Every bear market feels like the end of the world. As a plaintiff attorney, a bear market looming on the horizon may leave you scrambling to protect your clients, keep your firm’s finances in order and trying to manage your own retirement nest egg, but the reality is we’ve been here before and we’ll be here again.
Surviving a volatile financial market comes down to one thing: diversification. If your clients have been taking their settlements in cash or you have been accepting your contingency fees in a cash lump sum, it’s time to get educated on alternatives and rethink your game plan.
Challenges Facing Claimants
Injured claimants face a variety of obstacles when settling a case, regardless of the state of the economy and regardless if they are trying to protect their retirement or they are just starting to invest. Claimants accepting lump sum cash settlements during volatile financial times are even more susceptible to:
- Family and “friends” asking for money
- Predatory financial “advisors”
- Emotional spending
- Poor investment choices
- Loss of needs-based government benefits.
Structured Settlement Annuities: Long Term Safety & Security
A structured settlement annuity provides what no other financial product can promise: a guaranteed1 safety net during difficult financial times. Kiplinger’s agrees. In a recent article, the personal finance site listed annuities as one of the top five tools to make retirement savings last. By utilizing structured settlement annuities as a reliable revenue stream to cover basic living expenses, the remainder of a portfolio can be diversified to include more aggressive investments. Even the structured settlement annuity payments can be reinvested down the line to offset current low-interest rates.
Diversification Options for Plaintiff Attorneys and Claimants
By working with your trusted Sage settlement consultant, you and your clients have access to a range of financial vehicles that can help create a diverse portfolio that balances safety and growth potential.
- Structured Settlement Annuity: Flexible payment design, guaranteed1 payments, no overhead or annual fees
- Deferred Income Annuity (DIA): Payments starting after 12 months, guaranteed and lifetime payments, no underwriting
- Fixed Indexed Annuity (FIA): Lump sums, lifetime or annuitization (period certain & life) with a guarantee of principal and upside tied to an index (S&P 500 or similar)
- Multi-Year Guaranteed Annuity (MYGA): Fixed-rate and guaranteed payments for a specific term, guarantee a return of principal
- Settlements Plus™: For the injured plaintiff looking for tax-free income and market-based returns, and the ability to use their own financial advisor
- Fee Structure Plus®: For any contingency fee attorney looking for tax-deferral, market-based returns, and the ability to use their own financial advisor
- Investment Accounts: Low-cost platforms offering financial education and investment management services
- Special Needs Trusts, Pooled Trusts, Minors’ Trusts, Settlement Preservation Trusts and more: Depending on the claimant’s age, individual needs, income, and level of disability, options are available to preserve settlement proceeds while providing for life’s necessities
Contact Sage Settlement Consulting Today
The verdict? Don’t panic and don’t let fear get the best of you and your clients. By taking a proactive approach, you can face any financial downturn with confidence in your financial choices. Contact Kimberly Overby today to learn more.
1 Guarantees are subject to the claims-paying abilities of the issuing insurance company.
Volatile Markets are No Match for this Financial Option
Trade wars? Historic tariffs? With uncertainty as to which direction the markets are heading, investors are considering the best strategies to protect their portfolios. Injured claimants are particularly vulnerable, especially those whose quality of life depends on a steady income. Fortunately, there is a solution that offers protection from market volatility while providing a source of stable, long-term income: structured settlements.
Steady Gains, Lasting Peace of Mind
Both the term and the rate of return for a structured settlement annuity are locked in, and payments are guaranteed1, so when the market drops—even in a recession—the structured settlement payments remain unaffected. Structured settlement annuities are issued by highly-rated life insurance companies, making them one of the safest, most attractive financial vehicles available.
With no overhead fees, structured settlement annuities often yield returns competitive with traditional investments. Certain life companies also offer a rider that provides additional growth potential based on the S&P 500—without any market loss.
Claimants who can incur a degree of market-related risk may want to consider combining a structured settlement annuity with a market-based structured settlement program. Such an approach creates a truly balanced settlement solution.
Your Client Needs a Solid Plan
Claimants have a one-time opportunity to structure their settlements. The decision must be made before settlement, and the settlement agreement must include the proper language. Your settlement consultant can walk your client through the various settlement options, helping to establish realistic expectations and to ensure that a proper plan is in place to preserve the settlement proceeds.
You Need a Plan, Too
Many of the nation’s leading attorneys leverage the benefits of structured attorney fees to defer taxes on their contingency fees. As with structured settlements for claimants, attorney fee structures provide guaranteed, fixed income to create a predictable source of income immune to market volatility.
Take Control of Your Financial Future: Contact Us Today
None of us can control the economy, but we can mitigate some of its negative implications. Contact Kimberly Overby today to protect your clients and your practice.
Despite success at the mediation table, settlement proceeds do not always sufficiently provide for an injured claimant’s future medical expenses. After paying attorney’s fees and liens, the typical claimant still needs money to cover medical costs incurred long after litigation ends, such as doctor’s bills, surgeries, medications, home modifications, and more.
Moreover, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) projects that from 2018 to 2027 the price of healthcare goods and services will grow at a faster rate than it has historically. CMS also estimates that healthcare spending will increase at an average rate of 5.5% per year during the same time frame.
Rather than leaving your client in a vulnerable financial state, it is best practice to develop a solid plan at the time of settlement. Here are two simple ways your settlement consultant can help protect your client’s long-term medical and financial needs:
#1: Provide Education Regarding Financial Pitfalls
Outside of advising your client against taking a cash lump sum and risking quick depletion, there are additional obstacles that claimants need to avoid, including:
Loss of Needs-Based Government Benefits Eligibility: Claimants who receive needs-based government benefits will likely lose their eligibility for such benefits if they accept a lump sum cash settlement. For example, in most states, assets totaling as little as $2,000 ($3,000 for couples) are considered enough for a claimant to be ineligible for Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California), SSI, and CHIP.
Medicare Non-Compliance: Although Medicare is an entitlement benefit, claimants who receive Medicare benefits have additional responsibilities when it comes to the cost of their future medical care. Medicare Secondary Payer provisions encourage Medicare-eligible claimants to set aside a portion of their settlement proceeds to cover future medical costs, typically in what is referred to as a “Medicare Set-Aside.” While in the past, many in the legal community have paid closer attention to future medical expenses in workers’ compensation cases, an MSA industry leader reported a recent case in which Medicare sought reimbursement for future medicals in a liability settlement.
#2: Offer Strategies for Preserving and Maximizing Settlements Long-Term
Once the potential complications have been identified, several solutions exist that may help your clients provide for their long-term medical and financial needs:
Special Needs Trusts: Disabled claimants under the age of 65 may meet the criteria for a special needs trust (“SNT”; also known as a (d)(4)(a) trust). Settlement proceeds placed in a special needs trust are not considered countable assets when determining eligibility for government benefits. The claimant can continue receiving their needs-based benefits while supplementing their financial needs with approved distributions from the SNT.
Spend-Down: In certain states, “spending down” the settlement proceeds may allow an injured claimant to maintain needs-based benefits, including Medicaid. The spend down method has many stipulations related to the timing of purchases, what constitutes an allowable expense, and whether or not needs-based benefits will be suspended for the month in which the settlement proceeds are received. Claimants who are considering a spend-down should always consult with their caseworker or agency representative before receiving the settlement proceeds.
ABLE Accounts: Individuals who became disabled before the age of 26 may be eligible for an ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) account, a tax-advantaged savings account. Funds held within an ABLE account can be used to cover qualified disability expenses, including healthcare, education, housing and transportation for the disabled individual. While annual and lifetime funding limits for an ABLE account may vary by state, ABLE account funds are exempt from asset tests for needs-based government benefits, provided the total funds in the account do not exceed $100,000.
Professional MSA Administration: While some claimants choose to personally administer their own Medicare Set-Aside accounts, professional administration provides management of future medical funds by experts that can save your client money and help them live worry free. Post settlement, a professional administrator handles all of the claimant’s medical concerns pertaining to pharmacies and doctors, insurers, employers, attorneys, medical providers and Medicare. A professional administrator automatically files all reporting requirements for Medicare Set-Aside accounts to CMS, allowing the claimant to treat freely. CMS “highly recommends” the use of professional administration to make sure the funds are preserved as long as possible through discounts only a professional administrator can provide.
Some administrators also offer subject matter expertise and consultation on federal and state benefits for beneficiaries of worker’s compensation and liability settlements.
Certain programs even offer transparent pricing into the real-time cost of prescriptions and treatment, providing the injured party visibility into the actual pricing of these services.
Contact Sage Settlement Consulting to Learn More
To learn more about these settlement planning solutions, contact Kimberly Overby today. Our experienced team will help you and your client create a customized financial plan to secure a better future.