FINANCIAL BLIND SPOTS

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BLIND SPOT #1: Not having a professional team

Merriman Advisor, Michael Van Sant, CFP® says:

As we age and our family changes, our financial lives become more complex and we are vulnerable to more blind spots. More specialization and more time to manage is required.

At Merriman, we have spent over 35 years helping our clients hand pick the right team of trusted professionals to shed light on ALL of the blind spots below.

BLIND SPOT #2: Not saving enough for retirement

Merriman Advisor, Aaron Spencer, CFP® says:

As long as you’re contributing enough to maximize your company matching, you’re taking a great first step. When it comes to retirement plans, we encourage individuals and families to defer at least 10-15% per year, before company matching, but ideally, we advocate saving as much as the plan rules permit. Accelerating your savings into retirement can bring the benefit of making work optional sooner. Who doesn’t want that!

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BLIND SPOT #3: Not having specific goals


Merriman Advisor, Aimee Butler, CFP
® says:

A great financial advisor can help you fine-tune and find the balance between short- and long-term goals. They can also help you revisit your goals on an annual basis to evaluate whether changes are needed. That way, you can proactively make adjustments and keep yourself on the right track.

BLIND SPOT #4: Not having enough property and casualty coverage

Auto Insurance

Merriman Advisor, Chris Waclawik, CFP® says:

Many people just make sure they’re covered for the state minimum, but often the state minimum is so far below what you actually need, you can have significant liability exposure. We regularly review our clients’ auto insurance policies and often recommend maximizing their auto insurance coverage and adding an umbrella policy to make sure there are no gaps.

Home Insurance

Merriman Advisor, Sarah Kordon, CFP®, CRPS® says:

Whether it’s through a homeowner’s or renter’s policy, it’s important to obtain the right level of insurance on your personal property to replace your valuables in the event of a disaster, like fire or theft. For homeowners, your policy should also cover the replacement value of the home. Don’t forget to review your coverage on an annual basis to ensure that it provides the right level of protection as your home and personal property value increases. At Merriman, we’ll work with your property and casualty insurance professional to make sure you’re protected, or if you’re not currently working with someone, we can refer you to a professional we trust.

Rental Homes

Merriman Advisor, Phuc Dang, CPA, CFP® says:

When it comes to risk and insurance planning, rental and vacation homes have their own nuances that you need to consider. Work with a professional to make sure you have proper coverage and don’t forget to review it annually. It’s also important to maintain good cost basis records, including home improvements, for the life of that property to minimize the eventual capital gain on its sale.

Umbrella Policy

Merriman Advisor, Cheryl Curran, CFP® says:

Umbrella insurance is “extra insurance,” like an umbrella is extra protection against the rain, even though you have a raincoat. Think of your regular car and homeowner’s insurance as the raincoat, and the umbrella insurance as the “umbrella” you carry for torrential downpours. In situations where losses aren’t covered by your other policies, umbrella insurance can provide:

  • Additional lawsuit coverage.
  • Added coverage for defense costs.
  • Liability coverage for some lawsuits not covered by your underlying auto or home insurance (for example, an accident involving a boat you rented on vacation, or a slander lawsuit).

The good news is that this is one of the best buys in the insurance business. Make sure to review your coverage frequently with your financial advisor or insurance professional to make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected.

Everybody's needs are a little different.

We can provide customized recommendations just for you.

BLIND SPOT #5: Not having enough life or disability insurance

Life Insurance

Merriman Advisor Mark Metcalf, CFP® says:

If you’d like to make sure your dependents can achieve their financial objectives if you were to pass away, then you probably need a life insurance policy. The amount of life insurance you maintain should be based on your unique projected financial needs and available financial resources. For most people, these needs involve paying off a mortgage, allowing a stay-at-home spouse to continue to do so, funding college education, covering routine living expenses, and providing a financial cushion while your dependents are grieving. While every situation is unique, a typical rule of thumb is to maintain insurance of at least seven to ten times your annual salary. We help our clients periodically assess their level of coverage to make sure they have enough for their changing needs.

Disability Insurance

Merriman Advisor Aimee Butler, CFP® says:

Many people don’t realize that you and your income are your largest asset, particularly in the early-to-mid years of your career. Often a base level of coverage is available through your employer. That’s a good place to start, but it probably isn’t enough. Contrary to popular belief, Social Security isn’t a good backup. Unless your employer policy is enough to cover your current lifestyle, we recommend getting additional insurance to replace your earnings in the event you are sick or injured and unable to work.

BLIND SPOT #6: Not having the right balance of risk and reward

Merriman Advisor Alan Hensley, CFP® says:

Taking the right amount of risk is key to meeting your goals. It can be easier to stick with an investment strategy if you match your risk to your goals. In general, you should take more risk in the long-term and less risk in the short-term, but figuring out the right amount involves many different factors. A Wealth Advisor can help you evaluate those factors and manage your emotions as the market fluctuates so you can stay the course.

We'll help you make sure every blind spot is covered.

BLIND SPOT #7: Not having a current will

Merriman Advisor Paresh Kamdar, CFP® says:

If you have specific thoughts about who should receive your assets after you die, a will is the only way to make sure this happens. Some of your assets are probably set up to pass just fine based on your beneficiary designations, but not all investment accounts have this option. Be sure to think about these and your personal property assets – do you want the state to decide how those are handled? It’s a good practice to review your will as your circumstances change, or at least every five years. If you’re not already working with an estate planning attorney, reach out to Merriman and we can refer you to a professional who’s a good match for your situation.

BLIND SPOT #8: Not having enough set aside for emergencies

How much to save

Merriman Advisor Frank McLaughlin, CFP® says:

Having an adequate emergency fund helps you stay prepared for the unexpected. We recommend that you have at least three months of your spending set aside, and some people may need even more. If you have a job with variable income or you know you may encounter large expenses like medical bills, you should probably set aside at least six months’ worth of expenses. That said, it’s a balance and you don’t want to have too much sitting in cash because you may be missing out on higher earnings potential.

Finding the best rate

Merriman Advisor Charlene Carter, CFP® says:

It’s also important to make sure your emergency money is in an FDIC-insured savings account, preferably one that earns at least 2% APY. If you’re not sure you have enough saved, or if you need help finding the most competitive savings rate, we can help.

Not sure where to start?

We can help you decide which blind spots to focus on first.

BLIND SPOT #9: Not planning ahead to care for dependents

Merriman Advisor Eric Jonson, CFP® says:

Your loved ones’ ongoing care is very important and requires detailed planning. Whether it’s having enough for college or taking care of your parents, a Certified Financial Planner can help you make sure your plan is fully viable. You never know when the unexpected may hit, and the peace of mind you get from a completed plan is invaluable.

BLIND SPOT #10: Not consolidating old retirement accounts

Merriman Advisor Lowell Parker, CFP® says:

There are many benefits to consolidating dormant retirement accounts, including:

  • Aligning investments with your financial plan
  • Lowering expenses
  • Reducing the number of accounts to manage when anything changes, like your beneficiaries or your address

However, there are a few scenarios where you wouldn’t want to roll over your 401(k) including:

  • Being in a large plan that has low expenses
  • Potential lawsuit protection
  • Going from a large company to a startup that doesn’t offer a 401(k)

If you need help figuring this out, we recommend speaking with a financial advisor about what’s best for your unique situation.

BLIND SPOT #11: Not maximizing your health insurance benefit

Merriman Advisor Geoff Curran, CPA/ABV, CFA, CFP® says:

High-deductible health plans have become more popular lately as they are lower cost (for the employer and you) and allow you to save pre-tax dollars into a health savings account. The downside is that they also carry higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, potentially putting your family at risk financially. On the other end of the spectrum, Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) and Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) coverage have lower deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. These options are generally more expensive, and you should be careful to maximize your benefit by making smart choices about your care.

Beyond maximizing your current benefit, it’s important to plan for medical expenses in retirement. Based on a 2018 Fidelity study, a couple retiring at 65 can expect to incur $280,000 in medical expenses, not including the cost of long-term care. Planning for and having resources available in your financial plan to cover these costs can protect you from having medical costs impact your retirement lifestyle.

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