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The Emotional Response to Long-Term Care Planning

Happy people

Lincoln Financial Group recently conducted a Long-Term Care planning market survey report to assess the emotional response related to caregiving. Here’s a look at the survey team’s key findings:

People want to help their family members in need of care, but also recognize the associated challenges and sacrifices.
44% said they would feel overwhelmed if they suddenly became a caregiver.

People are willing to help with personal needs and activities of daily living, but less comfortable with larger sacrifices like money and space.
79% said they could help with caregiving and feeding, and 75% said they could help with personal needs, such as cleaning and transportation. But only 35% said they would and could quit their jobs to provide care, and just 35% said they could and would pay to put loved ones in a long-term care facility.

Middle-aged Americans often face the predicament of multigenerational caregiving, ‘sandwiched’ between raising children and caring for aging parents.
Lincoln found that the GenX survey participants were more likely than boomers or millennials to say they could identify with almost every possible emotional reaction to caregiving that the survey form listed to include compassion and anxiety.

In the event of their own Long-Term Care needs, people generally do not have a solid plan in place.
Of those age 65+ with children: 30% do not want their children to be their primary caregiver, but have not arranged other plans; 20% are not sure of their plans.

Your clients need to be educated on the potential financial risks of needing Long-Term Care in retirement and need to know that there are solutions! It is imperative that you have these conversations.

Zenith Marketing Group is ready to help you find the right solution for your clients. Let us be your LTC expert! (800) 733-0054

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How Life Insurance Can Ripple Through Time: True Stories for Awareness Month

Have you ever thought about how the life insurance you sell today can ripple through time?  Consider the effect that a death benefit can have not only on the immediate hardships faced after the death of a loved one, but on the future generations that come from those that benefited from an in force policy when it was needed.  That cash infusion you helped setup can be a sea change on the lasting impact that a death can have on the financial and emotional security that follows a loss.  Here are two examples from my own life:

  1. A good friend of mine inherited a failing flooring business from his father at the age of 24.  He had some flooring skills but little business management experience.  Luckily his father had left a small life insurance policy that helped my friend cover expenses while he learned the ropes. It is now ten years later and he is one of the biggest installers in New England for Lowes, doing over $1MM per year in sales.  He has told me that there is no doubt that if he hadn’t had the benefit of his father’s life insurance policy he would have had to sell the business for next to nothing.  His life would be completely different today.
  2. My father had lost both of his parents by the age of 18.  He was one of six boys; two of whom were still in grade school at the time.  Luckily, his mother had left a life insurance policy to help take care of all of her boys if anything happened to her. The two younger boys were able to go and live with one of their older brothers, who could now afford to support them, while my father was free to attend and pay for college.  By my father’s own admission he wouldn’t have gone to college if that money hadn’t been there because he would have had to work to support his younger brothers.  He attended Lehigh University and after graduation he began working for a large insurance company in New York, which is where he met my mother. That life insurance benefit not only helped in the immediate time after my grandmothers’ death, it shaped the future for my family.  It’s not a stretch to say that I wouldn’t exist without that life policy!

These examples, and countless more, are why Life Insurance Awareness Month is so important.  Make sure you are talking about the powerful effect a death benefit can have on the lives of the individuals you work with.  Life insurance is not just a product, or a sale.  It’s the ability to stay the course through the rough times so that the future is brighter because someone lived, not dimmer because they died.

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Uncover Planning Gaps with Beneficiary Reviews

When most people hear the words beneficiary review, the obvious thoughts run through their minds:

  • Did I remember to add my youngest child as beneficiary to my insurance policy?
  • I just got divorced and need to remove my spouse as beneficiary.
  • I need to add my new grandchild as a contingent beneficiary.

Of course there are countless other scenarios but you get the idea.

What I think when I hear beneficiary review is Opportunity!

Yes, all the obvious thoughts are extremely important. For the consumer, a beneficiary review is their chance to match current beneficiary designations with their desired disposition of assets:

  • Are all assets going to the desired person(s)? In the desired manner?
  • Have “worst case” contingencies been considered and covered? Is the client sure?

After a thorough review of Zenith Marketing Group’s Beneficiary Review Producer Guide (download), you should be capable of helping clients answer these questions.

When conducting your reviews, be on the lookout for these hot button areas of significant concern where a misdirected designation may cause great distress or unintended consequences for you. Here are some of these concerns:

  1. Life insurance/other assets payable to the “estate of the insured.” Depending upon the client’s factual situation, this may not be an efficient designation. Proceeds would be included in the probate estate of the insured; thus, they would be subject to probate expenses before being distributed to the estate beneficiaries.
  2. Insured has divorced since insurance was purchased. Proceeds may still be payable to a former spouse.
  3. Re-marriage. The same issues as divorce emerge and re-marriage may create others. For example, who are the contingent beneficiaries on a life policy? The insured’s children, children of the current marriage, or someone else? Be sure that the intended parties are designated.
  4. Planning if the beneficiary predeceases the insured. This is why a contingent beneficiary is strongly recommended in all situations. If no contingent beneficiary has been named it is likely that proceeds would become payable to the insured’s estate.
  5. Testamentary trust is named. A testamentary trust is created by the will upon the death of the insured. Thus, it does not exist until the will has been probated, which may be some length of time. This may cause delay in distributing life insurance proceeds. If the will and trust are outdated and pass assets to unintended parties, this aggravates an already inefficient designation. The clients should seek legal advice with regard to any questions they may have regarding how a trust may be established or how a trust may be applicable to their factual situation.

But for you, the producer, the process of collecting data about client assets and their disposition will help you identify insurance shortcomings, and, in many cases, point to the need for a more detailed and separate insurance review and the potential for a new insurance sale. Opportunity. Use the Zenith Beneficiary Review Financial Journal (download) with your clients to collect the data.
This thorough collection of data may reveal assets you had no idea even existed, leading to discussions such as:

  1. Do current insurance products continue to meet the client’s needs?
  2. Do current products possess the necessary features (for example, a guaranteed death benefit) desired by the client?
  3. Is the product type appropriate to meet client needs? (term, UL, etc.)
  4. Is the insurance amount adequate? (An insurance needs analysis will help determine amounts needed.)
  5. Are there health insurance gaps or needs which may require remedy?
  6. Is there a need which may be filled by annuities, either deferred or immediate?
  7. And, are there other individuals within the client’s sphere of influence who could benefit from a beneficiary review, who may also have insurance needs?

Answering these questions should lead you to new insurance sales opportunities and the chance to enhance client trust by demonstrating your ability to offer competent and comprehensive life insurance services.

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Message from the CEO: The DOL is Asking the Right Questions of Itself

After the furious amount of writing about the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule over the last several months, we recently found ourselves in a lull period following the temporarily revised rule and implementation date of June 10, 2017. The current and provisional status of the Best Interest Contract Exemption (BICE) and Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24 (PTE 84-24) are still being discussed and debated, despite the lull. Further, the FULL implementation on January 1, 2018 remains a reality while there are still a number of questions that NEED to be answered by the DOL.

There is a bit of reassurance to be found in the DOL’s Request for Information (RFI) published on July 6th. They’re asking the right questions, the questions we’ve all been wondering aloud about since first hearing of the rule.

As currently written, one of the biggest issues affecting independent insurance agents is the requirement to use a BICE effective January 1, 2018 to transact qualified Fixed Indexed Annuity (FIA) business, or utilize qualified funds to purchase life insurance. This move away from the PTE 84-24 is problematic because it requires a financial institution to supervise the sale. When drafting the rule, the DOL most likely expected insurance carriers carry this burden, however as we’ve seen, the majority of carriers want no part of that. Without finding an intermediary solution, independent insurance agents will be barred from selling fixed index annuities and life insurance using qualified funds.

The DOL addresses this issue in Question 17 of the RFI:

If the Department provided an exemption for insurance intermediaries to serve as Financial Institutions under the BIC Exemption, would this facilitate advice regarding all types of annuities? Would it facilitate advice to expand the scope of PTE 84-24 to cover all types of annuities after the end of the transition period on January 1, 2018? What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of these two exemption approaches (i.e., expanding the definition of Financial Institution or expanding the types of annuities covered under PTE 84-24)? To what extent would the ongoing availability of PTE 84-24 for specified annuity products, such as fixed indexed annuities, give these products a competitive advantage vis-à-vis other products covered only by the BIC Exemption, such as mutual fund shares?

Question 17 boils down to two alternatives. First, should insurance intermediaries (e.g. IMOs and BGAs) be allowed to serve as “financial institutions”, therefore allowing independent insurance agents to use a BICE. This option puts a load of liability on the shoulders of these intermediaries and requires a great deal of regulation and oversight. For those reasons, this option may be attractive to the DOL. Second, should the DOL continue to allow fixed index annuities (and fixed rate and variable annuities) to be included under the PTE 84-24 exemption? This direction would not require financial institutions to supervise independent insurance agents but would be more restrictive on compensation including greater disclosure.

There are pros and cons to both of these solutions, and there is no indication at this point how this will be resolved. We now know the DOL is considering the plight of the independent insurance agents that currently use qualified funds in the financial planning process. The DOL is asking the right questions. However this plays out, I guarantee Zenith Marketing Group will have a solution in place to continue the partnership we have enjoyed with the independent insurance agents we work with. We just need the DOL to answer Question 17 first before we tell you how.

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Message from the CEO: The DOL Will NOT Extend the Fiduciary Rule Delay

In a Wall Street Journal OpEd released last night, Labor Department Secretary Alexander Acosta addressed the controversial DOL Fiduciary Rule to be applied to the placement of Qualified funds by stating, “We have carefully considered the record in this case, and the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act, and have found no principled legal basis to change the June 9th date while we seek input.” However Secretary Acosta stated that the DOL will undertake new rulemaking to revise the current rule prior to full implementation on January 1, 2018.

We look forward to any adjustments the Secretary and the DOL may implement, but that does not change the fact that on June 10th the expansion of the definition of who is a Fiduciary and the Best Interest Contract Exemption (BIC-E) and Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24 (PTE 84-24) as currently written will be applied during a transition period to expire on December 31, 2017. A BIC-E will typically be utilized by Financial Institutions and is not available to non-registered persons. Producers who are not directly affiliated with a Financial Institution will be able to utilize PTE 84-24 and will individually be acting as a Fiduciary by way of the Implementation of the Impartial Conducts Standards. They are as follows:

  • Provide advice in the retirement investor’s best interest which is both prudent and loyal
  • Charge (be paid) no more than reasonable compensation, and
  • Avoid misleading statements

Further, the Labor Department posted a Field Assistance Bulletin last night instituting a temporary enforcement policy. In summary, the Department will not pursue claims against fiduciaries who are “working diligently and in good faith to comply with the fiduciary rule and exemptions…” The full bulletin can be found here.

The Department also updated and posted an FAQ section on the EBSA website discussing the transition period. The FAQs can be found here.

There appear to be 3 major takeaways at this point: 1) The Department is continuing to seek comments on the Rule and may implement more guidance and/or changes prior to the January 1, 2018 date when full compliance with the rule is scheduled to begin; 2) The industry is receiving “breathing room” in terms of compliance, and good faith efforts to adjust will be received warmly even if mistakes and oversights occur; and 3) Impartial Conduct Standards are here to stay in one form or fashion when dealing with qualified plans and IRAs.

Zenith Marketing is fully committed to you and your clients and will continue to work directly with you under the provisions available to continue your ability – and ours – to do business as together we continue to adapt to the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rules.

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Message from the CEO: DOL Fiduciary Rule Final Extension – Maybe

On April 7th of 2017, just seven days after the new Secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL) Alexander Acosta was confirmed, the department responded to President Trump’s executive memorandum to conduct a detailed analysis of the department’s Fiduciary Rule. The response resulted in the delaying of the applicability date from the previously scheduled April 10th date until June 9th. The department deemed the delay as the “Final Extension” making it clear that unless they are forced by some other means to again delay or withdraw the rule, they have no intention of further modification. Contained in the delay were revisions in the language regarding Best Interest Contract Exemption (BIC-E) and Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24 (PTE 84-24) to be applied during a transition period to expire on January 1st 2018, which temporarily allows for a less burdensome application of the DOL Fiduciary Rule. While there are a great many aspects of the rule that pertain to varying products and distribution sources, here we will only be addressing Fixed Deferred Annuities, Immediate Annuities, Deferred Income Annuities, and Fixed Indexed Annuities.

By way of background, in the original draft of the DOL Fiduciary Rule, Fixed (SPDA), Immediate (SPIA), Deferred Income (DIA), as well as Fixed Indexed (FIA) annuity products that were purchased using Qualified assets all fell under PTE 84-24, which primarily required compliance with what is known as the Impartial Conduct Standard. In the final version released in April 2016, Fixed Indexed Annuities were moved from PTE 84-24 and placed under BIC-E which requires that a Financial Institution be party to (read: liable for) the sale of FIAs. Under the current transition rules, FIAs are once again placed under the PTE 84-24 requirements. While the ability to temporarily transact the sale of FIAs without the need for involvement of a Financial Institution may ease the facilitation of a sale, it does not eliminate the liability of the agent/producer; in fact it might increase it. As noted above, the Impartial Conduct Standards still apply which require the following:

  1. Provide advice in the client’s best interest
  2. Avoid misleading statements
  3. Receive only reasonable compensation

Most would reasonably agree that the majority of FIA and other Fixed Annuity sales are transacted in the client’s best interest. Certainly the very low number of complaints reported to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) would bear this out. As such, it is also reasonable to assume that misleading statements are far from the norm. But, how does one determine “reasonable” when considering compensation. Well be aware that the DOL has provided a non-answer. First it is important to note that it is up to the person receiving the compensation to demonstrate that what is received is reasonable. Secondly, the DOL has indicated that it is up to the producing and distribution segments of the industry to figure it out, which means the insurance companies and other providers of financial products as well as Financial Institutions. And then, the ultimate arbiter of reasonableness will or can be determined in the courts. It is important to remember that the intent of the DOL Fiduciary Rule is to eliminate commissions and any other compensation as a detractor from the consideration of the client’s best interest. Were it not for the exemptions provided by PTE 84-24 and BIC-E, commissions would be eliminated altogether and compensation for advice would only be available via a fee-based structure.

While the temporarily less stringent requirements on the sale of FIAs in particular is significant, it is still the position of Zenith Marketing Group that we as a company firmly oppose the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule. Not because of its stated intent of doing what is in the best interest of a client, but because of the Private Right to Action afforded to any individual whose attorney can convince a jury that the plaintiff should be an individual class-action- lottery-winner at the expense of an advisor and/or Financial Institution.

There have been and will be a number of varying actions taken by individual insurance companies prior to June 9th. Some will likely require an additional form or acknowledgement of compliance with the Impartial Conduct Standards. Others may provide notifications to producers requiring only negative consent. As the policies and procedures of the carriers are announced, we here at Zenith Marketing Group will make every effort to summarize the requirement for compliance and share them with you. For producers who are affiliated with a Broker/Dealer or Registered Investment Advisory firm, please understand that your firm’s policies and procedures should be followed as the firm instructs and we wholly welcome the opportunity to work with your firm to insure compliance. Lastly, there is one major element that is sure to be necessary in the very near future- Document, Document, Document every aspect of your conversations with your clients. In closing, I assure you, Zenith Marketing Group, Inc. is working for you and with you during the transition period…and after.

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Message from the CEO: A DOL Update for our Partners

Last week, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a proposal from the Department of Labor (DOL) for a 60 day extension on the applicability date of the DOL Fiduciary Rule. As you know, the currently scheduled effective date is April 10, 2017.

As a result of the proposal, we are now in the midst of a comment period, which may lead to a modification of the rule (including a possible delay to the DOL Fiduciary Rule).

For many this comes as potentially good news. Should there be a delay or even repeal in some form, we anticipate that most Broker-Dealers and other Financial Institutions will allow the frantic pace being applied to the April 10th compliance date to slow down. However, since so much time and effort has been expended, it is highly unlikely that their efforts will be completely abandoned. It is still critical for all Registered Reps that currently do business with Zenith Marketing Group to engage with their Broker- Dealer to facilitate the future relationship with Zenith and the BD. Rob Murphy, Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Business Development, who heads up our National Accounts department, will be more than happy to assist you with any questions you have about our continued partnership. He can be reached at (800) 733-0054 ext. 6162.

For the large number of non-registered advisors that work with us daily, you need to know that we will be ready for any eventuality. There is too much uncertainty surrounding the DOL Fiduciary Rule for us not to continue to develop opportunities and solutions for our producers as if it is going forward. That message has been echoed by the carriers we speak to every day.

When the time comes (should it ever arrive), we will share our process with you so you may continue to offer fixed index annuities inside of qualified plans. Again, until further notice, the effective date for the rule is April 10, 2017 and we will be ready.

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Message from the CEO: The Latest on the DOL Fiduciary Rule

usdepartmentoflaborAs we crawl ever closer to the effective date of the DOL Fiduciary Rule in April, I think we’re due for an update on the latest news as it relates to the rule. As you may well know, the DOL Fiduciary Rule applies to all qualified funds which include qualified plans, IRAs, and other types of ERISA plans. The stated purpose of the rule is to protect consumers from unfair sales practices and expenses.

With all the change in Washington, there are several potential outcomes:

  1. Status Quo – no change to the DOL Rule, and implementation begins as planned on April 10th. No matter what the future is, this is what everyone is planning for – until further notice, this is happening.
  2. Repeal – it is definitely possible that President Trump decides to kill the DOL rule, however doing so outright is a difficult and arduous task due to procedural issues surrounding existing regulations. Some might interpret such a move as ill-will toward the American public given that the rule’s supposed purpose is to protect the best interest of the consumer. A repeal of the rule without a replacement might be seen as putting financial institutions first, instead of the people.
  3. Delay of Applicability – most pundits believe a delay of 6-12 months is highly likely. It serves the purpose of buying time and could force the DOL to reopen the rule for comments. Also, two of the three lawsuits against the rule have been dismissed (appeals have been filed), and one is still pending an initial ruling. And the judge on the pending suit asked many questions prior to adjourning which seemed to indicate she could side with the plaintiff. Nothing is certain, but having this unsettled lawsuit hanging over the DOL’s head might be reason enough to delay.

Regardless of the outcome, most would agree that the “horse is out of the barn.” Most institutions and interested parties have already spent significant resources to accommodate the DOL Fiduciary Rule as it applies to the Best Interest Contract Exemption (BICE). In short, the BICE obligates a financial institution to a fiduciary role. Delay or repeal of the rule, would likely do nothing to change the way they operate. Insurance carriers are already feeling the pinch from broker-dealers to standardize compensation for their registered representatives to ensure a complete strategy is implemented for the consumer. Registered investment advisory firms and their affiliated investment advisory representatives already being fiduciaries will face similar internal oversight. The independent insurance producer would obviously benefit from repeal or delay, as they could continue to make recommendations regarding qualified funds without institutional oversight or a Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24, which only applies to non-risk assets such as fixed annuities.

As I’ve said, we’re all operating under the premise of status quo, the rule stays. In that event, there is one point of interest to those offering life insurance solutions. In the second set of FAQs from the DOL, FAQ #4 is one to make sure you keep tabs on. It says that recommending the use of an RMD to fund any form of life insurance makes you a fiduciary. If you make this recommendation and take compensation on the transaction without utilizing a BICE, you have entered into a prohibited transaction. For the most part, up until now, we’ve been discussing the DOL fiduciary rule as it relates to fixed and fixed index annuities. This FAQ expands the scope and I felt it was worth pointing out to you.

All that said, until we hear otherwise, the rule is the rule and the countdown to the effective date continues. I also believe a delay is likely and would not be surprised to eventually see the rule repealed or vacated. In such a case, you can be sure the SEC would step right in with their own rule or guideline to fill the void. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and keep you updated when there is news of value.

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Solving Two Cornerstones of Retirement Planning

cornerstone-contentWe’ve all heard that retirees are living longer. We’ve also heard that a retiree’s biggest fear is running out of money. Even if we weren’t living longer as a populace, the need for income in retirement would remain. To state the obvious, if you’re retired, no one is paying you anymore. Except maybe Uncle Sam and can you really live on Social Security alone?

When you breakdown retirement planning, there are really two cornerstones of retirement planning that must be satisfied – and if you do that, the plan should be considered a success.

So what are those two cornerstones? Guaranteed Income and Long-Term Care (LTC).

Cornerstone #1 – Provide a guaranteed stream of income. How do we do th
at? There are a variety of fixed annuity options that all could help solve this threat. Immediate annuities, deferred income annuities, multi-year guarantee annuities, traditional annuities, fixed index annuities, income riders for fixed index annuities. If you’re talking guarantees, any of these could work and we would love to show you how well these compete with any other income generating vehicle available.

Cornerstone #2 – Long-Term Care; something not everyone wants to talk about. 70% of people over age 65 will require long-term care.1 Chances are you have someone in your life that has required or will require long-term care. It’s just a reality. As we get older, we need more help. The alternative is dying and that’s not much of a retirement plan. Care comes in so many forms – it could be as simple as somebody doing grocery shopping for you to being as involved as daily care both at home or in a nursing home. As we get older we need help – we just do. How will this “help” be paid for? Out of pocket? We’ll be destitute in no time. Sell the house? The memories, the comfort, and the freedom gone forever. Insuring for Long-Term Care or chronic care is really the best option and there are so many ways to do it now that there really is something for everyone. Here’s a list of some of the tools we use for solving this need: traditional long-term care, linked life/LTC, linked annuity/LTC, life insurance with LTC riders, life insurance with chronic care riders, and fixed index annuities with chronic care benefits.

Retirement planning is made simple with insurance products. We always talk about guarantees. Retirement planning needs to focus on guarantees, pre-retirees don’t have the time for risk. Once you take care of these cornerstones, your clients can sleep more soundly.

1 DHHS, 2008. Statistics taken from www.

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Designed to Fail? An Update on the DOL Regulation

usdepartmentoflaborOn September 23rd, InvestmentNews published an article titled “DOL fiduciary rule to cost the securities industry $11B by 2020: study” with most of the cost borne by independent broker-dealers.

While recently speaking with a large independent broker-dealer, they shared with us that they have allocated 7,000 hours of information technology (IT) work for 2017 to implement the new DOL guidelines. At a very conservative $100/hr, that’s $700,000.

Who’s going to pay for that? We’re also hearing that because of the new DOL regulations, E&O insurance will increase 8-10% next year, plus there will be additional fees for IT implementation with one broker-dealer thinking of an additional $250 IT compliance charge per representative.

Even forgetting the additional paperwork to process fixed indexed annuities after DOL implementation, “reasonable” compensation hasn’t been addressed but it certainly means that it will not be increasing. So, registered representatives and broker-dealers will not be happy.

What about non-registered producers not affiliated with a broker-dealer or registered investment advisor? They may be able to still sell fixed indexed annuities if they fall under the jurisdiction of a Financial Institution (FI). Some organizations have filed for FI status but there are no set guidelines in determining what qualifies as a FI and no time frame for approval. Plus, we haven’t seen E&O coverage availability for FI status. And, since the FI is taking on significant risk for a non-registered producer selling these products, compensation will be split in some way. So, non registered producers will not be happy.

What about the carriers? If they do nothing, they may lose significant qualified business. Can they afford to do nothing? We don’t think so. They will at the very least have to retool products and procedures at significant cost perhaps just to maintain existing sales levels. So, carriers will not be happy.

What about consumers? The initial fear before the new DOL regulation is implemented would be that middle class America would not get the advice they desperately need as it may be unprofitable for advisers to give that advice in the future. State Farm just announced that all their registered representatives will need to give up their securities licenses and that customers, if they need investment advice will be able to call an 800#, receive information (not advice), so the customer can then make their own investment decision. What will other distributors do in the future? Will they follow the State Farm lead and cut out investment advice to their customers? Customers will not be happy.

Maybe the federal government is smarter than we think. Maybe this new DOL regulation was designed to fail. The federal government has been seeking to wrest control of fixed indexed annuities away from state insurance regulators and wanting them under federal control. This battle has gone on for years and just a few days ago, an Illinois appellate court panel ruled that fixed indexed annuities are insurance and not securities products under state law. And you thought this issue was resolved years ago?

Maybe, just maybe, if a regulation goes into effect that seemingly upsets just about all constituencies, there will be such clamor for change that true change may come – complete Federal regulation of fixed indexed annuities as well as all qualified funds, or simply one’s retirement money.