Finding insurance and financial advisors I trust

By Tim Bartholow, MD

I have several connections to our Wisconsin Medical Society, and I’d like to share some good and bad experiences with on the street financial advising and insurance advising, and how WisMed Financial and WisMed Assure cut through market confusion.

Like many physicians, I’ve worked around insurance for many years and have served as Chief Medical Officer and quality advisor for several health insurance companies. You’d think that I would know a sturdy amount about insurance and personal finances. Don’t get me wrong, I live modestly, save aggressively and have been very fortunate, but for three decades, I didn’t have advice that allowed me to be assured  that I had the right insurance and personal finance solutions.

When I was in residency, I was approached by an agent from a reputable insurance company who signed me up for long- and short-term disability coverage at a price that I could afford. As I saw colleagues have accidents, become unable to practice or displaced from their employment, I learned how important it is to have a policy not tied to an employer. I bought a significant life insurance policy from that same agent, which I continued for 30 years. At about 15 years in, the agent approached me about buying whole life, which she made to sound like great security for my family despite its high cost. I mentioned this to an investment advisor who didn’t try to sell me something else, but made it clear I was about to make a mistake.

So now what? Which investment advisor was giving me the best advice? Which insurance agent was working for me, not themselves or the company quota they were required to meet? I just wanted independent advisors who would authentically fulfill their full fiduciary duty to me and my family.

So, for the next decade and a half, I squirreled away savings with various investment advisors – some large houses, some smaller practices. Several of these advisors offered to take care of all of my savings, but I couldn’t put my full faith in any one of them. I wasn’t sure that their motives were to keep my costs of investing low. And on the insurance side, I didn’t know if I needed the expensive policies that that I had carried for 30 years, the small one I had purchased from a door-to-door salesman or my work’s plan, which if I left, I wouldn’t be able to continue. It was simply confusing.

Then, at our Wisconsin Medical Society, I met Tom Strangstalien of WisMed Assure and Mark Ziety of WisMed Financial. On the insurance side, Tom helped me understand my choices and needs for long-term care and life insurance. He steered me away from some products and towards others and we landed on a solution that is appropriate for me and my family. Mark walked me through how my investments in many accounts were costing me fees that eroded their savings potential. While I’ve had advisors assess my risk tolerance, I’ve not experienced financial advising nor insurance agents that studied my concerns and goals so comprehensively and helped me to understand which choices made best sense for me to do next. I’m not a wealthy person, but Mark saved me approximately $9,000 in annual fees. I wish I had known that a decade ago!

I asked to provide this testimonial, WisMed Assure did not approach me. Whether you’re a medical student or close to retiring, I want our physicians to make great financial choices so they can worry about their patients, not about their risks and retirement. My quick advice is this: find someone you authentically trust for your financial advising and find someone away from your employment (if you’re not a governing partner/practice owner) to advise you about insurance for you and your family. And if, like me, you’re having trouble placing your full faith in what you’re being advised to do, WisMed Assure and WisMed Financial are more than capable of providing you with a second opinion or reaction to what you’re being told. They are there to serve you, and because their efforts support our Medical Society, there is no confusion about whose interests come first. I am probably biased by my several connections to the Wisconsin Medical Society and my pride in MetaStar, WISHIN, WHIO and WPS, all of which the Wisconsin Medical Society helped start. So do what works for you, but personally, I’ve never been so reassured and confident that I am doing the right thing for me and my family.

Contact the WisMed Assure team at 608.442.3810 or and contact WisMed Financial at 608.442.3750 or

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as insurance advice related to your specific policy or situation. Please consult with a qualified insurance advisor or professional before making any policy decisionsFull disclaimer and contact information.