financial planning

Fall 2022 Issue

Do you have the old or the new life insurance?

By Tom Strangstalien, Insurance Advisor

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month and is the time when I urge all our members to take a moment to reflect on the life insurance protection they have in place. Not too long ago, life insurance (especially term life), was generally viewed as a commodity.

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Build your financial wisdom

By Mark Ziety, CFP®, AIF®, Senior Advisor, WisMed Financial

Join us for online educational sessions presented by WisMed Financial exclusively for Wisconsin Medical Society members. Session topics include retirement planning, social security and tax planning.

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Open enrollment

By Chris Noffke, GBDS, CSFS, Vice President of Employee Benefits

We’re rapidly approaching autumn and it’s time to start thinking about your open enrollment. Many companies fail to properly do an open enrollment, or maybe it’s your first time.

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Workers’ Compensation rate changes & good news for health care professionals

By Brian Fowler, WisMed Assure Account Director

Starting October 1, 2022, Workers’ Compensation rates in Wisconsin will drop for the seventh year in a row. Unlike many other states, Work Comp rates in Wisconsin are set by the state and are the same for every insurance carrier. The decrease is 8.47% over all employee classifications.  

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$111,000 more from Social Security

By Mark Ziety, CFP®, AIF®, Senior Advisor, WisMed Financial

With more than 2,700 rules and 567 separate filing strategies for Social Security, 96% of people fail to make the optimal claiming decision and miss out on $111,000 of benefits for the average household.

$111,000 – that’s a lot of money. Let’s look at some of the rules for Social Security so your decision is better informed.

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How to prevent floods from damaging your business

photo of cars on a flooded road

By Society Insurance Team, reposted with permission from Society Insurance

The continued impact of extreme weather events isn’t lost on businesses: according to one report, businesses can expect to see roughly $13 billion in flood damage in 2022. Tornados, derechos, and severe thunderstorms all threaten billions in damage, but with spring just ahead, let’s focus on how you can protect your business from the threat of flooding.

Businesses everywhere are susceptible to flood damage—so how can they prepare?

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Do you have the old or the new life insurance?

Tom Strangstalien

By Tom Strangstalien, Insurance Advisor

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month and is the time when I urge all our members to take a moment to reflect on the life insurance protection they have in place. Not too long ago, life insurance (especially term life), was generally viewed as a commodity. All policies were generally the same, so you simply bought the desired amount of coverage for the least expensive cost. Today’s New Life Insurance contains several bells and whistles well worth consideration and begs the question whether you should keep your old life insurance or upgrade to the new and improved model.

So, what are these new improvements that may benefit you and your family or your overall estate and financial plan? The major upgrades include protection for a critical illness, long term care protection and a living benefits or accelerated death benefit rider to the policy. All provide security that goes well beyond a payment to beneficiaries upon death.

If you elect a critical illness rider on your policy, the policy will pay either a lump sum payment or periodic payments upon sustaining a serious illness among a list of health conditions. These can include things like heart attack, coronary bypass events, cancer, kidney disease, stroke and various other neurological disorders. In other words, the life insurance proceeds can potentially be paid out while you’re living.

Another critical consideration when purchasing a life policy today is inclusion of long-term care protection. A long-term care event can devastate a financial plan. The premise is that since the life insurance amount will be paid out in the future (if the policy remains in force), and the amount of the proceeds is known, so why not allow the proceeds to also be paid for long-term care? It’s never too early to purchase long-term care protection! Placing a long-term care policy while young dramatically lowers the cost. So why not incorporate it into your life insurance policies? If you’re unable to perform a respective number of “activities of daily living,” you’re qualified to receive the life insurance benefits for payment of long-term care expenses. The life insurance amount will be paid out in the form of a payment to your beneficiaries or for costs associated with long-term care. It’s a win-win!

Lastly, many policies today include an accelerated death benefit provision, where if you would be unfortunately diagnosed by a physician to have a designated timeframe to live or are unable to perform activities of daily living, you qualify to receive benefits while you are living. How fortunate to be able to direct the life insurance proceeds as you see fit while you are alive! Many times, the cost of this benefit rider is zero.

As you can see, there are substantial benefits to upgrading to a policy containing the new available options. Please reach out to me and my team at WisMed Assure at insurance@wismedassure.org, complete this online form or call 866.442.3810 to explore upgrading your life insurance to the New Life Insurance.

$111,000 more from Social Security

By Mark Ziety, CFP®, AIF®, Senior Advisor, WisMed Financial

Mark Ziety

With more than 2,700 rules and 567 separate filing strategies for Social Security, 96% of people fail to make the optimal claiming decision and miss out on $111,000 of benefits for the average household.1

$111,000 – that’s a lot of money. Let’s look at some of the rules for Social Security so your decision is better informed.

  • Normal benefits: Benefits can be claimed between ages 62 and 70. The longer you wait, the larger your check. However, the increase is not linear. In fact, the growth is backloaded thereby encouraging people to delay.
change in benefit amounts from ages 62 to 70
  • Spousal benefits: Married people can claim a spousal benefit worth up to 50% of their spouse’s full retirement age benefit if it’s larger than their own and their spouse has started their benefit. As above, spousal benefits are reduced before full retirement age. However, they do not increase after full retirement age.
  • Divorced benefits: Divorced spouses can also claim a spousal benefit if the marriage lasted at least ten years and they are unmarried at the time they file for spousal benefits.
  • Survivor’s benefits: Spouses and surviving divorced spouses can receive the deceased spouse’s benefit starting at age 60 if the marriage was at least nine months (married) or ten years (divorced).
  • Withheld benefits: Benefits may be withheld if you are under full retirement age and still working. Once you reach full retirement age, the amount will be recalculated to include previously withheld amounts.
  • Taxable benefits: 0% to 85% of Social Security benefits may be included in taxable income. The higher your total income, the more of your Social Security you’ll owe tax on.

Optimizing Social Security also requires coordination with retirement investments, something most Social Security calculators omit. For instance, if you retire at age 65 and delay Social Security until age 70, you’ll spend your retirement investments while you wait. It may make sense to start Social Security earlier, even though the amount is less, allowing you to preserve your investment nest egg.

For many people, it’s wise to get professional help to determine the optimal timing for Social Security. Get it right and it could be worth $111,000.

The Social Security Timing Guide in our resources has even more details. Or, for one-on-one help schedule an appointment.

For personalized help eliminating debt, investing smart and securing retirement, please contact Mark Ziety, CFP®, AIF® 608.442.3750.

1. The retirement solution hiding in plain sight. InvestmentNews. (2020, June 12). Retrieved August 4, 2022, from https://www.investmentnews.com/whitepapers/the-retirement-solution-hiding-in-plain-sight

Build your financial wisdom

By Mark Ziety, CFP®, AIF®, Senior Advisor, WisMed Financial

Mark Ziety

Join us for online educational sessions presented by WisMed Financial exclusively for Wisconsin Medical Society members. Session topics include retirement planning, social security and tax planning. Be sure to register – the replay and materials will be provided even if you miss the live event.

Social Security; $111,000 More

September 9 from 12:00-12:30 p.m.

  • Ideal for anyone age 59 and over who has not filed for Social Security
  • With more than 2,700 rules and 567 separate filing strategies, 96% of people fail to make the optimal claiming decision and miss out on $111,000 of benefits for the average household1
  • Uncover various claiming strategies whether single, married, widowed or divorced
  • Optimize Social Security timing

Medicare Open Enrollment

October 19 from 12:00-12:30 p.m.

  • Ideal for anyone age 65 or older
  • The A, B, C and D puzzle of Medicare
  • Pros and cons of original Medicare versus Medicare Advantage
  • Wisconsin Medicare supplements are unique compared to other states
  • Tips when shopping for a policy

Year-end Tax Planning Workshop

November 18 from 12:00-12:30 p.m.

  • Ideal for everyone
  • This is a hands-on workshop, so bring your 2021 tax return
  • Review key tax numbers
  • Adjust your taxable income and deductions for 2022, 2023 and beyond

6 Keys to Retirement Success

January 20 from 12:00-12:45 p.m.

  • Ideal for anyone approaching or in retirement
  • Social Security benefits
  • Bridging the health insurance gap between early retirement and Medicare
  • Generating income from investments
  • Identifying a long-term care plan with or without insurance
  • Estate plan considerations
  • Optimizing the retirement tax bracket drop and rebound

To register, click here.

For personalized help eliminating debt, investing smart and securing retirement, please contact Mark Ziety, CFP®, AIF® 608.442.3750.

1. The retirement solution hiding in plain sight. InvestmentNews. (2020, June 12). Retrieved August 4, 2022, from https://www.investmentnews.com/whitepapers/the-retirement-solution-hiding-in-plain-sight

Your life has only 3 planning scenarios

Mark Ziety

By Mark Ziety, CFP®, AIF®, Senior Advisor, WisMed Financial

You’ll either have a long life, health problems along the way or a short life. That’s it.

Plan for those three situations whether you’re single, married, with or without kids and most of your planning is done. Let’s look at how to plan for each.

First, essential tasks for everyone

  • Manage monthly cash flow. Call it a budget, spending plan, living below your means or whatever makes it appealing to you. It doesn’t matter if you have high income or low income, everyone needs to control their inflow and outflow.
  • Life happens, have an emergency fund.
  • Pay off all high interest consumer debt.
  • Give of your time, resources and be thankful. Live happy.

Plan for a long life

  • Are you saving at least 15% for retirement with the right investments? Boosting it to 20-25% is even better.
  • Have you maximized your tax advantaged retirement accounts through your employer and on your own?
  • Will your tax burden be higher or lower in the future? Hint – if you have a lot of tax deferred investments, you could be igniting a tax bomb that hits later in life.
  • Save for kids’ education expenses.
  • Determine the monthly income you’ll have in retirement from all sources.
  • Dream about your future.

Plan for health problems

  • Health insurance is the obvious answer.
  • Auto and umbrella insurance can provide for you via uninsured/underinsured coverage.
  • Disability insurance that replaces two-thirds of your income if you can’t perform your own occupation is critical, especially during your early and mid-career. A policy with an inflation adjustment is even better.
  • Everyone over age 18 should have health care and financial power of attorney documents.
  • Do you have a source to pay for long-term care expenses? If not, consider an insurance policy.

 Plan for a short life

  • If anyone depends on you for income, get term life insurance. It’s cheap, so don’t skimp.
  • Are your beneficiary designations correct?
  • Do you need a will or trust?
  • Ensure your family knows where to find your documents and accounts.
  • Tell your family you love them. And if you’re faithful, pray.

Since we don’t know the future, all three plans are important for everyone. Our Physician’s Financial Guide has even more tips. Or, for one-on-one help schedule an appointment.

To your best life and healthy finances.

Mark Ziety, CFP®, AIF® 608.442.3750.
WisMed Financial, Inc. part of the Wisconsin Medical Society

Is your group disability insurance good enough?

Tom Strangstalien

By Tom Strangstalien, Insurance Advisor

May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month. This is the perfect time to evaluate your disability protection, determining if you’re adequately covered and address any potential holes or gaps in your coverage. A common theme I hear when talking with our members is, “I have disability insurance coverage as part of my employee benefits, so do I really need personal disability protection?” For physicians and medical professionals, the answer is almost always yes!

Typical limitations of group coverage

First, there is a cap on the amount of benefits that will be paid out for a claim. If the maximum benefit amount is $10,000 per month and as a physician you’re earning $300,000 per year, you’re not even covering half of your income. Are you willing to roll the dice for a potentially devasting and dramatic lifestyle change?

Second, group disability coverage contains “offset provisions.” This means that if you are drawing payments from other sources upon incurring a disability, the benefits paid by the group policy will be reduced pro-rata. These sources could include things like social security, liability settlements, workers compensation payments, employer provided retirement plan replacement benefits and other accident or short-term disability plans. A properly designed personal disability plan will not contain such provisions.

Next, group disability plans are not portable. In other words, if you change your place of employment or go into practice on your own or as an independent contractor, you will lose the disability protection. If you have incurred some health issues, coverage then can be very expensive or not available to you at all. This is why it’s so important to get a personal disability plan in place as early in life as possible.

Benefits of personal disability insurance

With a personal disability insurance plan, there are many optional benefits available to you. It’s not a one size fits all plan like a group plan tends to be. You can elect additional coverages such as:

  • student loan payment coverage
  • inflation protection
  • catastrophic coverage
  • partial and residual disability coverage levels
  • future increase benefits (you can increase the amount of benefits as your income increases with no additional medical underwriting)

What I want you to take away from this article during Disability Awareness Month is this: take a few minutes and review your current disability protection. If you do not yet have a personal disability plan, get one as soon as possible. Don’t roll the dice with your biggest asset – your ability to earn a substantial income! As the independent insurance agency of the Wisconsin Medical Society, we can shop all of the major insurers, review your current group plan and design a plan that will fully protect you and your family for your lifetime.

As your financial partner, your WisMed Assure team is here to take care of your personal financial security so that you can take the best possible care of yourself, your family and your patients.

For additional information regarding disability insurance, contact WisMed Assure at insurance@wismedassure.org, complete this online form or call 866.442.3810.

Your 2022 Tax Strategy

Mark Ziety

By Mark Ziety, CFP®, AIF®, Senior Advisor, WisMed Financial

Tax laws feel like stepping into quicksand lately, don’t they? Trying to understand if, when and how the tax laws will change can make you feel like the floor will fall out from under you at any moment. (Particularly at tax time.)

This is especially true if you’re a high earner or have accumulated a significant nest egg. With each tax change, it feels like your tax-saving strategy is in jeopardy. However, we are in familiar waters because the tax laws have evolved constantly. In the past 20 years alone, the wealthiest taxpayers’ top marginal tax rate has shifted between 35% and 39.6%.

It sounds all doom and gloom, but it’s possible to find tax-saving opportunities hiding inside your current strategy and every new tax law update.

With your 2021 tax return in hand, it’s time to start planning your 2022 tax strategy by checking some important lines on your 1040 or 1040-SR. Things to consider:

  • Lines 2b and 3b show dividends and interest that are adding to your current tax bill. Should you hold these investments in a tax deferred account?
  • Was line 4b exactly $6,000 or $12,000? If so, your backdoor Roth IRA contribution(s) was probably not reported correctly.
  • Did you have realized capital gains that may have added to your tax? Check line 7 to find out. If your capital gain tax rate is low, consider whether you should realize additional capital gains in 2022 or defer them to a future year.
  • Did your deductions help you? If line 12a is $12,550, $14,250, $18,800, $25,100, or $27,800 you did not get a deduction. Consider bunching multiple years of deductions into a single tax year so you can itemize deductions.

US Senators still intend to pass portions of last year’s failed Build Back Better Act in 2022, so the timing of property tax payments, additional tax deferral, and Roth conversions are all strategies that should be considered this year.

Want help with your tax strategy? Download WisMed Financial’s free tax planning guide  or schedule an appoinment.

P.S. Download the 2022 tax brackets, retirement contribution limits, investment checklist, and quick decision flow charts from the new WisMed Mobile app.

To your best life and healthy finances.

Mark Ziety, CFP®, AIF® 608.442.3750.
WisMed Financial, Inc. part of the Wisconsin Medical Society

Why Residents Need Disability Protection

Tom Strangstalien

By Tom Strangstalien, Insurance Advisor

As a resident or fellow, your biggest asset is quickly becoming your ability to earn an income. Until you become independently wealthy and can sustain a loss of earning power without consequence, it is imperative to have disability protection. But why do this as a resident or fellow, before the dramatic income increase of becoming an attending physician? Can you wait, get on my employer benefits group plan if applicable, and purchase supplemental personal disability insurance when I can better afford it? There are several reasons why this may not be the best choice as you build your overall financial plan.

While a medical resident or fellow, you are entitled to a base amount of coverage without being required to provide proof of financial qualification. Additionally, WisMed Assure works with several insurers that provide discounts to many of the residency programs. Furthermore, Wisconsin Medical Society Members are eligible for even more discounts. Throughout your career, these savings can add up to a monumental amount of money.

Disability insurance protection increases in cost as we age – it will be more expensive every year. By getting a policy early in your career, you’re locking in the price while it’s the most affordable. Another consideration is to purchase a future increase option at this time, where you can increase your protection as your future income increases, without the imposition of any more medical underwriting.

Group disability insurance coverage is a wonderful benefit, and I almost always advise to enroll for the maximum group benefits that you are eligible for, however it often has limitations. It may be capped at an amount that is insufficient to replace your total income if disabled. Portability is also a concern – if you change employers or career paths, the coverage will be lost. Almost always, group coverage contains offsets where any benefits attained from other sources will decrease the benefits paid out by group coverage. A solid personal disability policy, specially designed for physicians and those in the medical field, addresses these inherent risks.

So where should you obtain this vitally important coverage at the most affordable price? Only purchase personal disability insurance coverage through an independent agent who can offer plans from multiple companies. Never allow yourself to be sold a policy by a representative who offers only one plan, and thereby has an innate conflict of interest. The plan should be designed for you, not just a standard policy.

WisMed Assure exists for your benefit and offers plans from the Big 5 insurance companies, with plans specifically designed for physicians. Reach out to us and let us design a plan that fits your needs. James Dahle, MD, of The White Coat Investor states, “Early in residency, buy as large of a high-quality, specialty-specific, own occupation, individual disability insurance policy as an agent is willing to sell you.” Take care of this urgent financial chore today.

For additional information regarding disability insurance, contact WisMed Assure at insurance@wismedassure.org, complete this online form or call 866.442.3810.

Financial Success Requires Offense and Defense

…and, defense may not be what you think it is

By Tom Strangstalien, Financial Protection Advisor

Offense, financially speaking, is focused on growth. Defense is focused on keeping what you have. Pretty simple concepts all-in-all. However, each has nuances that vary depending on your tolerance for risk, age, retirement goals, current and future lifestyle goals, and of course, income.

Income itself is one of your offensive tools. This includes the income you earn from working and passive income earned by investments. The other form of offense shows up in investment portfolio design and is generally about choosing assets or combinations of assets that have a high probability for growth… and generally, a greater degree of risk. And, of course, you can also play defense in your portfolio by choosing assets that are slower growing and less risky. The proportion of offense and defense in your portfolio is dependent on the variables mentioned above. This is where the advice of a professional investment advisor who understands your current situation, along with your goals and desires, is essential to your success.

As to other forms of defense, well that’s where I have spent my life helping people figure out. For example, during your earning years, your salary and other earned income is your most formidable offensive asset. But what happens to your plans if due to illness, injury or – God forbid – death, reduces or eliminates your income? How will you and your family maintain your standard of living? How will you be able to continue pursuing your retirement plans?

A substantial market for income replacement insurance has steadily developed for decades. (I include life insurance in this definition as it provides income for your family if you die.) There are as many options as there are individuals who need this type of defense, which means you have the opportunity to choose the type of insurance that exactly fits your current situation (including budget), and future goals.

A general feeling within the insurance industry, is that once a couple reaches the age of 55, there is substantial probability that one of them will need a form of long term care during their lifetime.   I have personally witnessed this within couples that I have worked with throughout my career.  That’s where another form of defense plays an exceptionally important role in protecting your immediate financial security and the integrity of your estate.

Now, like income protection insurance, there are many long-term care insurance options. To choose the option that’s right for you, you have to take into consideration how much tax you are paying and will pay. Again, the nuances can be quite subtle, but generally speaking, an experienced advisor will be able to show you all the ins and outs of the insurance products available.

One thing is for certain; the best time to do this type of planning and make your decisions is now. The sooner the better because, as you age, your options may become more limited, and for certain, the cost will increase.

If you would like a personalized tour of all the options that are right for where you are today and where you want to be in the future, contact me. I look forward to being your defensive coach.

Tom Strangstalien 

Direct:  608-442-3730

Cell:  608-304-1579

tom.strangstalien@wismedassure.org