Should you use a financial advisor for health care?
If it wasn't already difficult saving for retirement, uncertainty about the cost of health care has become a major concern. Would you turn to a financial advisor for guidance? Perhaps, but you'll need to do some vetting to figure out if your advisor is the right choice.
The Affordable Care Act has resulted in many new developments for the delivery of health care, which is also making retirement planning even more challenging for advisors. Many of them must now wear at least two hats, as those who may have focused primarily on investments are being tasked with helping clients navigate the changing health care landscape.
Dr. Carolyn McClanahan, a certified financial planner and former emergency medicine physician, says it's important for financial advisors to get health care information from clients when helping them come up with a long-term strategy to meet their retirement goals.
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"I find that most people are more comfortable talking about their health-care problems than they are about their financial issues because health problems aren't under your control," said McClanahan of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Fla.
She says a financial planner should be comfortable asking basic questions, such as "What medications are you on?" or "Have you ever been in the hospital?" and "How often do you go to the doctor?" Those are all questions that clients, when they know what you're planning for, are happy to answer for you, says McClanahan, who is also a member of the CNBC Digital Financial Advisors Council.
Knowing your options is critical, especially as many employers are changing—or plan to change—their coverage for retirees. A study this month by Towers Watson found that among those employers that sponsor a retiree health plan, about 40 percent plan to discontinue it in 2015. To figure out what's next for your coverage and the costs, you need to make sure you have the right financial professional guiding you.
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Many financial advisors say the key is to find a planner who takes a 360-degree view of health-care choices and who understands the risks and tax consequences.
"You want that expertise, that knowledge of the health-care options, but you need that peripheral vision of a certified financial planner to understand the tax impact, the cash flow impact, all the other ways in which your health care impacts your total financial picture," said Eleanor Blayney, consumer advocate for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. "Find somebody who really can look over all the factors of your financial situation."
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Blayney suggests finding a financial advisor who has received the certified financial planner (CFP) designation from the CFP Board. These advisors are required to complete training in comprehensive financial planning, not only in making investment decisions.
You can locate a CFP in your area, and even narrow your search to one who specializes in health-care planning, at www.letsmakeaplan.org.
Also, the Financial Planning Association, which includes many members with a CFP designation, has a search tool on its website that can help you find a comprehensive financial planner who specializes in medical and health issues and/or long-term care.
—By CNBC's Sharon Epperson. Follow here on Twitter @sharon_epperson.