Before the death of a spouse, here’s how to prepare a financial plan for living alone


This article was originally published in USA Today.


Before the death of a spouse, here’s how to prepare a financial plan for living alone


Of all the risks couples face in retirement, the death of a spouse is a certainty.

But they don’t seem to be planning it, according to a Merrill Lynch and Age Wave study on widowhood. Consider:

  • More than half (53 percent) of widows say they and their spouse did not have a plan for what would happen if one of them died.
  • Seventy-six percent of married retirees say they would not be financially prepared for retirement if their spouse died.
  • Following the death of a spouse, half of widows experience a household income decline of 50 percent or more.

So what should couples do to better prepare for the loss of a spouse?


Plan for the obvious

There are 20 million widows currently in the U.S., and 1.4 million new widows annually, according to the Merrill Lynch/Age Wave study. Despite that, most married couples don’t like discussing or planning for death, says James Watkins, III, a managing member of InvestSense.

But it’s best to tackle this tough subject head-on given the potentially dire consequences.


Get help

If you need help, consider talking to a qualified, trusted and competent adviser such as a certified financial planner.

“A new widow needs a comprehensive financial evaluation and plan,” says Steven Podnos, a certified financial planner with Wealth Care.

Watkins says professionals can help address what many couples overlook – the potential cash flow issues that emerge after the death of a spouse. “These are issues that need to be addressed as part of a comprehensive financial planning program early in a marriage,” he says.


For her part, Cary Carbonaro, a certified financial planner with United Capital Financial Advisers, recommends working with a certified financial planner long before becoming a widow or widower. After the loss of a spouse, the remaining partner “might make mistakes that will be difficult to recover from,” she says.



Hire other professionals, too

Consider working with an estate planning attorney and an elder law attorney.

According to Watkins, an experienced and knowledgeable elder law attorney can perform a detailed inventory of the available financial resources and “help integrate Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs to maximize the benefit received,” he says.

“A good estate planning attorney can then determine if any asset protection/wealth preservation strategies are needed, in order to qualify for and preserve government benefits,” Watkins says. “For instance, due to the stringent requirements to qualify for Medicaid, estate attorneys will often draft an income-only trust to make sure an individual qualifies for Medicaid.”


Do you have enough life insurance?

Forget for the moment whether you should buy term or cash value life insurance, the question you should be asking is do you have enough life insurance, Watkins says.

It’s “important to get the needed amount of insurance in case of an unexpected/premature death,” he says. A financial professional can quantify how much to purchase using any number of methods – human life, financial needs and capital retention.


Don’t worry so much about federal estate taxes

With the current federal estate tax exemption at $11.18 million per person, most people do not have to worry about the tax implications of death, Watkins says.

But do worry about your retirement accounts and the beneficiaries of those accounts. “Inherited retirement plans are often the largest asset in someone’s estate,” Watkins says.

The beneficiaries need to do a “forensic analysis” of the inherited plan’s portfolio to first determine if the funds are legally prudent and then if the funds are appropriate given the changed circumstances.

“At this point, the widow needs planning, not product,” he says. “This is another area where estate attorneys and elder law attorneys can maintain the focus on planning and help protect widows financially.”


Bottom line

The key to planning properly for the death of a spouse, Watkins says, is to determine exactly what the available financial resources are and calculate financial needs. Then plan on the best way to maximize those resources while getting additional ones through government benefit programs.


This article was originally published in USA Today.

Why women invest 40 percent less than men (and how we can change it)


This article was originally published in NBC News.


Women are taking control of their financial lives like never before, but there’s still a long way to go when it comes to investing.


Well, well, well. After being locked out of the financial world for centuries, women are now besting men when it comes to investing returns. Not only do women consistently earn higher returns than men (by 40 basis points on average), they were also able to add more to their account balances over time (12.4 percent compared to 11.6 percent ), according to a study by Fidelity.

There’s just one problem: Despite being aces at investing, women just aren’t doing enough of it. Women overall invest 40 percent less money than men do according to a survey by digital investment platform Wealthsimple. And if given the opportunity to do more, many women wouldn’t step up. In a recent survey by Lexington Law — which asked men and women what they’d do with an extra $1,000 — men were 35 percent more likely than women to say they would invest the money.


This is a problem why, exactly?


You may have heard it said that “women have to do more with less,” but what does that really mean? Well, given that the gender pay gap leaves the average woman earning just 80 percent of what a man earns, this means that women will have to save a higher percentage of their salary just to achieve parity with men when it comes to retirement savings.

Look at it this way:

If a man making a $50,000 salary puts 9 percent of his annual income away for retirement, he’d have $4,500 saved at the end of the year. But a woman in that same role would only be making $40,000. So even if she put away the same percentage, she’d only have $3,600 saved at the end of the year, a whopping $900 less. To top it off, women live an average of five years longer than men, which means their money has to stretch further — a lot further. Because of their longer lifespans, women are expected to have 39 percent higher out-of-pocket healthcare costs in retirement than men, which means they’re on track to spend an additional $194,000. It’s no wonder the Wealthsimple research found 47 percent of millennial women consider money the most stressful thing in their lives, compared to 34 percent of millennial men.

“This is something that doesn’t get enough attention, because when women aren’t investing, it compounds the pay gap dramatically over time — women are on track to end up with less money when they need it,” says Mike Katchen, co-founder and CEO of Wealthsimple.

And there’s more to this than just the numbers. Money is choice. Money is freedom, Katchen says. Women who aren’t investing are losing out on a sense of pride and confidence that comes from reaching financial goals. Investing and watching your balances grow over time is empowering. It takes the fear out of the future.


So why don’t more women do it?

Historically, the investment world was an old boy’s club. “Your advisor would have been a white man, and probably a friend of your father’s,” Katchen says. “When you went in to meet with someone, you would have seen that they rarely used language that resonated with women. It was not an inclusive experience.”

Thankfully, things have changed — but not everyone has gotten the message. Today you can invest online, from the comfort of your home, and if you do meet with an advisor, you’re going to see that everyone is trying to make things more accessible, Katchen says. “People know that women control more money than men, and are often the financial decision makers in their household.”


The pay gap leaves the average woman earning just 80 percent of what a man earns. This means that women will have to save a higher percentage of their salary just to achieve parity with men when it comes to retirement savings. Katie Edwards / Getty Images


Another reason why women may not be as aggressive as men when it comes to investing is because they are more conservative — they like to hang on to their cash, explains Cary Carbonaro, CFP and Managing Director of United Capital of NY and Author of the “Money Queen’s Guide for Women Who Want to Build Wealth and Banish Fear“.


“When I tell my clients they should have an emergency fund, the men will tell me, ‘But I want my emergency fund in the market,’ and meanwhile the women will have five times the emergency fund they need, sitting in the bank, not doing anything. For some reason, women are afraid of losing money, while men seem to be afraid of losing out by not playing the market.” —Cary Carbonaro


How can we change the narrative?

Thankfully, there’s already been a shift in the market. Over the past three years, Fidelity has seen the number of women investing their money with the firm grow by 19 percent, to more than 12 million. And it seems women know they need to save more — when Fidelity looked at workplace retirement accounts, it saw that women consistently saving a higher percentage of their paychecks than men at every salary level. Women saved an annual average of 9 percent of their paychecks, compared to 8.6 percent for men. But there’s still a ways to go to bridge the divide.

Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Start where you are. You can get started with $1 per day, or just enough to dip your toes into the water, Katchen says. “You don’t have to hand over every dollar you’ve ever earned to an advisor. Build your portfolio over time and learn that it’s not scary.”
  • Don’t attempt to boil the ocean. “The industry has been set up to make investing feel scary,” Katchen says. “The old boys club wants you to believe that you need them to tell you what to do with your money, but the basics are simple: Don’t spend more than you make, save regularly, and get into the markets, that’s the essence of what it’s all about.”
  • Consider getting help. “In my opinion, every woman should be meeting with a financial planner. That’s the best way for them to get a handle on their personal situation,” Carbonaro says. “Sure you can read books and understand the basic concepts, but until you have a handle on your exact challenges, you can’t work out a complete plan.”


This article was originally published in NBC News.

Joe Duran has a game plan, and anyone can play

This article was originally published in InvestmentNews.


The CEO of United Capital built a formula for holistic financial planning that any firm can tap into — for a price


There’s a tech company Joe Duran admires, but it’s not Apple, Amazon or any of the other high-tech giants led by high-profile, high-energy and high-charisma CEOs like himself. It’s Intel, the chipmaker giant and supplier to well-known consumer-facing tech companies.

Following the “Intel inside” strategy translates into building — alongside his firm’s branded advisory business — an army of independent advisory firms that white-label FinLife Partners, which the firm calls its “wealth management operating system,” said Mr. Duran, 50, founder of United Capital Financial Advisers.

A combination of technology, investment management and planning tools, the 2-year-old service is built to deliver the holistic approach to advice that Mr. Duran has long championed. It takes into account the client’s employment, spending patterns and personal preferences, as well as their biases about money. It includes several trademarked and registered tools that turn the probing of money and life-related emotions into participatory “games,” which the firm believes leads to more accurate planning and better outcomes.


3 ways to play


Among the interactive games are Money Mind, which reveals how the participant feels about money and how it affects their life; Honest Conversations, an exercise with an adviser to help identify and clarify personal goals; and Ideal Life Index, a personal benchmark that helps track progress to the kind of life an individual wants to live.

“You have to use gamification to incorporate clients into decision-making to engage their brain and hearts in a data-centric way, and almost no one else is using it,” said Mr. Duran, who in 2016 received an InvestmentNews Icons & Innovators Award.

Mr. Duran’s determination may be a result of his unusual background. He was born in war-ravaged Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and left Africa and a broken home as a teenager. After living in London and moving to the U.S. to attend Saint Louis University on a rugby scholarship, he married the daughter of a former Bateman Eichler investment banker. His late father-in-law’s contacts got him started in the financial services business in Southern California, and eventually led him to the presidency of Centurion Capital. General Electric acquired the firm in 2001, netting Mr. Duran an estimated $13 million.

Having money didn’t quell his anxieties, which led to soul-searching, figuring out his money-related emotions and founding United Capital, which has made money and emotions a focus.

Through FinLife Partners, he believes he can empower advisers to know their clients more thoroughly than their competitors do.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether financial advisers will buy into the approach.

“I see a lot of growth potential for FinLife Partners,” said David DeVoe, whose eponymous consultancy and investment bank specializes in wealth management companies. “Advisers are looking for the benefits of scale, and this partnership provides a ‘synthetic’ scale opportunity.

“A challenge United Capital faces is the overall bias of advisers to exert a high degree of control over their businesses,” he said. “RIA owners are an independent bunch. The vast majority may be turned off by one of the most powerful aspects of the service: a methodical and efficient but standardized way of doing things.”


Many competitors


Another challenge comes from other players vying for the same advisers and end-clients.

“Enterprise digital wealth is a very competitive space, where it’s not easy to win,” said Lex Sokolin, founder of robo-adviser NestEgg, who is now global director fintech strategy and a partner with Autonomous Research, based in London.

“United Capital’s advantage is the AUM they already have, but they’re up against tech firms and they have to persuade other advisory firms to use what they’ve created. Teaching new behavior isn’t easy,” he said.

So far, 26 firms overseeing $10.4 billion have signed onto the original FinLife OS system, which requires them to use United Capital’s CRM system. In April, the firm introduced FinLife CX, which allows advisers to use their own CRM system. Advisers using the new version pay an annual $600 per-client fee, plus ongoing and support fees that vary based on the complexity of the installation.

“We will have 15 to 20 firms a year joining the platform, which will represent north of $25 billion in assets,” Mr. Duran said. “We see several multibillion-dollar firms looking to join.”

Those advisers will complement the 222 who manage $23.3 billion in assets as employees and shareholders of the Newport Beach, Calif.-based firm. They tend to be advisers who before they joined or sold their firm to United Capital alreadyw had developed a holistic approach to planning and customer service.


“One of the things that attracted me to the firm is the way it approaches money and the client experience,” said Cary Carbonaro, who sold her business to United Capital in 2012. “I didn’t call what I was doing ‘financial life management,’ but that’s what it was — just without the system and tools. Now I have those and the help with compliance and everything else that frees me to grow.”


Ms. Carbonaro, an InvestmentNews Woman to Watch and an ambassador for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc., is a member of the firm’s managing director advisory council that meets with the firm’s leadership three times a year. She also works as a liaison to the advisers who sign onto FinLife Partners, noting that many of them are successful traditional advisers who don’t have a financial planning background and are drawn to the program because they realize that it helps them know their clients in a way they hadn’t known them before.


‘Soft’ approach


Mr. Duran is convinced that this “soft” approach provides the hard answers for advisers, who are facing greater competition.

“Advisers will have to do more work and deliver more personalized investment solutions to earn more and even to survive,” he said. “Since planning and investments have become commodities, advisers have to deliver intimate and truly personalized solutions. If they don’t, they won’t be able to maintain pricing or grow.”

Mr. Sokolin believes a tech-human hybrid approach “is 100% correct in the medium to long term,” as long as the solution involves “fully integrated technology that goes all the way to client and is driven by the client.”

Few who know Mr. Duran doubt his determination to make FinLife Partners the preferred platform for providing that integrated client solution.

“He has a clear vision of the future and what United Capital should be, and he’s really driven to get there,” said Gail Graham, who left a senior job in marketing and business development at Fidelity in 2012 to head strategy and later marketing at United Capital. She started Graham Strategy, a consulting firm, last year.

This article was originally published in InvestmentNews.

Clients Who Lose A Spouse Require Both Empathy And Skill


This article was originally published in the Financial Advisor Magazine.


Clients Who Lose A Spouse Require Both Empathy And Skill


More than half of Dan Lash’s clients are widows and he expects another 30 to 40 percent will become so eventually, while nationwide 53 percent of widows have not prepared for what would happen if their spouse died, according to a new Merrill Lynch/Age Wave Study study.

When asked by his clients, Lash, a partner at Vienna, Va.-based VLP Financial Advisors, advised calculating the value of marital property within six months of a spouse’s death.

“An appraisal will determine what the gain is and set a new cost basis in the event you sell the home five years later,” said Lash.


Widowed, a significant demographic

By sheer virtue of their numbers, the widowed have become a significant demographic with 20 million currently residing in the U.S. The “Widowhood By The Numbers” study from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave found that among them, four-in-10 women experience widowhood as a trigger to begin working with a financial advisor.

“They are in their 70s and 80s and single again for the first time in years,” said Tom Balcom whose financial advisory practice, 1650 Wealth Management, is based in the middle of the “silver tsunami” in Lauderdale by the Sea, Florida. “A financial advisor can help by creating a budget that includes outflows and inflows such as social security, retirement portfolio disbursements, annuity payments, spousal benefits and pension income. If a budget already exists, the advisor can adjust it if the widow now has to live on one social security check instead of two.”

One variable that sets apart the widower demographic from singles who have never been married is mourning.

“The danger is for the widow to be overwhelmed with grief and to allow finances to take a backseat, which makes decisions even tougher to deal with later,” said Lisa Margeson, head of retirement client experience and communications at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

About 64 percent who had not planned at all worried they would be unable to support themselves immediately after the death of their spouse.


“Widowed clients are often unsure and scared because they don’t want to be taken advantage of,” said Cary Carbonaro, managing director of United Capital of New York and New Jersey and 2014 CFP Board Ambassador.


Among the challenges they face is the complex task of juggling multiple incoming assets. Some 69 percent of widows will receive a median amount of $15,000 in survivors social security, 63% will receive a median of $15,000 in life insurance, 46 percent receive a median of $25,000 from their spouse’s pension and 45 percent receive a median of $20,000 from spouse’s 401k income.


This article was originally published in the Financial Advisor Magazine.

Power of the Purse: Cary Carbonaro at Women’s Night Out


Mimi Schanzlin and her United Capital Team organized a special Women’s Night Out with guest speaker and best-selling author Cary Carbonaro.


Buffalo, NY, Meets The Money Queen


It’s no secret that women have a unique relationship with money:


We strive for financial security to support our family, ensure we can retire comfortably, create independence separate from our partners, and along the way, buy some nice purses. As much as we are motivated to make money. – Cary Carbonaro

That’s Cary Carbonaro recently spoke to a group of dynamic ladies at Buffalo, NY, and reminded them that we often do not consider the crucial relationship between what we do today and how it WILL impact our life tomorrow.

They also got a copy of The Money Queen’s Guide, a book for women who want to build wealth and banish fear. A guide that will lead them through each of the financial decades step-by-step and provide insight into the steps women can take, and the decision we should make to build a financially responsible future.






Book Cary Carbonaro at your event

Cary Carbonaro: Speaker at Barron’s Top Independent Women Advisors Summit

Last week Barron’s offered an intimate event named Top Independent Women Advisors Summit, where the nation’s top independent women advisors like Cary Carbonaro gathered for an exclusive chance to share ideas, grow professionally, and network with peers.


Best Minds in the Wealth Management Industry


The Barron’s Top Women Advisors Summit brought together the best minds in the wealth management industry. It was designed to facilitate a free-flowing exchange of information, ideas and insights from the industry’s most accomplished advisors— in the interest of raising the standards of excellence in the wealth management profession.

The conference included strategies for improving outcomes, ideas on growing your business, and discussion on the challenges facing the wealth management industry.

Deepening Connectivity and Attracting New Clients With Responsible Investing


Cary Carbobaro at Barron’s Top Independent Women Advisors Summit


During the Barron’s Top Independent Women Advisors Summit, Cary Carbonaro provided highly detailed and thought-provoking perspectives on managing investments, clients and practices.




Book Cary Carbonaro at your event