Financial advisors may be experts when it comes to investments and estate planning, but what about Medicare?
Over 10,000 people turn 65 and age into Medicare every day. These individuals are also promptly realizing just how confusing and complex Medicare can be.
Unfortunately, many financial advisors, CPAs, and CFPs are in the same boat. Could you confidently explain to a client when to sign up for Medicare to avoid expensive penalties?
If you're a financial professional and want to provide Medicare guidance to your older clients, you have two choices:
- Partner with a local Medicare agent and establish a referral system
- Learn Medicare yourself
Dan Casey, best-selling author, TEDx speaker, and Founder of Bridgeriver Advisors, says you should start with the former: "If I knew of an agent and trusted them, I would've just had an agent come in."
However, he couldn't find a trustworthy, local agent with an office, something that was important to him in his search. Before long, Dan realized he'd have to jump into the Medicare world himself.
Financial Advisors and Medicare
When you completed your Series 63, Series 7, Series 6, or Series 65 licenses, did you ever have Medicare on the brain? For Dan, the answer was an overwhelming no. "I didn't want to learn anything about Medicare – at all," he says.
However, as time went on, Dan quickly realized he needed to either find a Medicare expert locally or get into it himself.
"There's more of a need for Medicare than financial products," he explains. "Everyone needs Medicare at some point."
Clients were asking him Medicare-related questions, and he risked losing these clients to someone else. He wanted to build trust, and the fastest solution was finding a local Medicare agent to partner with.
He called around and talked to several agents but none of them had an office. They also weren't willing to come to his office to meet his clients. "I'm trying to build a relationship. I need the agent to come into my office to build trust," he explains.
If the stars had aligned, Dan said he would've been thrilled to partner with a local agent. Learning Medicare from scratch is a massive task, and the income may not be worth the trouble, he says.
"Unless you do it full-time, it's not going to change your world. I'm not doing this for the revenue stream – I'm doing it to serve my clients," he says.
If you're a financial professional looking to partner with a local agent, Dan says to look for a few key things:
- Years of experience
- Number of clients
- Proof they know the ins and outs of Medicare
"Quiz them!" he says. "Learn about the top Medicare mistakes and ask them questions."
Must-Know Medicare Mistakes
Whether you plan to sell Medicare products or not, there's a ton of value in familiarizing yourself with basic Medicare rules.
"There are mistakes that will haunt your clients for the rest of their life," he says.
One of Dan's clients enrolled in Medicare Part B but was unaware of the 6-month window to apply for a Medicare Supplement without answering health questions.
"He missed that window by a few days," he says. "It haunts him now, and it's these situations that make learning about Medicare worthwhile for any advisor."
Dan says the most important Medicare rules for every financial advisor to learn are deadlines.
"Everyone should be familiar with the open enrollment windows. If someone has a pre-existing condition and doesn't know their Guaranteed Issue (GI) window, they likely can't get a Medicare Supplement – ever," he says.
Helping High Earners Through Income Adjustments
As a financial strategist, you can help your clients through some tricky Medicare situations.
Clients with a high net worth will likely face higher premiums for their Medicare coverage. These premium adjustments are called IRMAA, or Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts.
For example, if a client's yearly income in 2019 was over $750,000, they would pay over $500 more for Medicare Part B's monthly premium in 2021 (Medicare.gov).
These adjustments are based on your tax return from two years prior. Financial advisors can help these clients plan by anticipating the extra cost and taking steps to mitigate it.
Some financial professionals even keep a close eye on vested and restricted stocks that could increase a client's income in that two-year look-back period, a service Medicare agents aren't necessarily able to provide.
Unexpected Benefits of Adding Medicare to Your Firm
Marketing in the financial services category is expensive and crowded. The 55+ age demographic is bombarded with marketing for finances, Dan says.
Dan holds regular seminars – it's a key part of his outreach strategy. It was fairly common for him to spend over $4,000 on Facebook advertising to get about 15 seats filled for a financial services seminar. "Less than that, and it feels a little sparse. More than that and you build less of a bond with everyone, and your appointment ratio goes down," he says.
Once Dan added Medicare to his firm, he was able to promote Medicare seminars and spend a fraction of the price.
"It only costs about $1,500 to fill the same number of seats. It's so much cheaper, because these people need you," he explains.
Dan says less expensive marketing is the single largest advantage of adding Medicare to his firm.
But that's not all.
Cross-Selling Financial Services and Medicare
Dan says his Medicare seminars bring in potential opportunities on the financial services side, making the addition of Medicare to his firm a lucrative one.
"One individual, though not a client yet, came to one of my Medicare seminars. We've had a couple appointments, and it turns out she has $2.2 million in assets," he says.
Without that Medicare seminar, Dan would've never come across this opportunity.
He expects this trend to continue.
Finally, being able to help clients – and keep them in your office – is a no-brainer.
"It's nice to be a boutique firm to my current clients – they don't have to go find someone else," Dan says.
Everyone needs help with Medicare, which is a huge value-add for Dan's firm.
Should Medicare Agents Get Into Financial Services?
While it made sense for Dan to learn Medicare and get licensed to sell, does it make sense for Medicare agents to learn the financial services side?
Dan isn't so sure.
"I've been in the finance world for 20 years, and I'm still learning things. There's tax strategy, accounts, investing... you can't just pick it up quickly," he explains.
While Medicare is definitely complex, Dan says you don't need decades to become an expert in it – a major advantage for financial professionals who want to expand.
He recommends Medicare agents to find a local advisor to build a good relationship with.
Jack of All Trades, Master of None
Now that Dan has added Medicare services to his firm, the question becomes, where do you stop?
There are many other lines of insurance consumers need help with, such as P&C – how do you know when you're offering too much?
"The phrase 'jack of all trades, master of none' rings true here," Dan says. "I personally wouldn't do anything else. I'd hire someone else if I wanted to bring P&C into my firm. Medicare is one of those things where it's the perfect additive. Everyone needs it, it's super confusing, but you don't need decades to become expert in it."
Don't Want to Learn About Medicare?
You're busy – we all are – and you may not have the interest or the time to learn something new.
You should still have a basic understanding of Medicare, but if you don't want to learn the ins and outs, consider partnering with a senior market agent.
Find someone who specializes in Medicare so you can refer your clients to them and know they're getting proper advice on their insurance. If you need help finding someone to partner with on this, let us know. We have independent agents across the country and could help facilitate a partnership.
If there are no local agents that you feel are trustworthy, we can help you by servicing and educating your clients from our office.
Clients, understandably, will have questions about their healthcare in retirement. Medical bills can be some of the most expensive bills a senior will face in their golden years – are you prepared to help them strategize and manage this burden?
Prepare yourself to help them handle it, and your business and reputation will improve.
Consider learning Medicare and getting licensed to sell, partner with a local Medicare agent, or reach out to us for help.