Some people think that “retirement planning” means “planning for all the things I want to do after I retire.” But it’s not that simple. That’s why we wanted to bring back to your attention an article we first read in the Seattle Times early last year. The very first lines really caught our attention. “There’s the retirement that looks like the commercials: biking, travel, enjoying the family,” it read. “And then there’s the one where you can’t get up the stairs anymore.”
Plan for Tomorrow – and the Day After
Yes, it’s true, retirement comes in multiple stages, and if we fail to consider both the early, more active years of retirement and the later years where we will begin facing health challenges, we’re doing ourselves and our loved ones a grave disservice. That’s the point from this 2017 Seattle Times article written by personal finance columnist Liz Weston. Her point is simple. As you begin to plan ahead for your life in retirement, you not only need to prepare for those relatively carefree years when you’re able to do all the things you’ve dreamed of doing, but you also need to take an honest look into the more-distant future and think about the likely eventuality of physical decline. “Most of us happily plan for the first (phase), when our health is good and energy high,” Weston writes. “The second can be hard to contemplate, when health falters and medical crises can change lives in an instant.”
This idea lines up perfectly with our philosophy here at AgingOptions. There’s an old saying that reminds us, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” This is certainly true when it comes to planning for retirement, for if you enter that phase of life without a plan you aren’t the only one who will suffer from your lack of preparation. Your loved ones will, too.
After the Bucket List
So what kinds of things should you consider after you’ve enjoyed the “bucket list” years of retirement? One of the biggest decisions you’ll want to think through, the article says, is where you will live. The housing decision is definitely one that needs to be thought through and planned for carefully, well in advance of any emergency move that might be precipitated by a sudden health crisis. Financial planners quoted in the Weston article agree that moving prematurely – say, to a continuous care retirement facility – is probably a bad idea, because you may find you can’t enjoy the kind of entertaining and decorating you’ve always been used to. But too many seniors make the opposite mistake, staying in their own home far too long without proper planning or preparation.
One retirement planner said he “has heard horror stories of elders who stayed too long in unsafe conditions (in their own homes) until health crises propelled them into the hospital — and left their families scrambling to deal with the costs, their care and what to do with the family home.” This kind of crisis-reaction dramatically increases the odds that you’ll end up living in a nursing home or other facility that you might have been able to avoid if you had started planning much sooner. We’ve seen this many times in our practice at AgingOptions.
Start with the Easier Decisions
The key, according to Liz Weston, is to “start thinking and talking about how you want to cope when your health begins to fail.” This can be a tough conversation, it’s true, but dealing with the consequences of denial will be far tougher. One planner suggests you start by talking through the decisions that might be somewhat easier to talk about, such as the question of which of your loved ones will be the one to make medical and financial decisions should you someday become incapacitated. “Then the discussion moves to the harder topics — imagining life when they can’t navigate stairs or drive or handle daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, dressing or bathing themselves.”
Maybe you could stay in your current home longer if you made modifications necessary to age in place. This is where you’ll want to get expert consultation, something we can help you with if you’ll contact our AgingOptions office. We can suggest trusted remodelers who will provide you with an in-home evaluation. Because this kind of remodeling is typically an excellent reason for a reverse mortgage, we can also refer you to an unbiased professional such as Ted Butler who will help you decide whether this powerful financial tool is right for you. You’ll also need to consider the fact that a loved one who is caring for you in your own home will incur significant expenses, so planning now to help with those costs is extremely important.
Don’t Wait Too Long to Move
Should you decide to move, experts strongly suggest you do so while you’re young and healthy enough to handle the stress and enjoy your new environment. Once again, in our experience, many people wait years too long to relocate, and as a result they find the experience exhausting and stressful. It’s harder to make friends and settle into a new place as we age.
We definitely suggest you read the article by Liz Weston and perhaps use it as a conversation starter with your own adult kids. They may have wondered what your thoughts are about aging but were reluctant to broach what can be a difficult, touchy subject. Here at AgingOptions we have conducted hundreds of family conferences where, with careful planning in a neutral atmosphere, all these emotionally-charged issues are laid out for productive and open discussion. Contact us if this is something you think would benefit your family.
And when it comes to the broader topic of retirement planning, we have found that virtually everyone in a retiree’s family benefits when he or she has a comprehensive plan in place. We’ve developed an approach we call LifePlanning, one which not only helps you decide where you want to live but also how to protect your finances, how to communicate with your family, how to ensure your medical needs are fully covered, and much more. We invite you to learn more about the power of a LifePlan as a tool to protect your retirement security by investing a few hours and attending a free LifePlanning Seminar. These popular events take place at locations through the Puget Sound region. You can click here for details and online registration or contact us by phone during the week so we can assist you.
When it comes to retirement, a good plan builds confidence – and there’s no better retirement planning we know of than a LifePlan from AgingOptions.
(originally reported at www.seattletimes.com)