Photos by Kelly Sue Photography
Todd Barron was 15 years old when, braving Texas heat and humidity, he mowed lawns in his neighborhood all summer long. He was looking forward to spending the $2,000 he had earned when his father suggested a different plan.
“My dad was always into investing, and every evening he would call me into his study for an hour to an hour and a half to show me how he was tracking his investments. It was so boring. I was missing my favorite TV shows. I hated it.” One evening, his father offered a deal. If Todd bought stock with his $2,000 and lost money, his father would reimburse him.
“It sounded like a sucker’s bet to me,” Todd says, “so I said, ‘All right. You’re on.’” Every day, when Todd came home from school, he checked the price of his stock in the newspaper. In less than two years, his money had doubled and Todd was able to buy a new car. He had worked long and hard in the Texas sun to earn the $2,000, but doubling it had been easy. “I didn’t lift a finger for it to double. I thought that was the coolest thing in the world,” Todd says. “When I went to college, I knew what I wanted to do.”
While Todd’s friends were busy changing their majors at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State), Todd forged straight ahead to earn a degree in finance. He later attended the University of St. Thomas to take the required courses to become a certified financial planner.
In 1992, Todd started his first business, Barron Financial Group, a full-service stock brokerage that assisted clients with their taxes and investments, offering stocks, bonds, mutual funds and retirement plans. Todd is an independent stockbroker, so he has the freedom to recommend a wide range of investments to his clients. “Independents don’t have quotas and don’t have to deal with proprietary products,” Todd says, “so we can offer what’s best for the client’s interests instead of the company’s.”
About seven years ago, however, Todd began to notice that some of his clients needed more. “A lot of my clients started retiring,” Todd says. “They started having questions about Social Security and Medicare. I didn’t know the answers, so I had to bone up on it.”
After much research, Todd founded another business, calling it Texas Senior Medicare Resources. Todd consults with clients in their homes, helping them navigate the complicated and often-confusing world of Medicare. While many of his clients are people who have become eligible for Medicare for the first time, others want to change their subscriptions during the annual open enrollment period. (This year’s open enrollment period is from October 15 through December 7.) Because Todd is compensated by Medicare, he is able to offer this service to his clients with no charge to them.
Todd’s goal is to help clients find the right combination of Medicare benefits that will suit their needs, lifestyle, current medications, and budget. “If a plan fits them well, they will stay with it a long, long time,” he says. “If it’s not a good fit, come next October 15, they are going to switch.”
One of the biggest decisions seniors have to make is whether they will purchase a Medicare supplement. While those who subscribe to Medicare parts A, B, and D may be happy with their 20 percent co-pay when they visit a doctor, 20 percent may be financially crippling if they require major surgery that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Twenty percent could bankrupt you,” Todd warns. “The number one cause of bankruptcy is medical bills.”
For many seniors, there is security in purchasing a Medicare supplement. However, Todd often encourages seniors to examine the benefits of Medicare Part C, also known as Advantage Plans, which are available in major metropolitan areas. Advantage plans, Todd explains, are financed by the government, but administered by insurance companies. Some are like health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and are available at no cost to seniors. Preferred provider organizations (PPOs), which provide more freedom, generally cost $19 to $90 per month, which, Todd says, is much less expensive than traditional supplements.
Supplements, he says, are a good choice for people who want to have total freedom in choosing their doctors and hospitals; however, Todd has discovered that many people purchase supplements only because they are unaware of the benefits of Advantage Plans. “Supplements have been around for generations,” he says. “Advantage Plans are relatively new in the marketplace, and a lot of people don’t know about them.” Todd reports the average cost for a supplement is $175 per month, and premiums usually go up every year.
While many of Todd’s clients transition smoothly to Medicare, some of them have special situations. In such cases, Todd is willing to go the proverbial second mile to help them. One client, for example, was diagnosed with leukemia just days before his scheduled retirement. “We had to scramble to get him covered. His doctor sent him to M.D. Anderson, so we had to find a policy M.D. Anderson would take. Most people are ticking along just fine, but health problems can come at you from left field,” Todd says. “There are times I can get people signed up outside the October to December window. I just have to hunt to find a plan for them and get them qualified for it.”
Todd has conducted seminars about Medicare in the area in the past and is hopeful that he will be able to offer more seminars in the near future. Watch for future ads in Postcards or check the Texas Senior Medicare Resources web site (TexSenior.com) for information about seminars, as well as other facts. For information about investing, retirement planning, estate planning, tax preparation, wealth preservation and other topics, visit Barron Financial Group’s website (barronfinancialgroup.biz) or call (936) 463-0300.