Editor’s Letter

By Paul Curley | paul.curley@strategic-i.com | April 17, 2017

ABLE Act Update, 2017 NDSS Buddy Walk® on Washington and How to Justify Your Fee as an Adviser

April 5, 2017: Senator Hassan, Paul Curley and Senator Shaheen

Inspiration comes when and where you least expect it. On April 4th, 2017, I flew to Washington, DC, to participate in a Congressional Staff Briefing hosted by the ABLE Alliance for Financial Empowerment in the House Ways and Means Committee Room. While the first panel consisted of key staffers for the sponsors of the three ABLE improvement bills, the goal of my panel was to discuss implementation of the ABLE Act to date, present analysis on program utilization and highlight the value of community development financial institutions (CDFIs) in the implementation process. Specifically, my role was to discuss the utilization of ABLE accounts from a market data perspective, as Strategic Insight aggregates the investment vehicle’s market data from the product providers and reports the data back out into the marketplace. Additionally, my goal was to provide insight into the impact of the three new ABLE improvement Bills introduced in the U.S. House and Senate on April 4, 2017:

—ABLE to Work Act (S.818/HR 1896): Allows incremental additional savings in ABLE accounts if beneficiary earns income.

—ABLE Financial Planning Act (S. 816/HR 1897): Allows assets to rollover from 529 to ABLE accounts.
—ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S.817/HR1874): Raises age of onset from 26 to 46.

The audience included Congressional staff who handle disabilities issues and self-advocates who were on Capitol Hill that day for meetings at Congressional offices as part of the 2017 NDSS Buddy Walk® on Washington. I arrived a day early of the Congressional Staff Briefing to support the ABLE Alliance and National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) in the 2017 Buddy Walk® by discussing the ABLE improvement bills and importance of 529s with members of Congress and staffers from New Hampshire, my state of residence. As both ABLE accounts and 529 plans help families and have similar structure, the conversations were well received by all. Thank you NDSS and ABLE Alliance for the opportunity to participate on the panel, and for setting up the Congressional meetings.

The travel also provided me with a rare opportunity to put down the tethered electronics. During the landing portion of the flight, the plane was met with rough landing conditions. During the turbulence, I thought about how the value of financial planning may be explained to every day clients or passengers by paralleling the profession to commercial airline pilots. I would argue that financial planners, like airline pilots, have expertise in helping hundreds of families through college financial planning and through numerous different situations. While parents may not even have had the experience of helping to pay for one child through college, financial advisers have a much higher volume of experience in helping families to plan through the various tax, financial aid and estate planning hurdles. As such, financial advisors, like pilots, know when it’s okay to gain speed when times are okay or when to focus on maintaining balance when times are turbulent. Together, financial advisors help to ensure that families achieve their long term success through college financial planning and onto legacy planning. As such, I close with the argument that college financial planning through 529 plans and family planning through ABLE accounts provides an opportunity for you as an adviser to provide value to all clients through their most turbulent times from the initial step of saving more efficiently to cash flow management during the payout phase to legacy planning during the transition phase. Therefore, justify your fees by having the financial planning conversion today, and create a better reality for your clients.