The Parable of the Reserve Tank


Recently, I heard retirement specialist heavyweight Tom Hegna share at story with some very powerful truths that are relevant to every financial advisor. These life-changing principles are vital to prevent seniors from running out of money in retirement. The original story is from Dick Austin – he contributed to Tom’s book, “Retirement Income Masters: Secrets of the Pros.”

To summarize, some friends from the Northeast had always wanted to visit the desert. So they flew to Death Valley, rented a car and headed across the desert. The trip was wonderful – everyone was having a great time! But suddenly, they noticed a road sign that read, “Next Gas Station 100 miles” … and their gas gauge was rapidly approaching “E.” Their joy quickly turned to anguish, and they worried about what they should do. 

Dick wrote that running out of money in retirement is just like running out of fuel. Everyone thinks it’s about the day you run out. But it’s really about the years prior to that unfortunate event. 

It can be said, “You know you’re going to run out, but you just don’t know when.”

Just as the friends stared at the glaring red “E,” many people in retirement are just staring at their own “gas gauge”— their brokerage or savings account balance— waiting for it to run out. Unfortunately, life for many brings about the loss of peace of mind in retirement and the inability to enjoy the “scenery” along the way.

The Unexpected Discovery – The Journey continues

So what came of the friends in the desert? I like to think they discovered their rental car’s reserve tank – they just had to flip a switch in the glove compartment. Once they activated it, the gas gauge showed that the car could safely reach the next gas station. What a huge relief! All the passengers took a deep fresh breath of air. Their trip was once again enjoyable.

The Real Discovery

But that’s not the best part! As the travelers continued to read more about this reserve tank, its technology and its scientific ingenuity, they discovered their last-minute ploy was actually the least efficient way to use the tank. It had really been designed to enhance and optimize the journey, and using it only as a last resort was the worst way.

Here’s what they found out:

  • The main gas tank would take the vehicle about 500 miles
  • Turning on the reserve gas tank after the main tank was about to run out only added about 25 miles 
  • To their surprise, if they had used the reserve tank FIRST and THEN switched to the main tank, the vehicle would have gone about 680 miles
  • If they had switched back and forth between the two tanks, depending on outside conditions, they could have gotten 700 miles

Unbelievable, right?! Counterintuitive and almost illogical, but it’s true. No, not the part about an SUV going through the desert (that part is made up), but the principles are real.


The Biggest Surprise Yet!

Reverse mortgages are the reserve tank for most retirees.

I know what you’re thinking: “You’ve got to be kidding me!” No, I am not.  

For most of their history, reverse mortgages have been rather unpopular with financial planners, due both to their relatively high costs, and the fact that they are typically viewed as a resource or tool of last resort. Yet the reality is use of reverse mortgages has exploded over the past decade due to newer, lower cost options. Several recent research articles in the Journal of Financial Planning have illustrated methods showing how reverse mortgages can be used proactively to enhance retirement income sustainability. 


No More Loan of Last Resort

Where did this language of “last resort” come from?  

The earliest written source actually came from a FINRA investor alert that quoted “Reverse mortgages should only be used as a last resort.” Is that true? The answer has always been no, but it wasn’t until Dr. Barry Sacks, a PhD, MIT trained physicist, Harvard Law graduate and ERISA-focused law practitioner, and his brother, Dr. Stephen Sacks, took that presupposition to task that we actually had the metrics to prove it.

I won’t get into all the details right now, but you can find the full article and videos HERE with links to the published work, “Reversing the Conventional Wisdom: Using Home Equity to Supplement Retirement Income” 

The research was profound, but the summary was really quite simple: Using a reverse mortgage as a last resort is the least effective way to use it. Dr. Sacks further stated that using the reverse mortgage as a first option gives retirees significantly better outcomes than expected.   

The research was so compelling, Dr. Sacks was asked to share it with FINRA – in October 2013, FINRA changed their positon on reverse mortgages by eliminating the “last resort” language. That’s right, they’re no longer a product of last resort!  

The facts are out and the results are in. The reverse mortgage is truly the reserve tank in retirement income planning. Any advisor who is still suggesting that they only be used as a last resort has missed both the updated research and the power of putting one in place earlier in retirement versus later.  

Now more than ever, advisors need to learn every legitimate strategy available to preserve and protect their clients’ retirement while keeping their own practice relevant and expanding. 


How Can an Advisor Learn More?

Reverse mortgages may not always be the right conclusion, but they should certainly be a part of any serious retirement conversation. The journey of a lifetime necessitates a well-planned and investigated strategy for the future. Find out how the best years are yet to come for your clients through the proper, planned use of the reverse mortgage. Learn more at: or   


HECM Reverse Mortgages Don Graves

Anticipating a Botched Punt


If you didn’t watch it, there’s a good chance you heard about it. When rivals Michigan and Michigan State met up in October, the Spartans capitalized on a fumbled punt attempt and grabbed a last-second touchdown to win the game. I listened to the final minutes on the radio while driving to dinner with my wife – the announcers were nearly speechless. In the aftermath of that wild finish, I’ve heard superlatives like “unthinkable,” “improbable,” “given away” or “unbelievable.” I even read a statistic that indicated Michigan State had a 0.2 percent chance of winning before the final play of the game.  

As I think about that game in relation to my profession, two things keep going through my mind. First, it’s important to finish strong. And second, it’s important to plan for contingencies.  

So many analogies can be made between retirement planning and the botched punt. In the final stages of life, the fear and anxiety of “not messing up” increase and create more pressure. This is no different than running out of money before you die or having the game rest in your hands. The anxiety that comes from a close game is no different than looking out five years and knowing you won’t have enough money to last if you stay alive. The emotional struggles for immediate family and the next generation cannot be put into words.  

Botched punt aside, we’ve seen several last-play wins this year in the Big Ten. I’m guessing the coaching staff didn’t run through the possibility of something going wrong, preparing their teams for adverse situations … but you simply can’t plan for every possibility. 

However, in retirement planning, you can mitigate a lot of the risks that come at the end of the game. One risk is longevity and long-term care. You never know when or if a care event will happen to your clients during retirement, but you can take action today and reduce their risk – just like a coach running through contingency plans. By having the proper liquidity and funding for care events, your clients and their families can better react to unforeseen events. And, by planning for a long income stream, you can reduce everyone’s anxiety.  

Bottom Line: Have you discussed or expected any “botched punts” in your clients’ retirement plans?  If not, you might be wise to plan for contingencies and talk to them about what to do in the event of living too long. 

Mike McGlothlin is the Executive Vice President of Annuities at Ash Brokerage. His strength is helping advisors become more efficient and effective in their businesses. He and his team provide income-planning solutions focused on longevity and tax efficiency, and they also assist advisors with entering defined-benefit termination planning and structured settlement markets. 

Working with Skill, Not Luck


Shallow men believe in luck.  Strong men believe in cause and effect. 
– Ralph Waldo Emerson


Too often we tell a client things like, “I feel confident this strategy will work for you” or “Based on historical performance, this will work.” What we’re really saying is we’re relying on luck. We hope the vehicles we’ve chosen perform exactly as they have in the past to provide the needed income. And, we assume the strategy won’t need to be changed, adjusted or enhanced. “Set it and forget it” is a recipe for disaster. 

As we look to the future with a fiduciary landscape in mind, I think it’s important to make sure we’re operating from a point of skill and not luck. Skill requires a greater understanding of the cause and effect of financial vehicles. Just understanding how a product works is no longer acceptable. We have to move to understanding how that particular product benefits the client in the best possible way. 

The industry and its regulators continue to move toward science and away from art. In the near future, it will be imperative to substantiate your recommendations with certainty that they meet the best interests of your client. No longer can we rely on the art of selling, which is valued individually. Instead, our skills used to create that art need to rise to the top and not only be seen, but documented.  

Bottom Line

This is a change of mindset we must become used to if we are to survive as financial professionals. Being held to a higher standard isn’t a bad thing or unsurmountable. It simply means we must operate our businesses differently while accomplishing the same client objectives. It’s skill, not luck that will make a difference for so many Americans going forward. 


Mike McGlothlin is the Executive Vice President of Annuities at Ash Brokerage. His strength is helping advisors become more efficient and effective in their businesses. He and his team provide income-planning solutions focused on longevity and tax efficiency, and they also assist advisors with entering defined-benefit termination planning and structured settlement markets

Training for the Marathon of Retirement


Long distance running can actually be enjoyable. There, I said it, and I’m standing behind it. I really enjoy the training process of preparing for an event, whether it’s a half marathon (13.1 miles), a marathon (26.2 miles) and yes, even an ultra-marathon(any distance greater than 26.2 miles). I was never an athlete growing up, but I’ve observed that most people who don’t like running participated in other sports where running was viewed as punishment. In reality, it is a great foundation for the endurance required to excel in most other sports.

The training process for all distances is extremely important for success, and I feel retirement income planning should be approached in the same manner. Would you wake up one day and just decide to go out and run 26.2 miles? I didn’t think so. Most training plans last four to six months leading up to the event, depending on your level of fitness prior to starting. Sticking to the plan as much as possible is imperative – if you cannot commit to 90 percent or more of the plan you’ve laid out, your likelihood of finishing reduces dramatically. It’s a steady process that builds your base fitness over the training cycle, then tapers off before the race to allow your body to rest and prepare. 

When planning for retirement income, you build your base, stay the course in terms of your personal risk index and then “taper” five to 10 years out. A marathon is 26.2 miles, but your retirement will possibly last even longer than that in terms of years. Are you just going to wake up one day and start that journey of retirement? I hope not, otherwise your chances of success will be nominal at best. You must build a strong foundation you can customize for income, health care and longevity. 

The Bottom Line: A marathon is tough, but like longevity, preparation is the key so you don’t hit that “wall” at mile 20. At Ash Brokerage, our knowledge, expertise and holistic approach are second to none. Combine those ingredients with curiosity and unbiased client solutions, and we have the “training plans” that can help you come up with the best retirement plan for each of your clients. Call us today – we’ll help you run a great race.            



What if These are ‘The Good Old Days’?


If you knew “the good old days” were happening right now, what would you do differently? What would you eat, buy or do more of? What opportunities – that maybe you didn’t take advantage of or took partial advantage of – would you want to seize so you don’t look back in regret? 

I’m not talking about stopping to smell the roses, though that’s never a bad idea. But isn’t it true that we choose to isolate and romanticize things from the past, blocking out a preponderance of other, negative things that were going on at the same time? Whether it was “the good old days” of more respectful youth (Vietnam), “Leave it to Beaver” middle class America  (a martini and cigarette for dessert) or the days of the “perfect President” (pick one – the rose colored glasses of either party are equally myopic and revisionist), the “reality” of the past is really in our interpretation of it.

In planning our financial futures, it is equally dangerous to look fondly on the past as it is to look optimistically to the future. We need to focus on the now! We’ve been told that interest rates would be rising for at least the last five years. How many earnings have been lost waiting for that to happen? And how much more will continue to be lost, waiting until that magic percentage rate is reached?  

Alternatives exist now to participate in the market’s current positive trajectory, lock in gains and providing future flexibility. Not acting now could result in retirement savings disappearing and becoming a bitter memory as the result of an upcoming market correction.

Here’s the trap: Now may not seem like a good time to take action because you are too busy, you have other more urgent things to do, interest rates are too low, there’s an election coming up, etc. Later seems better because you (think you) will have more time, more money, more information and better opportunities.

The Bottom Line: Will later be better? Or will later turn out to be the worst of times – too late? Take action now. Give yourself the chance to look back and say, “Those were the good old days.