Should you delay your retirement because of COVID-19?

Should you delay your retirement because of COVID-19?

Fairfax Financial loses nearly US$1.3B in Q1, less than it forecast two weeks ago

TORONTO _ Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. says it lost nearly US$1.3 billion in the first quarter because of the COVID-19 pandemic, about US$100 million less than it forecast about two weeks ago.

The Toronto-based holding company, which reports in U.S. dollars, says the loss equalled $47.38 per diluted share, compared with a profit of $26.98 per share of $769.2 million a year earlier.

The book value adjusted for the $10 per common share dividend paid in the first quarter decreased 11.1 per cent to $422.03.

Chief executive Prem Watsa says that despite the unprecedented turbulence its insurance companies continued to have strong underwriting performance in the quarter.

Operating income of the insurance and reinsurance operations decreased modestly to $225.6 million from $246.7 million.

Net premiums written by the insurance and reinsurance operations increased by 10.1 per cent to $3.7 billion from $3.36 billion.

Fairfax says it had impairment losses of $181.1 million related to its investments in Quess, Resolute Forest Products and Astarta.

US: Administration offers plan to cover COVID care for uninsured

By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON _ The Trump administration announced a plan Wednesday to start paying hospitals and doctors who care for uninsured patients with COVID-19, but Democratic lawmakers and health industry groups are likely to press for more.

Under the approach detailed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, hospitals and doctors would submit their bills directly to the government and they would get paid at Medicare rates.

Uninsured people would not be liable for costs, and health care providers would not have to ask any questions about a patient’s immigration status, an issue that’s been cited as a barrier to care in communities with many foreign-born residents.

“This says if you don’t have insurance, go get taken care of  we have you covered,” Azar said in an interview.

The money will come from a pot of $100 billion that Congress has approved to provide relief for the health care system, which is trying to cope with the high cost of coronavirus care while facing a cash crunch because elective surgeries and procedures have been put on hold. For COVID-19 patients who are covered by health insurance, hospitals and doctors accepting money from the relief fund would have to agree to not to send “surprise” bills for out-of-network services.

COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured could cost from $14 billion to $48 billion, according to a recent estimate from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Azar said the administration is not providing an estimate on what its plan will cost, but he is confident it will fit within the $100 billion allocated by Congress. Lawmakers are finalizing another coronavirus relief bill, expected to add $75 billion more for the health care system.

Democrats and some health industry groups say the relief money approved by Congress should go directly to health care facilities, and the administration should cover the uninsured by expanding programs such as Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. An HHS press release describing the plan for the uninsured says payments for their care would be made “subject to available funding.”

About 28 million people were uninsured before the pandemic hit, and that number is expected to rise sharply. Consultants at Health Management Associates estimate that 12 million to 35 million people could lose workplace coverage in the economic shutdown aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus.

The plan for the uninsured was part of a broader announcement by the government detailing a second round of economic relief payments to hospitals, doctors and other health care service providers.

Before Wednesday’s announcement, $30 billion had been distributed. Additional funds now being released include:

_ $20 billion in payments across a range of health care facilities.

_ $10 billion targeted to coronavirus hot spots; New York will receive $4.4 billion.

_$10 billion for rural health clinics and hospitals

_$400 million for Indian Health Service facilities.

Azar said additional allocations will be announced for nursing homes, for hospitals and doctors that rely on Medicaid, and for dentists.

Liz Weston: Is your financial adviser really helping you?

Liz Weston: Is your financial adviser really helping you?

By Liz Weston Of Nerdwallet

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Stock market crashes don’t just test investors’ mettle. Abrupt downturns also can reveal what kind of financial adviser you have.

Some people will discover, to their horror, that they’ve been dealing with outright crooks. Ponzi schemes are among the cons that fall apart when markets do, as investors try to pull their money out and discover it’s gone.

More commonly, people learn that their advisers didn’t put the clients’ best interests first. The adviser may have recommended investments that were unsuitably risky or hard to sell, or failed to adequately diversify clients’ portfolios.

Even if you dodge the worst, your adviser may not deliver the value you expected. It’s reasonable to assume you’ll get some degree of hand-holding, reassurance and personal service when you choose a human adviser over less expensive options, such as a robo-adviser or investing on your own. The answers to the following questions could help you decide whether it’s time to look for an adviser willing to live up to those expectations.

HAVE YOU EVEN HEARD FROM YOUR ADVISER?

Demanding instant responses isn’t realistic at a time when advisers, like the rest of us, are grappling with pandemic-wrought changes. They may be working from home, struggling with unfamiliar technologies, trying to keep their pantry filled and home-schooling their kids. Family members may be ill or at risk. Plus, they may be busy responding to clients who are a lot more freaked out than you are, or at least more vocal about it.

Still, by now your adviser should have checked in with you _ and mass communications such as email newsletters don’t count. If you’ve called or emailed, you should be getting responses.

“We return emails and calls within 24 hours,” says Catherine S. Gearig, a certified financial planner with LifePlan Financial Advisory Group in Rochester Hills, Michigan. “We’re reaching out to every client on our roster via telephone to see how they are doing and talking through their concerns.”

IS YOUR ADVISER LISTENING?

Let’s say you have heard from your adviser. Was it a pep talk, a lecture or a conversation? Good advisers remind clients of their goals, encourage them to stick with their strategy and reassure them that markets always bounce back eventually. But good advisers also ask plenty of questions and pay attention to the answers.

“This is the time for collaboration and listening to how you feel, how you see yourself being impacted by a recession, or even personal or medical health concerns you have,” says Pam Krueger, CEO of Wealthramp, an online service that connects consumers with vetted, independent fiduciary advisers. “It’s not about portfolios and investments and mutual funds all the time.”

IS YOUR ADVISER LEANING IN?

If you’ve lost your job, you may need to find health insurance, file for unemployment, evaluate a severance package and figure out how to make ends meet _ all tasks that a good adviser should help you with, Krueger says. If you’re in or near retirement, you need to know how bear markets might affect your future spending and whether to tap other assets, such as home equity. Even if you’re decades away from retirement, you may want reassurance that your plan is still on track.

The stimulus package that Congress approved in late March, meanwhile, has a wide range of provisions to help individuals and businesses. Your adviser should be evaluating whether any could help you.

Even if you don’t have a pressing financial need, it might be a good time to do a Roth conversion, sell losing stocks to offset gains from winners, rebalance your investments or even speed up your retirement contributions. CFP Malcolm Ethridge, executive vice-president of CIC Wealth in Rockville, Maryland, is encouraging his younger clients whose job prospects are good to boost their 401(k) and IRA contributions now.

“That way, you get those dollars in there while the market is selling at a discount and take full advantage of the buying opportunity,” Ethridge says.

Bad markets and trying economic times are an opportunity to see how seriously advisers take their responsibilities to their clients, says CFP Brett A. Koeppel, president of Eudaimonia Wealth in Buffalo, New York.

“Our character is often determined by how we show up at times of adversity,” Koeppel says. “Now is the time to lean into it, and step up for the families that count on us to do so.”

___________________________

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of  “Your Credit Score.”

FDA approves pill for aggressive breast cancer that’s spread

By Linda A. Johnson

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

U.S. regulators on Friday approved a new drug for an aggressive type of breast cancer that’s spread in the body _ including into the brain, where it’s especially tough to treat.

The Food and Drug Administration said Tukysa, a twice-daily pill developed by Seattle Genetics, is for people with what’s known as HER2-positive breast cancer that has spread and resisted multiple other medicines. This type of cancer is driven by an overactive gene that makes too much of the HER2 protein, which promotes cancer growth.

Each year, about 50,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer. It’s usually curable, but when it spreads it kills most patients. In up to half of them, the cancer reaches the brain, giving that group such a poor prognosis that they have rarely been included in tests of new drugs.

Tukysa, pronounced too-KYE’-sah and also known as tucatinib, works by attacking cancer cells from inside and outside to block production of the HER2 protein.

“This is basically taking the ammunition out of that weapon,” said Dr. Eric Winer, a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researcher who helped lead the key patient study and consults for Seattle Genetics and other drugmakers.

In that company-funded study, half the 612 participants got Tukysa along with standard cancer drugs Herceptin and Xeloda. The other half got the two standard drugs and a dummy pill.

In the group getting Tukysa, 45% survived at least two years, compared with 27% in the placebo group. Among the participants whose cancer spread to the brain, 25% were alive after a year versus none in the placebo group.

“It’s a significant advance,” said Winer.

Common side effects included diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting and liver function changes.

Tukysa has a list price of $18,500 per month, or roughly $111,000 for an average course of treatment, without insurance. Most patients don’t pay that, and Seattle Genetics plans to offer financial aid.

Tukysa should be available almost immediately.

 

Fairfax Financial warns of US$1.4 billion net loss in the first quarter

TORONTO _ Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. is warning that it expects to lose US$1.4 billion in the first quarter because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Toronto-based holding company says its preliminary result will also mean about a 12 per cent decrease in book value adjusted for the $10 per common share dividend paid in quarter.

Chief executive Prem Watsa says that despite the unprecedented turbulence its insurance companies continued to have strong underwriting performance in the quarter.

Net losses on investments currently estimated at about US$1.5 billion primarily reflect unrealized losses in the fair value of our common stock and bond portfolio from the sudden shock of COVID-19, he said. That reverses a significant portion of the US$1.7 billion net gains on investments reported in 2019.

Watsa says in a statement that the company has drawn on its credit facility solely to ensure that it maintains high levels of cash. It had about US$2.5 billion in cash and marketable securities in its holding company at March 31.

Fairfax will also absorb its share of US$200 million in losses related to its investments in Quess, Resolute Forest Products and Astarta.

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