Book Review: What You Can Expect When Expecting a Settlement

Assuming you are a professional structured settlement consultant and/or settlement planner, what is the first advice you generally offer to your clients who are expecting a financial settlement?

Traci Kaas, an Independent Life agent, who identifies herself professionally as a Certified Financial Transitionist (CeFT), a Certified Structured Settlement Consultant, and a Certified Medicare Secondary Payer Professional as well as a licensed financial and life insurance advisor, has just published an informative book with the intriguing and relevant title: “What You Can Expect When Expecting a Settlement.”

Traci’s answer to the above question is a blunt and counter-intuitive: “Don’t” (as in don’t expect a settlement) which opens the first of 10 Chapters and six (6) Appendices comprising 155 pages of valuable information.  

Following this cautionary warning, Traci supports her admonition with “key pieces of advice I wish I could give everyone, right from the start.” As Traci points out later in the book, however, she does not typically meet her clients “until they are pretty far along in the legal process.

Among other accomplishments, Traci’s book delivers a powerful argument as to why plaintiff attorneys should introduce settlement planners (a resource who is knowledgeable about structured settlements) early in the settlement process. For reasons explained below, this author also recommends Traci’s book to members of the professional structured settlement and settlement planning communities.

Traci’s introduction accurately provides a concise litany of challenges and recommended preparation steps that establish a foundation for the remainder of the content in the book.

As examples of these types of challenges, Traci points out that some claimants never win any legal settlement; lawsuits can take years to resolve; and settlement funds may prove inadequate to address needs let alone wants. Traci, however, also suggests some immediate, pre-settlement, financial organizational steps – all in the first four pages of her book and the remainder fulfills her book’s promise of providing “a guide to navigating the emotional and technical transitions of financial settlements.” Starting with some immediate financial advice Traci refers to as, “Short-Term Financial Triage” she aims to help carry prospective recipients through, and beyond, the settlement process.

In this author’s view, “What to Expect When Expecting a Settlement” is an excellent resource to help educate injured persons about the settlement planning process at a very high level. Traci very thoroughly includes advice about building “Your Brain Trust” of professional advisors, provides an overview of the legal process, shares the basics of financial literacy, and explains how to both seek and protect government benefits such as multiple “needs-based” public benefits in addition to SSI and Medicaid.

In one of the most compelling chapters of the book, “A Time of Transition,” Traci (a graduate of The Sudden Money Institute as well as a CeFT) introduces transition-related concepts (including emotional and physical reactions) and explains their applicability and importance to settlement planning.

Assuming a financial settlement occurs, and “Before the Money Arrives”, Traci offers advice including the completion of a “Financial Health Checklist” which she helpfully provides in the appendix. As you may expect, Traci includes an explanation of why a payee should consider a structured settlement. Clearly a proponent, Traci nonetheless discusses “common objections” and “when a [structure] does not make sense” as well as “benefits” and provides a case example. One minor criticism: to simplify her explanation, Traci conflates a “structured settlement” with an “annuity

Finally, in her closing Traci offers stories of three clients and their families to provide her readers with “hope” for “Living Your Best Life” regardless of the results of the settlement process.

In summary: although all professional structured settlement consultants and settlement planners presumably advise their clients about “What They Can Expect When Expecting a Settlement”, Traci Kaas’ is unique in at least three respects:

  • First, it is published book, available for purchase online from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
  • Second, Traci approaches her subject as a Certified Financial Transitionist in addition to other relevant qualifications.
  • Third, Traci’s comprehensive coverage introduces settlement planning topics which have not yet been, but should be, addressed at NSSTA and SSP educational conferences such as,
    1. short-term financial triage
    2. comprehensive needs-based public benefits
    3. financial transition planning including emotional and physical reactions
    4. knowledge advisory teams – with added attention to integrated work product
    5. basics of financial literacy