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Filling the Financial Gap

Use life insurance to help business owners rebuild their retirement capital.

By Steve Parrish, JD, CLU, ChFC, RHU

Your prospective retiree can’t help but be nervous in this economy. If he is a business owner, he may have even more cause for concern. You, however, can help him. An old contract named life insurance has become the new solution for business owners facing retirement.

What gaps?
Many prospective retirees have developed gaps in their financial goals because of the market meltdown. Even before the market declined, many people had the challenge of filling the retirement gap created by the difference between their retirement income goal and what Social Security benefits and their company pension plan provide. The fall of market values has created a new financial problem: the market gap. Even with careful planning and saving, many have faced the challenge of a precipitous drop in their retirement capital. Seemingly overnight, their investment portfolios can’t generate nearly as much retirement income as planned.

If the client owns a business, the unstable economic conditions may have increased the stakes. Not only has the business owner’s personal portfolio declined, the value of the business has, too. Compounding this is the fact that there is a smaller pool of lenders and buyers available to purchase the owner’s business. In the current buyer’s market, discounted sales prices can negatively affect the business owner’s retirement capital.

I thought to myself: Here’s an established professional, active for almost 30 years and enjoying a six-figure renewal income, looking for an answer to how he could energize his prospecting. Basically, he was facing the same question that someone just entering the insurance business would face today.

Assuming the business is a significant part of the owner’s wealth, it is difficult to diversify assets. The business is his retirement plan. Further, valued employees and family members may be dependent on the fortunes of the business.

Steps to take
Recognizing the gaps is the first step toward filling them. Once the owner truly understands what loss has been incurred and what amount is needed to replace the loss, you can begin the planning process. Life insurance is a key component in this process. It offers protection to fill the gap in case of an unforeseen death, can provide tax advantages and diversifies a portfolio.

When family members are involved, the first step in the process of filling the financial gaps is insuring the gaps. The reality is that the economy has created market and business value losses and they are not likely to be replaced overnight. If a business owner has lost half of the value in the business, you might ask how the owner’s family would feel if he were not around to help replace that lost value.

Life insurance is an important tool to help protect the family from the loss of the business owner’s participation in the regeneration of wealth.

Life insurance is an important tool to help protect the family from the loss of the business owner’s participation in the regeneration of wealth. It can also help indemnify the business against financial loss created by the death of key employees. If the business is an important part of the family’s retirement capital, it is essential to ensure that this value is not lost due because of a key employee’s unexpected departure.

Not only can life insurance indemnify the company for loss due to the employee’s death; it can also be a funding vehicle designed to provide golden handcuffs on key employees. With the proper benefits, the owner avoids loss of key employees to the competition. Bottom line, for pennies on the dollar the business owner can use life insurance as a hedge against losses created during these difficult economic times.

Taxes play heavily in the financial gaps business owners currently face. Income, estate and employment taxes can cut into the owner’s profits and extend the period it will take to replace lost wealth. Table 1 demonstrates how many additional years it will take to replenish a financial gap when the owner is in a 30-percent income-tax bracket. The tax advantages associated with life insurance can be a useful tool in the business owner’s retirement planning and offers the possibility of tax-deferred accumulation, as well as a tax-free payout.

Table 1
Consider a $2 million business is now worth $1 million. How long will it take to recover the lost value?
 5% 2024 2030
 6% 2021 2026
 7% 2019 2024
 8% 2018 2022
 9% 2017 2021
10% 2016 2019

Finally, life insurance is a form of security. Many forms of life insurance offer guarantees of both principal and interest (based on the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company) and are designed to have far less fluctuation in crediting rates than what is typical of a stock market return. Life insurance is the bedrock product for the business owner as the process begins of replacing financial losses.

You can’t solve the economic problems that threaten business owners’ retirement plans. But you can help them sort through their financial gaps and can show them how life insurance can be a key tool in filling those gaps.

Steve Parrish, J.D.*, CLU, ChFC, RHU, is a national advanced solutions consultant with the Principal Financial Group, Des Moines. Contact him at 515-235-6120.

*J.D. is an educational degree and the holder does not provide legal services on behalf of the companies of the Principal Financial Group.

While this communication may be used to promote or market a transaction or an idea that is discussed in the publication, it is intended to provide general information about the subject matter covered and is provided with the understanding that the author is not rendering legal, accounting or tax advice. It is not a marketed opinion and may not be used to avoid penalties under the Internal Revenue Code. You should consult with appropriate counsel or other advisors on all matters pertaining to legal, tax or accounting obligations and requirements.


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