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Practice What You Preach

Having a comprehensive financial plan in place saved this advisor when tragedy struck.

By Sarah Rieger, CLU, ChFC, CFP

My whole life, I have worked hard to do the right things and to play by the rules. It was no different that sunny Saturday in July 2003, while I was on a business trip in New York City, 2,000 miles from my home and financial-planning business in Spokane, Wash. I had waited with my sister and four-week-old niece for the traffic signal to flash “walk” so we could safely cross the street.

Little did I know that a block away, a man had stolen an SUV and was about to recklessly run a red light. By the time I heard the tires on the pavement, it was already too late for me to avoid being struck.

As I lay there in a pool of blood on the street, surrounded by a crowd of New Yorkers protecting me from traffic, I realized something was very wrong. Later, we’d find out the impact had shattered my pelvis in to more than 40 pieces, torn my knees apart, compressed my lower back and ripped my right shoulder socket. I had such massive internal bleeding that the surgeons could not operate for two weeks.

Profound changes
My husband and I have two set of twins. In one moment, I went from juggling the demands of family and a successful career to not being able to do anything for myself. I spent a month hospitalized in New York before returning home for months of bed rest. Working with the doctors and my family to put my body and life back together was physically and emotionally demanding. I required in-home care, and on top of that, I had to get help to care for my children, home and business. I worked hard, and slowly I physically healed. But not only had my income gone away suddenly, our out-of-pocket costs for living expenses were nearly tripled for a period as well.

Our “new normal”
Fortunately, I had practiced what I preached as an advisor. I had balanced my investment program with a solid protection program that included disability income insurance—and it paid off. The DI insurance allowed us to have a steady stream of income so that my husband and I could focus on getting back to... normal. We did not lose our home, and I did not need to take money from our future financial goals, such as our children’s education (they will all be in college at once) and retirement. We did not need to borrow from our future to solve the financial hardship that arose from my disability.

Going through this situation has made me a better advisor, because I’ve been able to see how the different parts of my contracts played out. I now make sure that I’m taking a comprehensive look at my clients’ protection and accumulation needs. And when people are looking at DI insurance, I can help them understand that income replacement is only part of the overall picture. Often, they think that their employers’ plans will provide enough replacement income to maintain their lifestyle and think that’s enough. But when you’re sick or injured, your lifestyle changes dramatically, and the cost of your lifestyle goes up.

Another thing I’ve learned is that I love saving money and helping my clients save money. But whether you live to be 25 or 105, life is too short. For instance, I can help people save for family vacations and other important “now” things rather than acquire credit card debt to handle these expenses that they’ll have to pay later.

Two years and seven operations later, I am optimistic about my future. I recently returned to work full time. Through the grace of God and some very skilled surgeons, I can walk and actively play with my children. I am thankful that I did the right thing then, and I will continue to do so—not only for myself, but for my clients.

Sarah Rieger, CLU, ChFC, CFP, is a financial advisor for MassMutual at Fulcrum Financial Group in Spokane, Wash., and a member of NAIFA-Spokane. She can be reached at 509-747-2075 or



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