The Florida tourism industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the Orlando area that’s the home of popular attractions including Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and Sea World that all temporarily shut down their amusement parks.
With a clientele that is largely made up of Disney World employees, along with investors who work for the other parks and the Marriott Vacation Club, there are also those who have retired from those tourist destinations. Dennis Nolte, vice president and financial advisor at Seacoast Investment Services in Winter Park, Florida, has seen the pandemic affect his clients in a wide variety of ways, he told ThinkAdvisor.
About 95% of his 290 clients with about $64 million in assets under management combined either currently work at Disney World or used to work there and have retired or now work for one of that attraction’s local rivals, he noted.
Roughly one-third of his clients were affected by recent Disney furloughs or had to take pay cuts at Disney or Universal, including executives who took pay cuts of about 20%, he pointed out. Those furloughed — about 20% of his clients — were not paid and were supposed to receive unemployment insurance checks, but many of them were still waiting for those, although most received stimulus checks, he said.
His clients have not seen their investment portfolios destroyed by the pandemic and resulting economic fallout, he noted. For one thing, most of his clients were not furloughed and have been working from home during the pandemic, he said. Another positive: Disney World, Universal and Sea World are all planning to open again soon.
“A lot of them are retirees” and most of the Disney folks have pensions, “so they’re not … in dire straits” like many other Americans right now, he noted.
What has also helped these clients has been careful investment planning.
How a Client’s Death Led to a New Client
Nolte received a grim text one day from an investor who had been a client of his since 2006 and retired about two years ago from his job as an engineer at Disney World, he recalled.
The client was texting him from a hospital, where he was being treated for double pneumonia, and told Nolte it was the roughest night ever for him and he didn’t think he was going to make it. “I didn’t hear from him” after that, but later saw on Facebook that the client’s nieces had posted he had died on or about April 11.
“It’s hard to say whether it was COVID-related or not,” Nolte noted. But the client was 66 and “had immune deficiency issues, so he was definitely part of the at-risk population and he went pretty fast,” Nolte said.
The death certificate did not name COVID-19 as the cause, but both his client before dying and his sister thought he had COVID “based on the rapidity/symptomology of his illness,” he explained.
The client was single, and his siblings would be splitting up his assets, about $600,000 to $700,000. One of those siblings was a sister living in California who had about $70,000 in credit card debt, he recalled. Nolte wound up helping the sister and her husband try to figure out their overall financial situation, he noted, adding that he was initially not being paid for that assistance.
The sister initially wanted to cash in her share of the inheritance, pay her debt off and pay the taxes all at once, he recalled, adding he was “in the process of talking [with her] about how best to strategize that so she can get rid of that debt and not incur” the huge tax hit that would come if she were to take it all as cash at one time and pay the taxes up front the same year.
“Maybe we can pay the credit card debt first, but maybe wait to have the rest of it paid out over next year or pay it out over the next couple to three years,” he noted.
Less than one week after our phone interview, Nolte told ThinkAdvisor that the sister “retained us to manage her account.”