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Marcia Mantell: Social Security, Medicare and What Advisors Need to Know

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As founder and president of Mantell Retirement Consulting Inc., Marcia Mantell guides advisors on business development, marketing, education and communication.

Mantell is the author of “What’s The Deal With Retirement Planning For Women?” She also writes a regular column for ThinkAdvisor, Connecting the Dots, in which she responds to real questions from clients on Social Security and retirement, as well as has her own blog, Boomer Retirement Briefs.

In an email, Mantell responded to 10 questions on her professional and personal thoughts.

ThinkAdvisor: 1. What market indicator, industry statistic, regulatory change or advisor trend are you watching most closely right now and why?

Marcia Mantell: In general, I watch both consumer confidence (Conference Board) data and various Small Business Trends (NFIB Research Center). These give me a broad view of what’s happening in the hearts and minds of consumers and communities.

Also, each Q3 I await Social Security’s COLA announcement and the corresponding Medicare Part B premium increase. I first look at the implication to current retirees. Then, I can help pre-retirees prepare better for the high cost of health care in retirement. The more individuals can learn before age 65, the less shocked they are.

2. How has this statistic/indicator been changing recently (2021) and how do you expect it to change (2022)?

Frankly, I was surprised how high the Part B standard premium increased, jumping from $148.50 in 2021 to $170.10 for 2022. That’s a 15% hike over 2021 and a further reduction of $21.60 out of retiree’s Social Security checks. Thankfully, with the strong COLA of 5.9%, most retirees should still see an important increase in their benefits overall.

But health care is really expensive. It’s getting harder for many to manage — whether already in Medicare or in employer-sponsored plans or in the ACA Marketplace plans.

3. What would you suggest advisors do now or consider doing in the future about it?

Assuming health care costs will only rise going forward, it’s simply critical for people to plan for hefty increases. Advisors can provide important information about the rising costs in their local area. And, they can strongly encourage clients to use Medicare.gov to check their own personal costs.

Clients can (and should) enter their own prescription drugs and get real costs. Plus, clients can shop for Medigap plans or Medicare Advantage plans and get ahead of Medicare’s sticker shock that comes at age 65.

4. Who or what critical source of information do you track, or follow online, to keep up with this or other trends?

Medicare.gov’s “Find Plans” tool is probably my favorite tool. It is updated in October every year, so you can see the next year’s costs and make adjustments to your retirement income plan.

I track the CMS press releases for announcements of Medicare premiums. I signed up for Social Security’s enewsletters where they announce annual COLAs.

Another go-to resource for me on lots of economic data is Bureau of Labor Statistics. And, for retirement confidence it’s always EBRI’s Retirement Confidence Survey. They’ve published it for some 30 years — as long as I’ve been in the retirement industry!

5. Are you changing any of your work habits at this stage of the pandemic? Why/why not?

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Yes and no. Like most, I’ve had to swap out in-person presentations for virtual options. That has opened opportunities for me to work with smaller advisor practices and offer virtual events. But I really miss live, in-person events.

I’ve also started offering one-on-one Medicare or Social Security educational sessions. It’s a new avenue that I love doing.

My office is on the waterfront in Plymouth, Massachusetts. After the initial lockdown in 2020, I could return to my office. I love it there, and frankly, get a lot more done when I’m out of the house.

6. What’s your biggest hobby and what was the last event/activity you did related to it?

I’ve never known anything about my family ancestry. Several years ago, I embarked on a search. It’s turned into an obsession! My husband Dan and I have walked through many cemeteries in upstate New York and dug through miles of microfiche in Glengarry, Ontario. This fall, we visited the Sir William Johnson House in Johnstown, New York. I think we found the primary records for when my Mc/MacDonald ancestors arrived. If we’re right, they came in 1773. It’s all a thrill!

7. How about your latest community/charitable activity/event/cause?

As a small business owner and advocate, I am a member of the Plymouth (MA) Area Chamber of Commerce and participate in the business education committee.

Our small but mighty team of three is working on a new program to help our local small businesses deal with this new work environment. We’re bringing in speakers and panelists to address how restaurants and other “Main Street” shops can find and keep good employees when everyone wants to work from home. And, how to build a strong culture even if you only have a few employees.

8. What book are you reading now and why?

My husband attended a lecture recently by Yale professor and author Mark Peterson and surprised me with a signed copy of his new book, “The City-State of Boston: The Rise and Fall of an Atlantic Power, 1630–1865.”

Thanks to my ancestry work, I am rather obsessed these days with the earliest colonial American history. And, am woefully aware how little I really know about our real history. Living between Boston and Plymouth affords me an up-close and personal look at where this great experiment started.

9. Any special holiday plan, activity or focus you’d like to share as we near year-end? Or a New Year’s resolution that you’ve decided on?

I’m very excited that my two daughters will be coming home for two weeks at Christmas. They are driving from Minnesota with two cats and one big puppy. We’re looking forward to baking cookies and playing board games. Bananagrams and Ticket to Ride are our current favorites, along with a daily crossword puzzle.

10. Any other update/fact about you or piece of advice/wisdom you’d like to share with our advisor audience? 

Each holiday season, we set up a fancy English tea in the dining room, and the four of us sit down for our annual “Mantell Family Finance Fun” discussion. I started this seven or eight years ago and we all find it quite fascinating.

We talk about money and values. Dan and I each teach our girls some of the important financial and investment topics that they never learned in school. Most popular topics: how credit scores are determined and tax-loss harvesting.