The Investment Scientist

The Peril of No Financial Planning

Posted on: December 8, 2013

ImageA few days ago, my wife came home telling me the story of a sweet old lady she had met at her army clinic.

She is a 75 year old lady from Thailand, married to an American veteran for 40 years. Her husband just passed away a few months ago at the age of 92.

She couldn’t stop telling my wife how much she missed her husband, that he had married her despite the fact that she was a divorced woman with kids and that she could barely speak English. She went on and on about how he had treated her like a queen, buying her all the pretty things women like and so on and so forth.

Now everytime she passes by her husband’s picture, she still cries; and yet the memory of her husband is all she’s got left, now that she has no income and the home she has lived in for 40 years is being foreclosed.

What happened?

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Well it turns out that when she had gotten married, her husband had already retired from the military with a pension. Apparently, he forgot to choose the spousal option which would have paid a little less each month but allowed the spouse to get half the pension should he pass away.

On top of that, from the time she first came to the States until now, she has never worked and thus has never paid into social security. Therefore, she is not entitled to any social security income. This is so stupid as she only needed to make about $5000 a year for ten years to qualify.

On top of that, at the top of the housing bubble, her husband took out a loan to splurge on who knows what, and now there is a $2000 loan payment every month.

Long story short, with her husband gone, she has lost her only source of income and is about to loose her house to foreclosure.

This could have been prevented with a little financial planning. If they had been my client, I would have made sure her husband had opted for the spousal option for his pension disbursement. I would have made sure she worked enough to accumulate 4 social security credits every year and I would have objected to them taking out a loan at an old age.

That would have made a helluva difference to this unfortunate old lady.

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Author

Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC. He is also a regular contributor to Morningstar Advisor and Physicians Practice. To explore a long-term wealth advisory relationship, schedule a discovery meeting (phone call) with him.



You may also get his monthly newsletter, or join his Facebook page for regular wealth management insights. Michael's email is info[at]mzcap.com.

Twitter: @mzhuang

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