In my conversations with financial planning professionals, a common pain point that is brought up is finding ways to stay connected to clients throughout the year that demonstrate value and are highly personalized to each individual household. This is especially a hurdle when it comes to clients who aren’t new and are doing well with the steps their financial advisor has laid out for their financial plan.
So, how can you identify new planning opportunities and conversations to have with clients? More importantly, how do you make sure these planning opportunities provide actual value? I’m so glad you asked! Considering I’m currently writing this as we head into Q4, a timely planning opportunity that’s sure to add value to your service offerings is to talk about health insurance optimization with clients before the end of the year.
The large majority of pre-retirees do not feel very prepared at all for retirement, according to a study by Edward Jones and Age Wave, especially when it comes to finances (only 29% feel very prepared) and health (only 25%). Those stats are bleak, but reveal a great opportunity for advisors to step in and help clients while increasing the level of trust in their client relationships. Plus, the top two key areas that people without financial advisors say they would want guidance on are retirement income planning and Social Security and Medicare advice.
Before you tune out and say you don’t know enough about healthcare or health insurance to do that, I’ve got good news: you don’t have to! Below, I’ll cover three easy, effective ways (using life events) to start bringing healthcare planning into your client conversations immediately. No special training required. However, if you want to make it extra easy, partnering with a company that offers healthcare planning software is an excellent strategy.
Change in Employment Status or Job
This is perhaps the easiest life event to bring health insurance optimization into client meetings. A career change, promotion, starting a new business, and even moving from a full-time job to a part-time job (or vice versa) are all events that impact clients’ income and therefore are changes they’ll want to discuss with you to adjust their financial plan. As clients head into a new year, this topic can be especially top of mind if they are considering a big career (and life!) move. This life event also makes it easier to talk about healthcare because most Americans get their healthcare coverage through their employer. So odds are that changes to a client’s health insurance is a topic already on their mind. While discussing their change in employment status, here are some questions you can ask your client depending on their circumstances:
- Did you have health insurance through your employer?
- Will you be able to enroll in health insurance through this new employer?
- Does your ex-employer offer any health benefits to retirees?
- Does your employer qualify for COBRA coverage, and if so, will they subsidize any of its cost for you?
Additionally, if someone loses a pension and they were counting on that as a large part of their retirement income, healthcare planning can be done to find cost savings opportunities so as not to completely derail your client's financial plans.
An important part of retirement planning is optimizing healthcare coverage. If clients are still working in their 60s, their 64th birthday is a great trigger to bring up retirement and healthcare planning. Send clients a birthday card along with a note prompting them to schedule a meeting with you to discuss retirement plans. During the meeting, as you go through the important aspects of retirement, touch on their health insurance options and costs. Medicare is, of course, the most common health insurance for people 65 and older.
Discuss what Medicare is, how it works, and different plan options. Ask clients about their current and future expected healthcare needs in retirement. What medications do they currently take? Do they think they’ll need joint replacement surgery in the future? It’s also important to note that if they’re retiring before 65, their health insurance options are much different than clients who retire post-65. You can read all about pre-65 retiree health insurance options in this free guide.
Changes in Their Family or Marital Status
Having a baby, gaining a dependent through adoption, losing a dependent because they’ve reached the age of 26, getting married, getting divorced, and becoming widowed are all big life events that will have an impact not only on your clients’ personal lives but on their financial plans and their healthcare needs and coverage options too. This one is similar to the change in employment status because these life events might prompt clients to already be thinking about their healthcare coverage and needs.
For clients who are gaining a dependent (through pregnancy or adoption), walk through their healthcare coverage options with them. See if their current employer-sponsored health coverage plan will become too expensive for them after gaining a dependent, and then review their other options with them. Is there a particular pediatrician they want to see? If so, they’ll want to make sure that the provider is in-network. If your client has a child aging off their family health insurance plan, or starting work or school in a different state, you can help them determine which health plan option will best fit their needs, and analyze the options available to them, too. This is one of my favorite ways that advisors can connect with the next generation to start to show them a glimpse at the benefits of working with an advisor.
For clients who are experiencing a change in their marital status, a conversation about healthcare options is an important part of the updates to their financial plan. For example, if your client is employed and was on their spouse’s employer-sponsored health insurance plan and they become widowed or divorced, they might qualify to enroll in their own employer’s health insurance. They’ll need to reach out to their HR department and let them know about their situation to see if they qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Otherwise, they’ll need to wait until their employer’s annual open enrollment period. These are all steps that you, the financial advisor, can walk clients through.
It can feel daunting to bring up healthcare costs and health insurance coverage out of the blue in client meetings. That’s why knowing about specific life events is so important to seamlessly build healthcare planning into your comprehensive financial planning offerings. Luckily, in addition to the Life Events mentioned in this article, Open Enrollment for Medicare and The Marketplace is right around the corner — so now is a great time to schedule client meetings to talk about healthcare coverage optimization! Not only will this make clients’ financial plans more accurate, but you’ll also provide a unique service to clients that deepens the advisor-client relationship and ensures they feel that you have their best interests in mind.
Christine Simone is the CEO of Caribou, a software solution for the finance industry. Although she’s years away from her own retirement, Christine is obsessed with helping people plan for and optimize their healthcare costs.