So I was pretty psyched to hear a Certified Financial Planner talk about less common ways that advisors can save their clients money. CFP Mark Maurer is president and CEO of Low Load Insurance Services, which caters to fee-only planners. Maurer recently conducted a webinar that covered ways to save money on the big-ticket policies: life, disability and long-term care insurance.
What I learned:
Beware of riders. Two commonly-pushed riders are “waiver of premium” and “return of premium.” Maurer calls these the “undercoating” of the insurance business; in other words, they’re pricey add-ons that may not have the value you’re told.
Premium waivers allow you to stop paying your premiums if you’re disabled, but you typically have to be totally disabled to qualify (unable to work in any occupation, vs. your own occupation, for example). Some policies have the same definition of disability as Social Security, which is notoriously tough to qualify for.
If you’re really concerned about not being able to pay your premiums, then the solution may be disability insurance, Maurer said. Each dollar you’d spend on a DI policy would likely buy you far more insurance than what you’d get from a waiver of premium rider.
Return of premium also sounds good—the idea being that if you don’t use your long-term care policy, your heirs will get back the money you’ve paid in. These riders come with restrictions, too. Typically you have to own your policy at least 10 years and not have made a claim within those 10 years. Any claims thereafter would be deducted from your heir’s payout.
Again, Maurer suggests asking, “What are you really after?” In this case, it’s money for heirs. Buying a permanent life insurance policy likely will offer a better and more certain payout compared to an ROP rider, he said.
Apply the 80/20 rule to long term care insurance. If you’ve ever had a loved one in a nursing home, you know how shockingly expensive custodial care can be. Those who buy long term care insurance often opt for the daily payout amount that will cover either a private or a semi-private room in their area.
Maurer points out, though, that nursing home costs include expenses the patients would be incurring whether or not they were there—expenses like meals and laundry, for example, that typically account for 20% of the total.
So, one way to reduce premiums is to insure for 80% of the costs. Instead of the $255 a day that the average Florida nursing home costs, he suggests, shoot for something like $200 a day…which typically lowers your premium by, guess what, 20%.
Lifetime benefits on disability insurance aren’t a slam dunk. If you have to be disabled, wouldn’t you rather get checks for life rather than having them stop at age 65, when most DI policies cut off?
Well, of course! But like the riders mentioned above, adding lifetime benefits may not give you all the coverage you think you’re getting.
A typical policy will continue 100% of your benefit only if you’re disabled by age 45 and continue to be disabled until age 65, Maurer said. Those disabled after 45 get a smaller benefit, based on a sliding scale that gives you less the older you are when you become disabled. Someone who’s disabled at 58, for example, might get only 35% of his monthly benefit after age 65.
Is that worth premiums that might be 33% higher? Only you can answer that question, but Maurer, who has two disability policies, has decided against adding lifetime benefits to either.
“I didn’t think it was worth the additional premium,” he said.