Feb 26, 2020 • 33M

A physician's Rx for your financial health in retirement

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Journalist and author Mark Miller on getting retirement right - featuring downloadable guides and podcast interviews with nationally-recognized experts.

Financial planners are sort of like money doctors - but what if your planner actually was a physician? That’s the unique biography of my guest on the podcast this week - Dr. Carolyn McClanahan. 

Carolyn is a physician turned financial planner. She became interested in planning when her husband inherited some money - and wanted to make some career moves that would require him to accept a lower income. The couple set out to find some financial planning help, but they were dissatisfied by what they found.

One thing led to another, and these days Dr. McClanahan runs her own financial planning practice in Florida, called Life Planning Partners. She also has emerged as a leader in the planning profession, in part because of her unusual blend of professional expertise. Carolyn speaks and writes regularly at conferences and writes for Forbes and Financial Planning Magazine. You can find her quoted regularly in the Washington Post, New York Times, CNBC, and NPR; I have turned to her for insights in plenty of stories I’ve written in recent years. Dr. McClanahan brings a fresh, provocative perspective to a range of topics where health and financial issues intersect - everything from chronic illness to end of life, long term care, health care reform, and health care costs. 

I asked Carolyn to tell the story of her unusual journey from practicing medicine to providing financial advice. We also talked about how the financial planning field has changed over the past two decades, how she thinks about health - and health care expenses - in the context of retirement plans, and how to select Medicare plans. Finally, I asked Dr. McClanahan for her thoughts on health care reform and proposals for Medicare for All.

Listen to my conversation with Carolyn McClanahan by clicking the player icon at the top of the newsletter. You also can access the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

New guide: How to time your retirement

If you’re a paid subscriber to the newsletter, you know I’ve been publishing a series of guides on key retirement topics.

The latest was just issued last week - a guide on timing retirement decisions. This can be a really important inflection point for your financial success in retirement, so it’s worth thinking about carefully.

The last years of work usually are peak earning years. And working even a few years more years - or less - will impact your retirement math significantly. Your timing affects the number of years that you’ll rely on savings to meet living expenses. It impacts the number of years that you can contribute to retirement saving accounts. And perhaps most important, working longer helps sets the stage for a delayed Social Security claim. That’s because it provides the income you need to meet living expenses while you wait to file.

But setting a retirement target date and sticking to it can be very difficult . . . even risky.

About one-third of workers tell pollsters they plan to work well past traditional retirement age, or not retire at all. But the data also tell us that about one-third of workers retire earlier than expected - and that the farther out you push your target date, the less likely you are to work to that date.

The most common causes for unexpected early retirement are health problems and job loss. But the study uncovered clear reasons for unplanned early retirement only in about one-quarter of cases.

Other reasons are more difficult to measure. The pull of leisure activities and time with family are factors, along with possible age discrimination. But the quality of work also matters.

The guides are downloadable, quick reads, each paired with a podcast interview on the subject at hand. My aim is to create a series of just-in-time retirement education modules - read the guide, listen to the podcast and you’re good to go. The series already includes guides on claiming Social Security, transitioning to Medicare and how to hire a financial planner.

Becoming a subscriber is easy - to sign up, click the little green button at the bottom of the newsletter page, or visit my website to learn more. The subscription price is just $5 month, and you can cancel easily at any time if you’re not happy. Once you subscribe, you’ll have access to the entire retirement guide series, including this new one on retirement timing. Plus, you’ll get links to all the articles I publish for Reuters, The New York Times, Morningstar and Wealthmanagement.com. I also publish links to the most interesting new research in the field, and links to work by other journalists that I find compelling.

Finally, you’ll be supporting independent, unbiased journalism.

Thanks for listening - and I hope to see you over on the subscriber side soon.

Can you pass this Social Security quiz?

My column for WealthManagement.com this month is a quick, fun quiz on Social Security basics. It’s written with financial planners in mind, but I encourage everyone to take a spin and see how you do. Among the questions:

  • Everyone’s working longer—right? So, what is the average age that Americans file for Social Security?

  • What’s the better deal—filing for Social Security early or delaying a claim past full retirement age (FRA)?

  • Are the pre-FRA reductions equal to the post-FRA credits?

  • Will your Social Security retirement benefits replace the same amount of pre-retirement income for my clients in 2035 as they do today?

Good luck!

Where else can you find the podcast?

The podcast always is embedded in the newsletter (free and for subscribes). You also can find it on several of the most popular podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

If you do subscribe there, please leave a rating and comment to let me know what you think - it’s an easy way to help build the program’s audience.