many folks. Insurance replaces some or all of your future income for your family or other beneficiaries in the event of your death. It can help pay off the mortgage, send your kids to college, or fund the retirement for a surviving spouse if you haven’t had time to accumulate sufficient assets. Even in the case of a non-working spouse it can replace the “services” he or she provides in terms of child-care and the like. Life insurance can also be used as an exit strategy for a closely-held business or to offset the impact of losing a key employee. All too often life insurance is sold for purposes other than providing a death benefit. This is often in the form of some sort of policy that builds cash-value and for uses such as a supplemental retirement vehicle. For many folks inexpensive term insurance is the best deal, be very leery of a pitch for whole life, Variable Universal Life, and the myriad or other cash value policies out there. These are very lucrative for the agent, not always so for you.
Disbility insurance is perhaps more important than life insurance in that it provides coverage for an event that is more likely to occur than death. This is “lifestyle” insurance and I generally urge folks who have access to it via the workplace to buy as much Long-Term disability insurance as possible. These policies are not always great in that their definition of disability and own occupation is often broad. Private policies will often have a narrower definition of your own occupation for purposes of paying a benefit, but these policies can be expensive. On the other hand I’ve seen several high earning professionals over the years become disabled and having proper disability insurance has been a financial life-saver for them and their families.
Property and casualty and liability insurance comes in various forms and can help insure against all sorts of events that can occur on your property or in the course of doing business. These range from personal polcies such as umbrella coverage against the UPS guy falling and hurting himself while delivering a package to your home to having sufficient auto liability coverage for yourself and perhaps younger drivers using your vehicles. Professionals such as doctors, financial advisors, and lawyers need professional liability insurance to protect them. Details on these and other types of liability coverage (both personal and professional) are beyond the scope of this article, but they are none the less a key part of a back-up financial plan. One successful judgement against you or your business can bring financial ruin without proper insurance and asset protection planning.
Long-Term care insurance provides coverage for long-term health problems that can plague us later in life. This might include a nursing home stay or home health care. This insurance is complicated and expensive. Whether or not buy Long-Term Care insurance, which features to buy, and many other decisions requires research and perhaps professional guidance. The reason to consider this type of coverage is that the cost of caring for a loved one with a long-term health situation can be staggering and can wipe out the finances of a family.
Estate planning is all about ensuring that your assets pass to your desired beneficiaries in the manner that you intend. A will naming a guardian for minor children is a must for parents. Retirement plans and insurance and annuity products are passed on via a beneficiary designation so make sure these are up to date. A trust may or may not be in order depending upon your situation. An often overlooked factor are items such as a medical power of attorney and other similar documents that designate who can handle your affairs and/or make decisions for you in the event that you are incapacited. Few of us will have to worry about paying estate taxes, but these other issues can be huge and if not handled properly can cause major financial headaches for your family and loved ones.
Accumulate wealth and become financially independent
This is along the lines of “… the best defense is a good offense…” Saving and accumulating wealth and building financial independence represent the best financial contingency plan.
Contribute to your 401(k) or similar retirement plan. Investing for retirement via salary deferral is painless and doesn’t require you to do anything except make an election to have the money withheld from you paycheck. Obviously you will want to make good 401(k) investment choices and you will certainly want to make good decisions with your 401(k) account when leaving a job.
Starting a business or investing in one is another way to build wealth. Business ownership if managed properly can be a great way to accumulate and pass on wealth to your heirs.
If you’ve saved and positioned yourself properly over the years you’ll be like several of my clients who couldn’t wait to receive a buyout offer from their employer so they could retire and/or otherwise move on with their lives.
The items listed above are not meant to be an exhaustive list, but they do represent a good starting point to help you prevent a potential financial catastrophe. I want you to be better prepared then the Green Bay Packers were at quarterback.
Check out the retirement planning calculator tool at the end of this post. At the very least this will help you determine where you stand in terms of your readiness for retirement which can provide peace of mind in the event of a job loss or other unexpected financial life event.
Please contact me at 847-506-9827 for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss all of your financial planning and investing questions including your financial back-up plan. Check out our Financial Planning and Investment Advice for Individuals page to learn more about our services.
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