“A lot of people think of financial planning like going to the dentist – I got to have a crown or something. You know, it’s a painful, they think of it as a painful experience. What I like to say is it’s a powerful experience for you.”



Episode 4: How to Make Financial Planning Powerful, Not Painful with Roger Grumdahl

In future planning, we talk about the three-legged stool: legal, financial, & quality of life. In episode 4 of Focus on the Future, we are talking about financial planning. Listen as host Allycia Wolff talks with Roger Grumdahl. Roger is a financial planner and the father of Krista, his adult daughter with special needs. In this episode, he walks us through what financial planning looks like and how it can be a powerful experience and a great gift that you can give your family.

About Roger Grumdahl

Roger has been financial planning for more than 27 years with Eagle Strategies LLC. As a parent of someone with a disability, Roger brings both his personal and professional experiences to the table to help families plan for their financial future. Roger has been featured on Kare 11 TV, WCCO radio, and other print media, and is a longtime friend of The Arc Minnesota.

About Focus on the Future

Focus on the Future is a podcast for caregivers and families supporting people with disabilities. In each episode, a conversation about the journey of discovering our best life and how to achieve it. While exploring legal, financial, and quality of life structures, Focus on the Future aims to get back to what matters most: living a fulfilling and meaningful life that is defined by each individual person. Learn more at arcminnesota.org/podcast.

Episode 4 Transcript

00:06 [music playing]

00:06 [Allycia Wolff] Welcome to Focus on the Future, a future planning podcast for caregivers and families supporting people with disabilities. Focus on the Future is a podcast of The Arc Minnesota, a nonprofit advocacy organization supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. My name is Allycia Wolff. I’m an advocate here at The Arc Minnesota and your host for Focus on the Future. In this week’s episode we’re going to be talking about financial planning. Thanks for joining us!

00:38 [Roger Grumdahl] There’s an interesting thing that I’ve learned and it is that most people spend more time planning their annual vacation than they do planning their financial future. And that’s just because a lot of people think of it like going to the dentist – I got to have a crown or something, you know, it’s a painful, they think of it as a painful experience. What I like to say is it’s a powerful experience for you and it’s a wonderful opportunity for you to get a hold of your finances or reassess where you are for the next phase of your life, whatever that is.

01:09 [Allycia Wolff] Financial planning. The last of the three legged stool that we’ve been discussing so far in this podcast. As you recall, the first one we talked about was legal planning and then quality of life planning and now financial planning. And by no means do these three areas, create a complete picture of what you need to consider along the lines in future planning, but it’s a really great place to start. So if you were thinking more globally about how to plan for the future when you have a child with a disability, these three areas tend to be the most important things.

01:45 [Allycia Wolff] And today I wanted to illustrate this by talking with Roger Grumdahl who is a financial planner here in the Greater Twin Cities Area of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Minnesota. Choosing to work with a financial planner can be a really great tool when you’re thinking about your future. You may be an incredibly financially intelligent person, but sometimes getting a different perspective from somebody whose career is centered around financial planning can be really valuable. A financial planner can give you a different perspective and help you organize and coordinate your financial goals and then create a plan and how to move forward. Something that I often experience when working with families that come into the Arc or friends of mine that I’m talking to is that financial planning is a really personal thing. It comes with a lot of emotions and it can be really difficult to lay out your financial picture in front of somebody that you don’t know.

02:47 [Allycia Wolff] Know that it is a financial planner’s job to approach that situation with kindness and to not judge anybody in that situation. As Roger is going to mention a bit in his interview, is that he works with people across the wealth spectrum and people that don’t have very many means to people with a lot of means and regardless of where you are on that continuum, you can create a really great financial picture to make things more comfortable for your loved one with a disability in the future. And so there are options regardless of where you’re starting.

03:26 [Allycia Wolff] One more note before I dive into the interview with Roger is I want to refer back to the last episode of the podcast, when I sat down and I talked with Tori. And we were discussing that one of the core components to living a good life, out of those five, one of them is wealth. And Tori said that this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be a billionaire to live a good life, but what it means is that you have the access and the resources to the financial means to do things that make you happy. So if it was important for me to plant flowers in my garden every spring and that made me happy, then part of my complete future plan would be being able to have the financial means to do that. Now this is like personal financial means, but it also includes formal financial means, meaning like, County Services to support somebody in having access to maybe different waivered services or housing services or employment services. So when you’re thinking about a financial picture for the future, think about those two aspects. Now you never know what’s going to happen with formal services and supports. You don’t know what’s going to happen with the state budget. And even though you want to be able to use those resources moving forward, it’s not something that we can rely on which makes, year by year, doing financial planning even that much more important. So without further ado, I will introduce you to Roger Grumdahl and the conversation that we had recently.

05:17 [Allycia Wolff] We’re welcoming Roger Grumdahl. Roger is a 27 year veteran financial planner with Eagle Strategies, LLC. He is the father of Krissy, his 41 year old daughter with special needs. Early in his career, Roger recognized the need for financial planning for those families with special need family members. He uses state of art tools and his personal and professional experiences to bring valuable help to families in the community. Roger has been featured on Kare 11 TV and WCCO radio as well as both local and national print media sources for his expertise. He had presented at many venues including The Arc. Welcome, Roger!

05:59 [Roger Grumdahl] Thanks Allycia. This is a great honor for me to work with The Arc of Minnesota and to bring some helpful insights to our audience. When I got into financial planning 27 years ago, early on I realized that there’s a connection between financial planning and what our family had experienced with Krista. That being, uh, there’s a need for planning for the next week, but also, you know, the end of life and anywhere in between. And that planning is especially important when you have special needs like we have in our family with Krista.

06:33 [Allycia Wolff] Yeah. It creates a whole additional dynamic to consider. And have you, if I can ask the personal question, have you done all the financial planning things that you need to like set up your will and your trust?

06:45 [Roger Grumdahl] Yes. Uh, the first thing we did is we went to an estate planning firm here in Minnesota, Minneapolis area. And we met with the lawyer. This is back in the day before 1992 when the laws changed in Minnesota and much of the nation that provided for special and supplemental needs trusts. Prior to that, basically the plan was, if you have more than one child, you would disinherit that child with special needs is what we did initially. Subsequently the laws changed and by that point I was just entering the career about the same time the laws changed in 1991, two, three. And so I became aware that there’s other planning that can be done, not just legal planning. The legal planning is what lawyers do. I’m not a lawyer. What I do is help people figure out a financial path that accompanies that legal path. So resources that they can develop over their lifetime for the benefit of not only themselves and other family members, but particularly with regard to someone that, like my daughter Krissy, who has special needs and will probably outlive us by some time.

07:59 [Allycia Wolff] Would you say that it is important to do financial planning as well as legal planning at the same time?

08:07 [Roger Grumdahl] It’s really a great idea to do it because you can coordinate everything together. I didn’t actually answer your earlier question, we have all our ducks in a row. [laughs] We have a trust. We have a special needs trust, I’m sorry, a supplemental needs trust in place. We have our trustees guardianships in place and successor trustees for our trust and for guardianship. So we’ve done all our homework and that was part of my learning, having going through that personally. I said this applies to a lot of our client base that is out there either people we know are people that we’ll meet. And so having gone through it, it helped prepare me.

08:47 [Allycia Wolff] When you did your financial plan and you continue to do it and make sure that your supplemental needs trust and your will and everything are all straight away, how does that make you feel emotionally?

09:04 [Roger Grumdahl] Well for me, and I would, I would extend that to my wife and family, we’re very happy with the fact that we’ve done the planning and in fact I have a meeting scheduled for our estate, elder law, estate planning attorney that deals with our information yet this month to meet and go over a review of that. And we do that every couple of years just to make sure everything is in order. Uh, so we feel good about it. It’s a real eyeopener when you actually do it because it’s one thing to think about, well what’s going to happen, or worry about what’s going to happen. If you have a plan, it solidifies the fact of your own mortality, which takes some emotional readiness. You just have to be willing to admit to yourself and others that, you know, you’re a mortal being. You’re not gonna live forever. And I had a client in a seminar early on that was 96 years old, lived on the farm, had a 70 year old son with special needs and asked her in an interview, “What would you like to do first in your financial planning?” And she said, “I’m not quite ready.” At age 96. You know, reality is hard for us all, whether we’re 96 or 26, or whatever, to face the facts of life, that this is a fact of life. A generation or two ago, people didn’t live past a certain age. For example, down syndrome – average down syndrome life expectancy, 1930 was nine years old. Today at 65 to 70 years old. Yeah. And so there’s lots of reasons for that, we won’t go into that in this podcast, but the point is a lot of these people that have special needs will outlive their family, their caregivers, even their siblings. And then who’s there, what plan is in place, who’s there to care for them, what structure, you know, a program like Arc goes out of their way to provide resources to the community to help in those scenarios. And there are lots of scenarios, but ultimately the family hopefully is going to do some planning and that’s where I come in.

11:21 [Allycia Wolff] Absolutely. Yeah. And as I say to families all the time, it’s less expensive and less of a headache to do the planning than to not do the planning. It’s the best gift that you can give to your family to do that planning and to face that, even though it’s terrifying sometimes.

11:38 [Roger Grumdahl] Right. You know, before, before ’92 when the law changed, you could, you would disinherit your, your family members. Then special needs and supplemental needs trusts came into being and now you don’t have to disinherit them. And so it gives an opportunity that wasn’t there and you don’t have to worry about losing assets because you put them in a trust. If your trust has done well, and you have good administrator and all the things handled properly, you provided an ongoing stream of support for that person when the government supports are always in question. And currently, and they’ve always been, it doesn’t matter what the political climate is, they’re always in question. And that’s why places like Arc and other, nonprofits are so vital because they provide some safety net. But ultimately, depending just on the government is probably not a good plan.

12:29 [Allycia Wolff] Yeah. And that’s what you talk to people about is how to use your assets to make sure that your child has a good life moving forward.

12:36 [Roger Grumdahl] Right. And a lot of times people say, I don’t know, I don’t have a lot of assets, or my assets are allocated to retirement, or this or that. And what I say is, you want to start some type of a plan, even if it’s very modest, a few dollars a month or a few dollars a year, put aside. And we have vehicles in the financial service industry, things like life insurance, annuities where you can multiply the effect of your contribution to that program over time. And so a lot of my clients recognize that they can have their retirement fund, they can have their other stuff, they can even look for options like a second home or start small business or all those kinds of things. But they can also then have a fund set aside using life insurance or other products we offer are structuring their assets that they have now in such a way that it’ll be there for the future, for the future need. Which is likely to be there. It’s likely to be a need. Yeah.

13:38 [Allycia Wolff] Wonderful. And is that something that you help people with directly? Do you help people find life insurance policies to sign up for, for their needs specifically?

13:46 [Roger Grumdahl] Right. And it’s important to start early because not everyone is insurable as we get older, start having problems with health or even as a young person. So I encourage people, even if their means are limited, that they start sooner rather than later, get emotionally ready, and take those steps. I remember our first will as a young married couple. We had a young, our first of four children, and we went to a trip out to Long Beach and we’re taking Continental Airlines. And that same week a Continental Airlines plane went down in Las Vegas killing everybody.

14:23 [Allycia Wolff] That’s everybody’s nightmare.

14:24 [Roger Grumdahl] And so I’m looking at my wife across the table. I said, we’re going to be flying. And of course you know, Continental Airlines probably, you know, they have one accident in their whole history, but it made national news. It was awful thing. We went to the lawyer and got a will. You know, it’s kind of what got us off square one. So I think it’s important to face the facts that yeah, something could happen. It could happen anytime we all know it, but actually accepting that.

14:52 [Allycia Wolff] Yeah. And sometimes it takes a plane crash for it to come into your reality. You know, cause we live in the sense of innocence for so, so long. And then we have a friend that gets in a car accident or we plan a trip, and that’s usually when people come to us to start talking about future planning is, “I’m taking the first trip to Europe in 20 years, If something happens to me, then there’s a lot of things up in the air right now. Help!” Yeah. And so it’s, it’s important for people to, I say that the earlier you start planning the better, but it’s never too late.

15:28 [Roger Grumdahl] Right. That’s a very good motto to have. And I support that same philosophy. And what I mention to clients too is, you know, we as human beings, we’re going to do everything we can to make you rock solid in your plan. But we can only do so much. We’re limited by resources, by if you’re healthy or not. All those kinds of things. What we will do is we’ll make your situation and the situation for your loved ones, including those with special needs, we’ll make it as good as we can. We’ll take what you have, the resources, the time, the health, all the things that come into play, and make it as good a plan as we can, as foolproof as we can. It might not be perfect, but it’ll be, you know, our best effort. And so I have a lot of people that come in that have done some legal planning, for example, they work with other financial people, and the first thing I always do is say, let’s do a review of your documents. Let’s do a review of your financial things. I charged fees earlier in my career. I’m at the point in my career, I’m not charging fees for this service. And it’s sort of more of a kind of a calling you say. And so we do that. And just about two weeks ago, my last meeting like that, the client, I went through all the planning checklists, they had everything done and I said, well, let’s just do a review of your legal documents. And they were well prepared. They brought the legal documents. Sent it to one of my lawyer friends. She reviewed it and said, well, they got a couple of issues here. The laws have changed since 10 years ago when they did this plan. So it’s kind of confirmation that yeah, it’s important to get a review, get a second opinion.

17:13 [Allycia Wolff] Yeah. And to update it. Absolutely. So when people come to you, I’m sure that a lot of people are kind of lost in the process of financial planning because money isn’t natural to everybody, right? What do you, how do you talk about those first steps in financial planning? What are, how do you start with people that are lost?

17:39 [Roger Grumdahl] We get the feelings out as much as possible and the concerns, we document it. I do. And then we get all the financials – and the financials basically are two parts. One is let’s talk about your income and what you’re spending your money on. And you can say a budget. Nobody I know has a budget. Okay. And our government has a budget and they’re in a deficit, so whatever. So, so not too many people I know have a budget, there are a few. But we develop a budget. Not, not at that meeting. We just gather information and then I put together a written budget for them and help them see their financial picture in a clear way. And then the other piece is what assets do you have? So what real estate you might have houses and second houses, a timeshare, whatever it is. And then also a retirement, things like that. What debts do you bring to the table? Mortgages, credit cards, stuff that everybody has, you know, what do those debts look like? And then I help them to create their networth. So they get a clear picture of this is where we are. And then I take that, I put that in a formal plan, a written formal plan for them, and along with their goals and their concerns and their feelings. And then from that meeting, that initial meeting, then we have an initial draft of a plan. I say, well, you know, here’s the five things you were concerned about. Here’s the top three that you said were most important. Here’s your feelings about it, here’s your goals about it, here’s your worries about it, and here’s the steps you’ve taken. And then here’s the resources you bring, including your income and assets. And here’s what I think as an independent advisor that’s worked with hundreds of people over my career, you know, here’s a couple of pathways you could take, you know.

19:28 [Allycia Wolff] So you help people create a written plan to see it all out on paper. And then you say there are three or four different options to move forward here as far as future planning goes. And here they are. And then you let people choose.

19:42 [Roger Grumdahl] Yeah. They choose. They, the client is always in charge of the process. And I always say the first option is to do nothing. [laughs]

19:50 [Allycia Wolff] And that is the first option. And a lot of people choose that for decades. Like the 96 year old woman who was not ready. Yeah.

19:57 [Roger Grumdahl] We get that out there and it’s, it’s an option to do nothing to change nothing. And that’s okay with me. I just want to be the person that provides you with the information, a clear picture.

20:08 [Allycia Wolff] But at least the information of what can happen, what the possibilities are, what your choices are. Yeah.

20:14 [Roger Grumdahl] Yeah. And so that gives people a chance to see their picture quite well. And it’s very interesting because I work with people all over the spectrum for wealth. I have people with millions of dollars. That’s a small group of my clients. The majority of my clients are working people that have some means, but they’re not, you know, living in a $5 million home or something. Most of my clients are that way. And I have clients on the low end where they don’t have a lot of assets, maybe no assets, maybe on public assistance. And I’ve had some of my most successful cases with people who are very limited in their financial picture but have a will to do something and they find a way, and I help them find a way. So…

21:07 [Allycia Wolff] To do something. Absolutely. I think that a lot of people feel shame about money that they maybe don’t have or mistakes that they made in the past. And that can be a big deter to going and talking to somebody about moving forward because it’s such a sensitive subject.

21:25 [Roger Grumdahl] Absolutely. And you know, I have a business degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth where I’m from. My wife and I are from Duluth. And when I went to my own experience with financial people, I had a representative call on us and I was embarrassed at our situation. I was also embarrassed that I didn’t really understand much about this before I get into the field of it. This was before I was in the field and he approached me and it took me, my wife was ready day one, took me to get emotionally ready. Took a year. I put up him on, kept pushing him off for a year until he was so nice and so persistent. And my wife was like, Roger, we gotta do something. And we ended up doing a very, very important plan and develop some goals and worked on putting some money away, a little bit at a time.

22:31 [Roger Grumdahl] And it literally changed my life, our life. I mean, our life is very different than it was back then. And a great deal of that is because of that persistence of that representative helping us come to the face, the reality of life and start getting, what I’ll say is more emotionally mature about our finances and our situation and also our goals, wanting to identify our goals and what they were. And we actually started clicking them off and checking them off. And it was really fun to see that. I’ll never forget the first trip we took to Europe, which was one of our goals. And when we put it down, it’s like, yeah, right. I can hardly afford to go to the Duluth, you know, and got enough gas to get up to Duluth. Anyway, we went and we spent a 10 day trip, took our oldest two boys with us and my wife was the one who made, you know, made that plan and helped us. We worked together, we put money away, we started getting, we got a Europass, you know, we got the airline tickets. Next thing you know, we got some money and we went to Europe, spent 10 days and we went to London and Paris and Munich and went on the train, and the, you know…

23:46 [Allycia Wolff] How long did it take you from when you set that goal to when you arrived in Europe?

23:51 [Roger Grumdahl] Uh, 10 years.

23:52 [Allycia Wolff] 10 years, 10 years. So I think that that’s a beautiful story because it says that even, even if the journey is going to take a bit, it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth starting now, you know.

24:05 [Roger Grumdahl] I think having good intentions is fine, but you have to follow that up with the action. You have to take some… And it’s little steps. It’s not giant leaps for most people. There’s exceptions of course, but for most people taking that next little step is where the action is. That’s where the change occurs and then you get a little success, so you take a little bigger step. There’s an interesting thing that I’ve learned and that is that most people spend more time planning their annual vacation than they do planning their financial future. And that’s just because a lot of people think of it like going to the dentist, I gotta have a crown or something, you know, that’s a painful, they think of it as a painful experience. What I like to say is it’s a powerful experience for you and it’s a wonderful opportunity for you to get ahold of your finances or reassess where you are for the next phase of your life, whatever that is. Yeah, and it’s whatever age you are, again, sooner the better, but you can do it at any time.

25:06 [Allycia Wolff] Wonderful. Thank you.

25:07 [Roger Grumdahl] Well, thank you for this opportunity.

25:10 [Allycia Wolff] Roger is offering investment advisory services through Eagle Strategies LLC, a registered investment advisor and as an agent New York Life Insurance Company and registered representative offering securities through New York Life Securities, LLC member FINRA/SIPC and licensed insurance agency. The general office address is 3600 Minnesota Drive, suite 100 in Edina, 55435. Phone number (952) 897-5000. Roger does not practice law or provide accounting and tax services, but he’s an awesome financial planner. Thanks, Roger! [laughs]

25:54 [Roger Grumdahl] [laughs] Thank you so much.

25:58 [Allycia Wolff] I ended up loving my conversation with Roger. I really had no idea what to expect when I sat down with him, which I’m sure is something that brings a lot of people anxiety when they first sit down with a financial planner. But I felt like he understood the pain that can come with talking about money and he was also really understanding of it’s a different journey for everybody and having a child with a disability gives him that unique perspective. When it comes down to it, there are two different kinds of financial planners. Some have a product to sell that once a financial planner creates a picture for you and gets all your information together, then they say, okay, this is what you want for your financial future. You can purchase a life insurance policy or something similar to that to help you acquire that. So there’s some financial planners that also will help you purchase a different program and then they can get a commission based off of that.

27:05 [Allycia Wolff] Or there are also financial planners that are fiduciaries where it is their job to help people manage their wealth and understand their options in that and aren’t necessarily attached to anything that’s commission-based. Now I’m sharing this information just so that you know. Not to say that there is a value judgment based off of one financial planner’s job or another. But it’s just something to consider, a different question that you can ask when you are out searching for financial planners. And overall when you’re on that search for a financial planner, I would say trust your gut and work with somebody that you feel comfortable with because like Roger said, you are going to be laying out your entire financial situation and talking about a future and what needs to happen to get to your goals, your financial goals.

27:59 [Allycia Wolff] As I’ve also mentioned, that can be a really vulnerable place to be. So working with somebody that you feel comfortable with and feel like you can talk with and have a good relationship, will make that whole process much easier. So as you’re shopping, just try to listen to your gut and consider that as well. If you don’t decide to work with a financial planner and you want to do it on your own, I would recommend that you write down all of the different financial things that you have in your life. So if you have a mortgage or a 401(k) or a life insurance policy, put that all down so that you can see it on paper. And then think about your goals, what you want, and then what needs to change from your current situation to get there. And that is going to be my homework, quote unquote, or the takeaway that you can get from this episode is– And that would be helpful even if you are going to a financial planner or not, is to start to put it all down on paper.

29:02 [Allycia Wolff] Write it out so that you can see visually where your finances are currently. Now when you think about the next step then of all right, those are my finances, I’m going to do all the financial planning, think about the future, if you remember the supplemental needs trust that we talked about with Jason Shellack, that was the proactive planning tool. And that supplemental needs trust is usually for families that do that proactive planning, the most important aspect to their legal and financial plan. That vessel, the supplemental needs trust will help you make sure that your child will always have resources and that those resources will not disqualify them from government benefits because that supplemental needs trust is its own standalone entity and it doesn’t belong as income for a person.

29:58 [Allycia Wolff] So that supplemental needs trust can be funded in a bunch of different ways. It can be funded through somebody passing. So if a grandparent passed away and said, I want to give my estate between my four grandchildren, grandchild A, B, C and supplemental needs trust D. so those would, that would be one way. And that’s often a way that a supplemental needs trust is funded. You can also have the supplemental needs trust as a beneficiary on like a 401(k) policy so that it doesn’t have to go through a whole bunch of stuff with the court until it gets to that supplemental needs trust. Doing the combination of the legal planning and the financial planning can be a great resource and a great gift that you’re giving to your loved ones. And you’re saying that I am going to put all of this work together and coordinate all these different things so that when I pass away it’s one less thing that you have to worry about. I’ve already set up my financial plans. I know that there’s going to be as much money as I can set aside for that and it’s going to be set aside in a way that is not going to negatively impact anybody. And that’s a really, really amazing gift that you can give to somebody. And why legal and financial planning are two of the three legs of that stool of financial planning.

31:21 [music playing]

31:25 [Allycia Wolff] Thank you for joining me for this episode of Focus on the Future, focused on financial planning. If this episode inspired questions for an advocate at The Arc, please give us a call at (833) 450-1494. Focus on the Future brings you interviews with experts in different fields related to future planning. The Arc doesn’t endorse one expert over another. We encourage you to find the right fit for your family and your needs. In next week’s episode we are going to be talking about Able accounts. Able accounts are a great financial resource specifically for people with disabilities to plan for the future. Very basically the Able account allows people to save up to $15,000 a year without it affecting any benefits that they’re currently receiving. Tune in to learn more about the Able account and how it can be a good resource for you and your family.

32:25 [Allycia Wolff] Focus on the Future is a podcast of The Arc Minnesota. Subscribe to the podcast on your favorite streaming service to stay up to date with all of the newest episodes. If you’re enjoying listening, please support the podcast and our mission by donating at arcminnesota.org/podcast. Our podcast music is composed and recorded by Micah Kadwell. Micah is a talented guitarist from New Brighton, Minnesota who also has autism. Thank you, Micah. Focus on the Future is co-produced and marketed by Chloe Ahlf and sound engineered by Brent Nelson. Thank you, Chloe and Brent! And thank you for joining us. Have a great day!

33:09 [music playing]