The Government Shutdown

As you have no doubt heard, the United States government shut down at midnight (Eastern) October 1, 2013. There are many questions and concerns about this situation, but here are some basics.

What happened?

In short, Congress did not pass any of their appropriations bills. These bills provide money to various to federal agencies. Federal law requires agencies without these funding laws in place to close.

<h2class=”sub_heading”>How long will this last?As with other shutdowns, this is largely up to the two major parties and their abilities to reach whatever deal is necessary to get the bills passed. If we look to history, the two most recent government shutdowns happened in the Clinton administration. One only lasted five days. The other lasted three weeks.

What’s closed, what’s opened?

Not every public service is shut down entirely, as not every agency requires appropriations to function. Social Security and Medicare are not affected, active duty military continue to function, as does the Department of Defense, as do intelligence, law enforcement, and our embassies overseas. Some are only partially closed; U.S. Courts will be open for 10 days, for instance.

CNN has a frequently updated list of shutdowns at:

How is this different from the debt crisis?

They are different situations, but one can affect the other. The debt crisis relates to the separate matter of establishing how much money the U.S. Government can borrow in order to fund its various agencies and programs. However, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says that the crunch is coming soon – no later than October 17.

With the shutdown a fluid situation, it’s difficult to say when this will be resolved. Whether you are a government employee or an ordinary citizen, it’s only natural to be concerned. It may be a good time to contact a financial professional and inquire if and how the shutdown may affect you.

Mark S. Gardner may be reached at 214-762-2327



Ten Things that one should know about the Affordable Care Act and how it will affect you!!!


In March 2010, President Obama signed comprehensive health reform, The
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), into law. The law
makes preventive care, including family planning and related services
more assessable and affordable for many Americans. While some provisions
of the law have already taken a fact, many more provisions will be
implemented in the coming years.

Important Dates

  •       03/23/2010 —- PPACA Signed into Law
  •       01/01 2013 —- State and Regional Exchange Certification
  •       10/01/2013 —- Open Enrollment begins, will remain open until March 31, 2014
  •       01/01/2015 —- Exchanges financially sufficient
  •       01/01/2017 —- Tentative date for large groups

Big Picture- Affordable Care Act rolls out in phases that began in 2010 and continue through 2019


  • Standards for Minimum health benefit plan offerings
  • State based Health Benefits Exchanges
  • Mandates for Employers and Him individuals to provide/purchase coverage
  • Premium Credit or cost share subsidies to qualified individuals
  • Taxes and Fees
  • Requirements that insurance companies spend a certain percentage of premium dollars on patient care
  • Certain preventive care services covered without cost-sharing (out-of-pocket expenses)
  • Insurance market reforms
  • Expanded appeal rights for consumer

Changes to Medicare reimbursements


  • Grandfathered Plans, any plan in effect on or before March 23, 2010
  • not required to implement a number of health reform laws including:
  • Rating restrictions associated adjusted community ratings
  • Capping deductibles and/or implementing out-of-pocket limits
  • Providing essential health benefits (small group only)
  • Providing coverage for clinical trials

Public Exchanges

  • Each State must have an exchange (State or Federally run)
  • A place where individuals are employees who cannot afford employers plans’ can purchase insurance coverage
  • 3 Models
    • State Run facilitator – Carriers compete in an Open market. Any
      carrier meeting minimum
      requirements can participate
    • State Run Active Purchaser- state (s) solicits bids from carriers
      and determines which plans to offer;
      state (s) directly negotiates with carriers
    • Federally Run model- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) runs the exchange for the state who do not create one

Exchange Plans

  • Bronze plans will have the lowest monthly premium, but costs shares will be more when health care services are needed
  • Platinum plans will have highest monthly premium but costs shares will be low

Essential Health Benefits Required:

  • Ambulatory patient services
  • Emergency Services
  • Hospitalization
  • Maternal and Newborn
  • Mental Health Services
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehab services
  • Labs
  • Preventive and Chronic Disease Management
  • Pediatric Services, including oral and vision care

Tier Levels:

  • Platinum- 90% coverage
  • Gold- 80% coverage
  • Silver- 70% coverage
  • Bronze- 60% coverage

Individual Mandate-Buy a plan through either: Employer, Individual Market or traditional market or Go uninsured and pay penalty

  • 2014 – Greater of $95 or 1% of annual income
  • 2015 – Greater of $325 or 2% of annual income
  • 2016 – Greater of $695 or 2.5% of annual income
  • 2017 and beyond – Annual adjustments

Affordable Care Act doesn’t require employers to contribute to monthly premium or offer dependent coverage.

Companies can: Offer health insurance that meets the minimum coverage definition and affordable

Offer some level of coverage but does not meet minimum requirements and pay penalty

Stop offering coverage that employees purchase through exchange, and pay employer penalty

  • Note – ACA doesn’t require employers to contribute to monthly premium or offer dependent coverage
  • Mandate
    • Minimum coverage is not offered to full-time employees and one
      employee gets subsidize coverage equal $2000/employee after first 30 FTE
      (Full-time equivalent)
    • Minimum coverage is offered to full-time employee but it is not
      affordable an employee gets subsidized coverage +$3000/employee
      receiving subsidize coverage

The Affordable Care Act soon will be rolled out and like most Americans and Companies we all will have many questions. There’s no foolish question. As we all will be learning on the go. Feel free to call me, Mark S. Gardner at 214 – 762 – 2327. If I’m on another call don’t hesitate to leave your name and number and the reason you’re calling. Either I or one of my associates will contact you to see how we can help you. Stay tuned there is more to come with Obama Care.



Who is the Lone Ranger? And why do I want to REACH them.

Who is the Lone Ranger? And why do I want to REACH them.

Uncle Mark wants YOU. If you have children born between 1965 to 1981 or know of anyone fitting this description
show them this article—-You will be doing them a big favor !!!

Generation X may not be as big as the baby boomer generation, but it is 70 million strong. Generation X makes up the next face of retirement and continues to be overlooked. But, as a 2012 Insured Retirement Institute study suggests, this generation is in dire need of financial advice. From fears of longevity to paying for healthcare-related costs during retirement, this group is open to learning from trusted insurance professionals who can provide the expertise to guide them through the retirement planning process.

Who is Generation X?

Generation X  who are you and what are your retirement concerns?

Now Generation X is commonly referred to as Gen X. It is the generation born after the post-World War II baby boomers during the years 1965 to 1981.

Generation X Today

An Educated, Underinsured Group Today, as a group, Generation X is technologically savvy and generally gathers information from the Internet through onlinereviews and social media. They are educated compared to other generations, with one third having at least a Bachelor’s degree, and many working in professional occupations. A majority of married Gen Xers own homes, as the following indicates:

Gen X largely consists of families with children, breadwinners approaching prime earning years, and those tasked with caring for aged parents. The combination of these characteristics positions them as model candidates for life insurance and annuities. Gen Xers are largely married with dependents; their current levels of insurance coverage indicate, however, that their households will not be able to cover future living expenses if the primary wage earner dies.

Facing an Uphill Battle

Now that we have an understanding of who Gen X is, let’s take some more time to understand their specific fears related to retirement. Similar to baby boomers, Gen Xers have their own concerns surrounding the “what-ifs” of retirement. Generation X faces an uphill battle, getting hit the hardest by the Great Recession.6 And what’s even more eye-opening, Gen Xers are on track to be financially worse off than the generations before them.
Unlike many Baby Boomers, most Gen Xers are aware that they will not have the luxury of relying on generous company pensions. Generation X is also tuned in to recent news about the uncertain future of Social Security, as many Gen Xers are skeptical that they’ll even receive projected Social Security benefits. And to make matters worse, Generation X faces high levels of debt, which includes student loans, high housing costs and periods of unemployment. These combined factors are making a big impact on Gen X savings accounts.
According to Insured Institute’s 2012 study highlighting Generations X’s retirement confidence, as mentioned earlier, the group’s biggest retirement concern is having enough money to live comfortably during their retirement years, followed by fears of not having enough money to pay for medical expenses during retirement.
This undeserved market has several roadblocks ahead of them, and longevity is just one concern out of many. Gen X is in need of retirement planning advice to help meet their many objectives. Fortunately, there are some potentially effective solutions, including annuities with income riders, that you can offer Gen X prospects and clients to help them create their own “personal retirement pension plan.”

Providing An Attractive Solution: ATHENE Benefit 10SM with
Enhanced Benefit Rider: One Rider – Five Benefits*

Now I will help the individual or couple focus on how to successfully address Generation X’s main retirement fears with helpful guidance and effective strategies. ATHENE Benefit 10 with Enhanced Benefit Rider may be an effective solution to help Gen X  reach their retirement objectives and give them the confidence they need to prepare for their future. Although their retirement may be decades away, adding ATHENE Benefit 10 with Enhanced Benefit Rider to a retirement portfolio can help Gen X clients’ confront their “what-ifs” of retirement.

Before making any recommendations, it’s important to carefully understand and consider Gen X clients’ objectives. If Generation X answer yes to the following questions, it may be worthwhile for them to consider ATHENE Benefit 10 with Enhanced Benefit Rider to help diversify their overall retirement portfolio.
Generation X ask yourselves the following questions:
• Do you want retirement income guaranteed for your lifetime?
• Are you looking for a tax-advantaged way to grow your retirement dollars?
• Do you worry about outliving your retirement dollars?
• Are you concerned about having the flexibility to meet your ever-changing needs?
• Do you know how you’d pay your bills if you developed a chronic illness and couldn’t take care of yourself?
Since Generation X is faced with the possibility that they may receive reduced Social Security benefits, it’s important to focus on how Gen Xers are going to supplement their retirement income. This impressive annuity with its five-in-one benefit rider can provide guaranteed income for your client’s lifetime helping to create their own “personal pension plan.”

Furthermore, ATHENE Benefit 10’s accumulated value AND the Enhanced Benefit Rider’s Benefit Base grow tax-deferred, giving your Gen X client an instant advantage in effectively accumulating retirement dollars. The Enhanced Benefit Rider may be especially ideal for Gen X clients, as the Benefit Base can accumulate for up to 55 years or age 85, whichever is greater.
And lastly, ATHENE Benefit 10 with Enhanced Benefit Rider can provide flexibility, giving your Gen X clients the confidence of knowing they have a versatile product that can adapt to their changing needs. ATHENE Benefit 10 offers free partial withdrawals so your clients can access a portion of their annuity’s value if needed. The Enhanced Benefit Rider can provide living benefits, which allow clients to withdraw funds without penalty if they are unable to perform some activities of daily living (ADLs), are confined to a health care facility, or if they’re diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Call Mark Gardner 214-762-2327 to make an appointment to discuss how he can address your concerns.


Same-Sex Couple that holds a Marriage License

Same-Sex Couple that holds a Marriage License and one of the parties is a beneficiary please note that on June 26, 2013 the United States Supreme Court declared a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional, holding that same-sex marriages recognized under state law must also be recognized for purposes of federal law.  Exactly how this Supreme Court decision will affect spousal provisions applicable to policies and contracts issued by a Life Insurance Company is still being determined, especially in regard to residents of states which do not recognize same-sex marriage.

 Some members of industry organizations are looking closely at this new development and how it impacts insurance companies. We will keep you informed of new industry guidance as it becomes available. Note to ensure that you are acting in accordance with all state and federal laws and regulations please be sure to list relationship as SPOUSE regardless of the state in which you are living, when applying with a same-sex couple that holds a marriage license and one of the parties is a beneficiary. If this applies to you or you know someone who is presently in this status let them know about DOMA. This is only my opinion as I am not an attorney nor do I know what any insurance company may do or not do based on the information I provided.


Sales Tip of the Week

Let’s revisit why to consider a fixed indexed annuity over a CD? Because of stock market volatility money needed in the short term could create a loss if invested in equities. Consider fixed rates for short term dollars. Conversely, because of interest rate volatility, money needed in the long term invested in CD’s may suffer inferior returns. Think upside potential for long term dollars. Here’s an idea using a fixed index annuity to take advantage of volatility to create returns while protecting principal from market risk:

Sam, age 66, has $100,000 in a 5-year CD that will renew at 1.17%

  •  If nothing changes, the $100,000 will grow to $109,752 in 8 years.
  • Consider allocating $40,000 in a fixed account that will earn about the same return as 100% of the funds deposited in a CD
  •  Place the remaining $60,000 in the S & P Annual Reset Point to Point (best case 5.75% return) and potentially have $95,718 in 8 years.

Contact Mr. Mark Gardner today at 214-762-2327 or email him at to further discuss your personal issues and needs


Welcome to Retire Well Dallas

We at Retire Well Dallas have a simple goal: To make your retirement the best years of your life.

Time and finances can slip away almost invisibly. We have seen it happen all too often, too unnecessarily. We understand how important time and financial security are in our own lives, so we care about every client that walks through our doors. It’s why we at Retire Well Dallas dedicate so much time upfront (fix it to read) to understand your financial and lifestyle objectives before we offer any financial advice. We’re committed to delivering you a custom strategy based on your individual needs, not some tossed-off stereotype or 4% rule that sounds great in theory but can’t be realized in practice over the long term.

Some say time is free. We believe it’s priceless. You spent your whole life working to have more time to spend with your family, to travel and do the things you love to do. We’re committed to preserving the time of your retirement with a secure income so that you can live it with a sense of security, relief, and joy.

Let’s not waste another minute before discussing your personal financial goals and dreams. Allow us to show to you the difference Retire Well Dallas can make.

Please click on the link below that features Mark S. Gardner on Success Today. The episode featuring Gardner recently aired on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates across the country.


Are Annuities the Solution to Old 4% Retirement Rule?

By William H. Byrnes, Esq., Robert Bloink, Esq., LL.M., AdvisorOne

For years, the so-called 4% rule provided the baseline from which advisors launched strategies for retirement account withdrawals. The rule is simple, well-trusted, and relatively unlikely to fail—or at least it used to be. In today’s low-interest rate environment, the strategies that worked for the past 20 years are simply not cutting it, meaning that advisors and clients must readjust their expectations to uncover alternative solutions for providing sustainable retirement income.

While the word “annuity” may be a dirty one for clients who have traditionally sought aggressive investment returns (or worried about their high costs), the evidence cannot be ignored: new studies suggest that annuities are a competitive alternative to the newly old-fashioned 4% rule. For those clients unwilling to modify their retirement income planning strategy so dramatically, many advisors have discovered a new method for determining retirement withdrawal rates, inspired by the system used by the IRS itself.

The Problem With 4%

As the name suggests, the 4% rule suggests that if your client withdraws 4% of the balance from a retirement account each year, he will be able to create a sustainable retirement income stream with virtually no risk of exhausting the account assets. This strategy has worked for years, more or less, but there have always been problems, such as the failure to account for actual investment performance in any given year. It has generally been a safe bet, however, that the client will not run out of money, which is the greatest fear for many retirees.

Today’s low interest rate environment has, unfortunately, eliminated the primary benefit of the 4% strategy—namely, the 4% rule is no longer a safe bet. A new study (by Texas Tech professor and Research magazine contributor Michael Finke) has produced evidence that, because interest rates are about 4% lower than their historical average, the anticipated failure rate for the 4% rule has jumped from 6% to a whopping 57%.

These numbers cannot be ignored. The study found that the failure rate would remain at 18% even if interest rates increase in five years’ time, though there is no evidence to suggest that we will return to 20th century interest rates anytime soon, if ever. The bottom line: it is time for clients to oust the 4% withdrawal strategy.

The Annuity Solution

Even if your clients are tired of hearing about the benefits of annuitizing their assets, it is becoming a simple fact that retirement accounts are not yielding the returns that they have in the past, and the potential of a 57% failure rate by following the 4% rule should get clients’ attention. When the 4% rule’s failure rate was a modest 6%, there may have been reason for clients to reject annuity products as noncompetitive, but today’s reality has changed the picture. Annuities should be seen as more attractive than ever.

An annuity product is not perfect, however. It ties up your clients’ funds in an investment that is difficult to liquidate, meaning that the client cannot easily access the funds to provide for unexpectedly high health-related or other costs during retirement. This will provide some clients with incentive to purchase long-term care insurance that will protect them against unforeseen costs that aren’t usually reimbursed by Medicare.

Other clients will continue to insist that long-term care insurance is prohibitively expensive. This may be true for many, but luckily annuity products have also changed with the times, and many insurance companies now offer annuity products with critical care riders to provide long-term care benefits in addition to the traditional annuity income stream. The products also address the “use it or lose it” problem posed by long-term care insurance because most contracts offer a cash surrender value if the long-term care feature is never tapped.

The Beneficial IRS RMD Method

Studies have also identified the IRS’s RMD method as a better alternative for determining retirement account withdrawal rates than the 4% rule. Not only is the RMD approach almost as simple as the 4% rule—rather than withdrawing 4% each year, the client consults IRS tables to determine the applicable annual percentage—it offers much more flexibility.

The RMD rule is, in many ways, much more realistic than the 4% rule because it bases withdrawals on the current value of the client’s retirement assets. While this requires determining what that value is each year, it also allows clients to modify their consumption levels based on actual account performance. Because the withdrawal percentages are based on life expectancy and vary with age, it is unlikely that the client will outlive his assets using this method because the account’s rate of return is factored into the equation.


Many of your clients may be reluctant to abandon what they think of as a tried-and-true method for determining withdrawal rates, but recent studies provide a powerful argument in favor of seeking alternatives. Simply put, if the interest rate environment has changed, causing old strategies to fail, why shouldn’t your clients’ perceptions change along with it?

Contact Mr. Mark Gardner today at 214-762-2327 or email him at to further discuss your personal issues and needs


What is “final expense insurance”?

“Burial insurance” usually refers to a whole life insurance policy with a death benefit of from $5,000 to $25,000. As its nickname implies, people buy this type of policy to provide money for funeral and burial costs for themselves and/or family members. It is possible to buy a policy after answering a few health-related questions on the application and with no medical exam.

Premiums are payable weekly or monthly. The premium is usually collected at the policy owner’s home or workplace, and the premium is usually a small round number, such as $2 or $3 per week; the death benefit is whatever that premium will buy given the insured’s current age. For example, a $3 per week premium might buy a $6,000 death benefit for a 36-year-old man or an $18,000 death benefit for a 9-year-old boy.

Burial policies may be designed to cover one person or everyone in a family.

Under some state laws, funeral homes may be licensed to sell burial insurance, but it is mainly sold through brokers and agents of insurance companies licensed to sell life insurance.

An approach that is similar to burial life insurance (and sometimes called burial or “pre-need” insurance) is pre-payment of your funeral arrangements. Under this program, you may select the funeral home, type of service, casket (or cremation), flowers, headstone, burial plot, the cost of digging and filling the grave, and other items, and lock in the prices for them by paying in advance.

Contact Mr. Mark Gardner today at 214-762-2327 or email him at to further discuss your personal issues and needs


How can I insure against loss of income?

If you were disabled and unable to work as a result of an accident or illness, what would you and your family do for income?

Disability income insurance, which complements health insurance, can replace lost income. Forty-three percent of all people age 40 will have a long-term (lasting 90 days or more) disability event by age 65.

There are three basic ways to replace income:

1.Employer-paid disability insurance

This is required in most states. Most employers provide some short-term sick leave. Many larger employers provide long-term disability coverage as well, typically with benefits of up to 60 percent of salary lasting from five years to age 65, and in some cases extended for life.

2.Social Security disability benefits

This can be paid to workers whose disability is expected to last at least 12 months and is so severe that no gainful employment can be performed.

3.Individual disability income insurance policies

Other limited replacement income is available for workers under some circumstances from workers compensation (if the injury or illness is job-related), auto insurance (if disability results from an auto accident) and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

For most workers, even those with some employer-paid coverage, an individual disability income policy is the best way to ensure adequate income in the event of disability. When you buy a private disability income policy, you can expect to replace from 50% to 70% of income. Insurers won’t replace all your income because they want you to have an incentive to return to work. However, when you pay the premiums yourself, disability benefits are not taxed. (Benefits from employer-paid policies are subject to income tax.)

Contact Mr. Mark Gardner today at 214-762-2327 or email him at> to further discuss your personal issues and needs.,


How are annuities different from life insurance?

Both annuities and life insurance should be considered in your long-term financial plan. While both include death benefits, you buy life insurance in the event you die too soon and an annuity in case you live too long. In other words, life insurance provides economic protection to your loved ones if you die before your financial obligations to them are met, while annuities guard against outliving your assets.

Contact Mr. Mark Gardner today at 214-762-2327   or

email him at to further discuss your personal issues and needs