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Disaster Recovery: Be Your Own Advocate

Rick KahlerBy: Rick Kahler, CFP®

Hurricane Sandy attacked the East Coast, did her worst, and disappeared. Yet cleaning up the mess she left behind will take months and even years.

Even dealing with damage from much smaller disasters can take a long time. As an example, in July 2011 a severe hailstorm hit Rapid City. It only took nature a few minutes to flatten gardens, beat up vehicles, and damage buildings. It will probably take until the second anniversary of the storm to repair all the damage to our house.

Such a delay isn’t unusual. The most common reasons are finding a contractor and negotiating with your insurance company.

Moving fast after a disaster is important. In fact, you should probably call a contractor even before you call your insurance agent. Insurance companies respond quickly and can move adjusters in from other areas. Local, credible contractors, on the other hand, fill their schedules fast. We spent hours getting bids from beleaguered roofers, painters, and carpenters.

These bids were worth our time, because they showed us the initial repair estimates from our insurance company were low. For our roof, the estimate was to replace cedar shake shingles with much cheaper asphalt ones. Estimates to repair our siding and deck were also low. It took 15 months to come to an agreement on the cost of replacing the deck. The work probably won’t be done until summer of 2013.

Does this difficulty in getting a full settlement mean it’s time to switch insurance companies? Not necessarily. Having to argue to get what you need doesn’t mean the company is wrong, bad, or unethical. Getting compensation from an insurance company is just business, and you don’t have to accept the first offer. Negotiating will take time and effort, but it eventually should get you full compensation.

When you file a claim, you and your insurance company have competing interests. The company is not your advocate. You want as much money as possible from them for repairs, while they want to repair your damage for the lowest cost. There’s nothing wrong with either motivation.

Once I understood that the insurance company and I were natural adversaries, not friends, it helped me feel less victimized and more empowered. While getting the money we needed to make the repairs certainly took time and perseverance, the company readily acquiesced when we presented the facts. After all, their best interest also included keeping us as customers. We did not have to threaten a lawsuit or go to court.

Insurance companies and other service providers aren’t fiduciaries to you like attorneys, doctors, or fee-only financial planners. They have no responsibility to look out for you. Someone selling you something has no duty to put your interests before theirs. Protecting your interests is your duty and yours alone.

When a natural disaster strikes, we are certainly victims of nature’s whims. When it’s time to clean up the mess, though, we’re not victims. We’re our own advocates, with the responsibility and ability to look out for our own best interests.

Rick Kahler is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional licensed with a registered investment adviser that provides personal financial advice online for a flat fee.He is an author of four books on financial psychology and recognized by BusinessWeek magazine as one of the 15 most experienced financial planners in the nation. Contact Rick for help on virtually any financial need.

Sudden Money: What Now?

Rick KahlerBy: Rick Kahler, CFP®

When someone inherits a substantial sum or receives a large life insurance payment on the death of a spouse, a common reaction is guilt. It may feel as if taking the money is profiting from the death of a loved one.

Such painful emotions may lead people to spend inheritances recklessly, unconsciously wanting to get rid of the money in order to get rid of the feeling of guilt. This is one reason Continue reading

Diplomas at a Discount: Lower the Cost of College without Breaking the Bank or Your Retirement Nest Egg

By: Steve StanganelliSteve Stanganelli,CFP®

School season begins once again.  It’s hard to imagine but here we are at the end of another summer. Yellow buses roll. Marching bands practice. And it’s time for some high school football.

While it’s hard enough to stay focused on all the classwork, homework and after-school activities at hand, there’s one more thing to add to you and your student’s “To Do” list: Continue reading

The Evils of Underspending

Rick KahlerBy: Rick Kahler, CFP®

“Be frugal.” “Save for the future.” “Live on less than you make.”

While that’s my usual financial advice, sometimes I find it necessary to work with clients to overcome a different problem—underspending.

Huh? How can underspending possibly be a problem? Isn’t it a virtue to save and accumulate?

Of course it is. Accumulating wealth typically requires people to live on much Continue reading

Women: How to Destroy Your Finances in 7 Easy Steps

Heidi Davis, CFP®, MBABy: Heidi Davis, CFP®

Do you ever lie awake at night wondering how to make a complete wreck of your financial situation? Here are 7 easy ways to trash your finances.

1) Why educate yourself on financial matters today? Wait till your spouse dies or becomes disabled to do it. That way, you can add a big serving of grief to the burden of taking a retirement planning class. Hit the financial books with a minor episode of depression, bloodshot eyes, and a big box of tissues. Just remember: Daredevil motorcycle-riding Continue reading

How to be a Better Money Waster

Rick KahlerBy: Rick Kahler, CFP®


Just for fun, let’s take a look at thrift from a slightly different perspective. For anyone who wants to throw cash around, here are some effective ways to waste your money:

How to Waste Money on Travel: Continue reading

Focus on (and Pay For) What Matters

By: John D. Buerger, CFP®

Imagine for a moment that you are on a trip and I am your tour guide. Tonight you want a recommendation for a nice restaurant so I give you a choice of two:

— The first is a quaint little eatery where a five-star chef will cook you anything you want but you have to help prepare the food. Continue reading

How to Boost Your Retirement Income by 33-75%, Without Risk!?!

Mike WilsonBy: Michael Wilson, CFP®

Okay, boosting your retirement income by 33-75% is rather a grandiose claim to make. Can it really be done, in a safe way? The answer is yes, and the vehicle is Social Security.

When it comes time to claiming Social Security (SS) retirement benefits, statistics from the Social Security Continue reading

Lower the Cost of Higher Education

Rick KahlerBy: Rick Kahler, CFP®

My daughter is a high-school sophomore, so the cost of college has become a personal issue for me. Here are a few ideas to deal with high education costs.

1. Actively pursue scholarships. The most important college-saving strategy a student can have may be focusing on getting top grades in high school in order to qualify for scholarships. Even straight-A students, however, need to actively go after Continue reading

Money – You’re Not Built For That

By: John D. Buerger, CFP®

Most of the decisions you make each day are done without you “thinking about it.”

Your brain does engage, just not the part that is known for rational choices. Instead, it’s your emotional brain that takes care of a vast majority (80-95% depending on the research study cited) of the decisions you make each day in a form of mental auto-pilot.

Continue reading

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