Whether you are retiring or navigating a life-changing event, learning from others’ experiences can help answer questions or spark new ones. Below are real-world examples of our work with clients determining the most appropriate course forward.
Choosing the right pension option
A couple nearing retirement was faced with what can be an overwhelming decision regarding their pension—choosing between a lump-sum or defined benefit amount with a surviving spousal benefit.
We were introduced to a potential client from one of our existing clients. This couple was about 3 months away from retirement and needed to make an important decision regarding taking his pension as a lump-sum or as a defined benefit amount with a surviving spousal benefit. He was overwhelmed with having to make this decision. Many colleagues at work were giving him conflicting advice. Some would say take the lump-sum while others would argue against it—indeed, overwhelming. He needed to make an informed decision and wanted to make sure it was going to be the right one.
We met with the couple and gathered several pieces of information; Social Security statements, bank savings information, pension information for both (Mrs. Client’s plan did not offer a lump-sum), other investments (401(k), IRA, Roth), life insurance policies, tax documents, home mortgage, and other debt information, etc. We examined all of their financial information so that we could coordinate their assets. This, in turn, would help us determine which pension income option would be most suitable for them.
Our plan consisted of four different “Cash Flow” scenarios that would help us determine which strategy would be most suitable for them. We examined taking the lump-sum versus the Pension option along with the tax consequences of each. We also examined some “what-if” scenarios. What if Mr. Client passes away at an early age? What would income look like for Mrs. Client. We needed to examine what the outcome of that would be before we make our decision. That way there are no unpleasant surprises and all the bases are covered.
Our analysis concluded that the prudent approach for this client was to elect the defined benefit pension from his employer with a 100% spousal death benefit and not elect the lump-sum. While the lump-sum was a sizeable amount, along with their other investments, there was a measure of risk that the couple could potentially run out of income if things don’t go as planned. He was able to review all his options, weigh the pros and cons, and make an informed decision.
Navigating through a difficult situation
A widow, relatively uninvolved in the family’s financial affairs, needed help determining her and family’s financial security after the sudden death of her husband.
A client introduced a family member to us at a difficult time in her life. Her husband had recently, and unexpectedly, passed away just a few years away from retirement at the early age of 60. She was overwhelmed and concerned because her husband oversaw all of the family’s financial affairs and was the high-income earner. What would now happen to her? Financially, would she be okay?
We spent weeks helping her gather all of the investment accounts, pension, retirement, tax, life insurance, Social Security, and property information. It took a significant amount of time to gather all of the investment information since her husband had multiple accounts. When all of the information was complete, we helped her “Cash Flow” her assets so that we could coordinate an efficient income and tax strategy. There was slightly over $1 million in investment assets made up of a variety of different types of tax treatment. We completed a Social Security analysis and determined it would be prudent for her to collect her widow benefit immediately and delay her own, personal benefit until the age of 70. This would provide her the most amount of income from Social Security. We completed an analysis of her husband’s pensions and elected a monthly income from one and a lump sum from the other. We examined her taxes and determined that an income combined of pre-tax and after-tax investments would provide her the most efficient income tax strategy.
We retitled all of the accounts into her name and named the children as beneficiaries. We referred her to an attorney who then updated her will and trust documents. We gathered all of her important documents and account information and organized it into a vault where she would have access in the event of an emergency. We met with the children so that they knew who their mom was working with. Through a caring and thoughtful approach, we were able to help our client through a difficult life-changing event and provide her the confidence needed for the future.