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Financial planning in crisis

An offer of certainty in a COVID world

By Lisa Powers

Although 2020 may have seemed like it lasted a lifetime, the flip of the calendar to 2021 continues uncertainty and a “new normal” that is anything but. The unexpected and unsettling events that COVID-19 created have only heightened the need for everyone to implement a strategy to address the concerns and challenges of aging. 

Perhaps you became a caregiver for an elderly or disabled family member while struggling with remote school and work demands. Your retirement plans may be thrown off course. Whether you deem yourself wealthy or consider your savings and retirement modest, your decisions now will impact how you age and your legacy for your loved ones. Here are three key questions: 

Do you have an estate plan? Creating or updating your plan provides a roadmap to family members, protects your wishes, and can preserve your assets. Beyond the essentials (will, power of attorney, and health care proxy), your plan must address your specific preferences and name alternate agents if your primary choice cannot act. Naming your spouse alone is not enough, as he or she may be quarantined with you. 

Have you considered you might need Medicaid to pay for care? The pandemic has forced many families to care for loved ones at home, but costs can exceed those of institutional settings. Working with an experienced eldercare attorney who understands Medicaid eligibility, including the harsh new rules that penalize transfers of assets for home care, is critical to protect assets.  We dispel the myths about qualifying for Medicaid and offer legal strategies to help you qualify to receive care at home from providers you choose. Do not wait until you have exhausted your savings or, worse, liquidated your IRA to pay for care. 

Who’s on your team? Proper estate and Medicaid planning is never a do-it-yourself project. It is dangerous to assume a financial planner, accountant, or individual attorney can do everything you need. Consistent with our team approach, we refer and partner with other community supports and agencies to preserve your choices for care. 

Bottom line: the stresses of COVID-19 cannot pull your attention away from your estate plan. Contact the experienced attorneys of Harris Beach’s wills, trusts and estates practice group at 419-8800 for certainty and peace of mind.

Fiscal Preparedness

By Michael Farrell

Everyone knows their personal finances are important. But sometimes, any life occurrence—from a small shift to a seismic event—can push the significance of these fiscal concerns to the forefront.

That’s what the COVID-19 pandemic has done for so many people. Economic downturn, employment fluctuation, and unexpected monetary needs have illuminated the necessity for financial preparedness, no matter your age or professional stage. For those committed to cautious savings and tactful investments, their preparation has helped manage this time of need and establish a way forward to the brighter days ahead.

That’s why understanding the importance of fiscal literacy and planning is so important. It may be too late for some to reverse the past effects of this economic and health crisis, but it’s never too late to inform your present and prepare for the future.  

MassMutual New York’s The Establishment can help. The Rochester-based education entity within Metro Cowork’s East Avenue location now offers free webinars focused on finance-related topics important to both young and experienced professionals—and are convenient for those staying safe at home. These online sessions educate attendees on such things as student loans, money management, investing, and insurance and do it in an accessible way that resonates across a wide range of fiscal proficiencies. 

It’s engaging education to elicit financial preparedness and could provide protection for the next batch of unforeseen financial challenges in the distance—or just down the road. 

To learn more about The Establishment and its upcoming schedule of classes, visit

Navigating Transition

By Lizz Ortolani

As the pandemic continues to impact our community, it brought many questions and unexpected anxieties for many people. Our work lives changed and adjusted; the work we do at Ortolani Services remains as important as ever. We specialize in helping people on Medicare, individuals, sole proprietors, contract workers, retirees, and small businesses. 

Health insurance changed a lot in the past twenty years, and our staff is committed to advocating for and supporting all of those who choose to work with us. 

An essential part of our work is helping people in transition. This year, many people experienced transitions, including being laid off, furloughed, or choosing to retire early. You may find yourself overwhelmed as you go through a life change, like marriage, divorce, birth of child, or death of a spouse—further escalated by the strain of the pandemic. With this come questions about how to make choices about health insurance moving forward. If you are sixty-five years of age or older or on Social Security Disability, Medicare is a federal health insurance program that helps to cover some healthcare expenses. Many people choose to enroll in Medicare when they retire, but still have questions about how exactly to enroll in the program and how it will impact healthcare costs. There are decisions to make after enrolling in Medicare, including whether to purchase a stand-alone prescription drug plan, a Supplement/Medigap plan, or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. For others who are not eligible for Medicare, you may have questions about how to find a healthcare program you can afford without employer support, either direct through an insurance company or the NYS Marketplace. Connecting with a brokerage can help ease this process and answer any questions you may have. 

When we meet with clients who have questions and feel overwhelmed by the need to decide about health insurance premiums, deductibles, copays, or the “donut hole”, our goal is to see an exhale at the end of that meeting. That sense of relief is truly what motivates our team. 

Prior to this year, many people might say to themselves, “why am I spending so much on a high deductible plan?” There is value even in the catastrophic plans that provide bankruptcy protection. It is important to know that if something happens that you’re covered and can access the care that you need, no matter what transition or life change you may encounter. 

Knowledge of your options and the resources available is important. This includes understanding your health insurance plan and knowing who you can trust. At Ortolani Services, we pride ourselves in guiding people as they make decisions about their future benefits.

Ortolani Services, Inc. is a resource for people who want to make a change or are facing the types of life transitions that affect their health insurance or other benefits. We take the time to thoroughly explain benefits offered by local carriers to both individuals and businesses, and we provide advocacy and support throughout the year.; (585)242-9749.

Pumping Money into Roth IRAs—Now More Important than Ever

by James Terwilliger

It is no secret that I like Roth IRAs … a lot.  The Roth IRA is one of the most beneficial gifts ever bestowed by Congress upon the American taxpayer.  

Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars.  Most important, Roth IRAs are tax-free accounts.  No income tax will ever be paid on the account’s income and appreciation, provided that certain conditions are met.  

While the beneficial features of a Roth IRA have always made it an attractive retirement savings vehicle, the SECURE Act boosted its importance to the top of the priority list.  The demise of the “stretch” IRA for most non-spouse beneficiaries makes inheriting a tax-free Roth IRA much more desirable than inheriting a pre-tax, Traditional IRA.

Yes, most non-spouse heirs must now empty Traditional and Roth IRAs within ten years following the year of the IRA owner’s death.  But a non-spouse heir of a Traditional IRA must pay income tax on all the distributions, whenever they occur, over the concentrated, ten-year timeframe.  The heir of a Roth IRA can maintain the account in full force for ten years, then empty the account completely tax-free on the final day.  

Building Roth IRA balances is becoming increasingly important, particularly for estate-planning purposes, and the options are many, depending on individual circumstances. Work with a trusted financial planner to help develop your personal Roth strategy.

James Terwilliger, CFP®, is Senior Vice President, Senior Planning Advisor, CNB Wealth Management, Canandaigua National Bank & Trust Company. He can be reached at 585-419-0670 ext. 50630 or by email at [email protected].

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