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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Meet Our CSA Spotlight, Al Hurt

At the age of 62, in many ways, I feel like I am starting over with my business and not all of that feeling is good. With age comes caution that didn’t exist some 40 years ago. Upon graduating from Mississippi College, I went to work for a retirement plan administration firm. After a great learning experience there and six years under my belt, I threw caution to the wind and started my own retirement plan administration firm. It did not bother me in the least that I had no contacts, never sold a retirement plan or that I had a one year old daughter and a stay at home wife. Life was good and I had six months seed money to make a go of it.

Although I ran out of money long before I got my first plan, in month 8 of this venture I was blessed to have a few CPA’s think kindly enough of me to refer business and I was off and running. Since those days I have sold and bought back my company twice. I have loved the last 35 years of helping companies set up retirement plans for their employees, and in turn helping the employees plan for retirement.

Along this journey a funny thing happened. I got older and my clients started wanting to retire. They began asking me questions, some of which I had not even thought of, such as “When should I take my Social Security benefits? What about Medicare and those supplements? Do I have enough to live on?” and so on.

At about this same time, Jane and I were dealing with aging parents and their housing, failing health, and just-making-it issues that come with older age. Trying to help our parents with their decisions became a tough issue because it was hard to find a source of good information. Most of what we were getting was word of mouth from our friends who were a bit ahead of us dealing with assisted living, extended hospital stays, sitters and/or rehab.

Searching the internet for answers, I stumbled on the Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® website and immediately made a phone call to find out about the organization. I was blown away at the wide scope of information that was available and the eagerness of the folks I talked with to help me.

I had no interest in earning another degree or designation, but after reviewing the curriculum I felt if I had one more learning stint in me, the CSA would be it. As a result of my study for the CSA, I not only gained resources and knowledge to help our parents, but garnered expanded knowledge to answer the questions my clients were beginning to ask regarding their retirement, in particular those questions about Social Security. As I began delving into Social Security, I found that people were getting the same bad answers here that they were getting about their parents’ elder care mostly word of mouth from others.

It is not my nature to love to study and read about government programs, so I started asking questions of my contemporaries about this stuff, only to find they knew just about as little on the subject as I did. Simple question, “Are Social Security Benefits Taxed” ? Best answer I got was, “yes but I’m not sure how and I think there is some tax break”. I was forced to do some reading and self- education, as well as find folks out there who were real authorities on these benefits.

Much to my surprise, as I continued my education journey into the world of Social Security, my appreciation of the program increased. I even called some Social Security experts from around the country about this new found appreciation only to find they had similar experiences. Wow! Who would think better of a government program after learning more about it? A “greater appreciation” does not seem to be the trend with new government programs today.

When 2013 rolled around, I was fully committed to educating my clients and others about Social Security benefits and helping them to optimize their benefits. This has been a real eye opening experience.

I hold a “Lunch and Learn” workshop in our office for CPAs and Attorneys about every six weeks, and those sessions are always filled. I have also conducted three to four education seminars per month for the public at different Learning Centers around the city. These have been well attended with an average of 35.

This past year, regarding Social Security, I have learned that people usually get it wrong when it comes to maximizing their lifetime benefits. Most begin receiving benefits too soon when there is no financial need to do so. Folks have no clue as to the value of this benefit or what they leave on the table. It is not uncommon for me to find $400 to $800 a month being left on the table by couples because they don’t know about their Spousal Benefit.

Being able to assist my clients with their total retirement assets including their “Hidden Assets”, I can now do a much better job of helping them maximize sustainable income during their lifetime.

James A. (Al) Hurt, Jr., CLU, ChFC, CSA, is a 62 year old Retirement Specialist from Clinton, Miss. He is vice-president of Security Ballew Wealth Management headquartered in Jackson, Miss. The past 40 years he has assisted individuals and businesses with wealth management. His expertise runs the gamut from Retirement Plans to Social Security. Al’s knowledge level and expertise regarding Social Security has afforded him opportunities to conduct seminars and accept numerous speaking engagements. He has a keen understanding of the process of electing Social Security benefits. Al’s Certified Senior Advisor designation supplements his other credentials and today, he focuses primarily on optimizing Social Security benefits for his clients.

Mr. Hurt recently hosted the Society of Certified Senior Advisor's March Educational Webinar, Social Security Timing for Married Couples. CSAs can download this recorded presentation, along with the handouts, by logging to their CSA Portal account at

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors