In the insurance industry, we spend a lot of time working to make sure that our clients don’t run out of money in retirement. We talk with our clients about their assets. Then we plan around them.
But longevity creates other assets that aren't always part of the planning process – digital assets. The longer we live, the larger the digital footprint we leave behind.
It’s both an asset and a risk – and few planners are talking about this risk with their clients.
I recently attended the Society of Financial Service Professionals 2019 FSP Institute. During the conference, an attorney specializing in digital assets talked about common issues with estate planning. Digital assets, he said, usually aren’t properly valued on balance sheets. They’re hard to value because there isn’t really a market.
But digital assets can be monetized if we help our clients think that way. Americans are living longer, and investing patterns are changing. Today’s technologies should be encouraging us to think differently.
First, there are digital assets with tangible value, like cryptocurrency, where individuals assume the risk of safeguarding those assets. One individual lost almost $60 million in assets because their cryptocurrency could not be liquidated in a timely fashion. A little risk mitigation would have gone a long way.
Beyond that, we often hear stories of deceased authors and musicians with memoirs or other works on their computers, locked forever because nobody has their password. What great ideas, what contributions to literature and the arts might never see the light of day? Or even personal memories – photos, videos and documents from a life well-lived. More than ever, this is the legacy individuals want to leave for the next generation.
The insurance industry needs to test the risks and rewards of managing a client’s digital assets. If they haven't already, your clients’ power of attorney or executor should have access to their social media and online financial accounts. Your client will need to give explicit authorization and direction to that person what to do with those accounts if the worst happens. Estate planning documents need to reflect the new world of technology and our reliance on it.
Retirement income planning is more than just a systematic withdrawal. It engulfs the need to have guaranteed income to mitigate longevity. But, it also requires us to look at other risks – health care, long term care, taxes, legacy planning, and now digital assets.
Consider adding digital assets to your financial planning and retirement discussions. Digital assets will last longer than any of us and our money. Plan to make sure they are controlled and disposed of properly.
About the Author
Mike McGlothlin is a team leader, retirement industry activist and disciple of Indiana Hoosier basketball. In addition to being EVP of retirement at Ash Brokerage, he is a sought-after writer and speaker. His web series, “Winning Strategies,” provides insight and motivation for financial advisors in many forms – blogs, books, videos, podcasts and more. His latest book, “Free Throw for Financial Professionals,” is available now – learn more at www.freethrowsforpros.com.
© 2018 Ash Brokerage LLC.