When you envision retirement, you may find it easy to imagine a simplified lifestyle: You are working less, spending more time with family and traveling as you wish. To achieve such goals, you definitely should plan now. However, it is just as important to recognize that this is not the only phase of your retirement.
Longevity trends are steadily increasing. On average, approximately 70 percent of individuals age 65 or older will ultimately need some form of long-term care. Such statistics underscore the need to plan for late-stage life transitions. But visualizing one’s later years can be difficult. Many people feel a sense of uncertainty about what their health and other needs will be, so they tend to avoid the issue altogether.
That is a mistake. To help start this essential conversation about later-stage life needs, here are five things to keep in mind:
1. COMMUNICATION IS KEY.
Communicating your wishes to loved ones and caregivers is paramount. Start these conversations early to build the framework you’ll need for making decisions about your care down the road. Help your loved ones and primary contacts, such as doctors, attorneys and advisors, establish a relationship. This can help facilitate communications later on. Early and open discussions are critical. If you wait until an emergency occurs, your options will likely be limited.
2. DOCUMENT WHEN POSSIBLE.
Having important information organized and in writing can be invaluable. Keep a binder of important items, such as Medicare and insurance information, financial statements and legal documents. This will help you and loved ones better manage your care. Important estate-planning documents, such as power of attorney and medical directives, can also help clearly define your wishes and ease the burden of decisions in later years.
3. DON’T DO IT ALONE.
Myriad services are available to help you better determine what your long-term care will look like. Use them. There are specialists in strategic planning for seniors who can help you navigate your options, get organized and act as your overall advocate. These experts can be particularly helpful for those who do not have adult children or immediate family members available to help, or who simply do not want to burden their children.
Maintaining independence as long as possible tends to be a top priority for most of us. Continuing-care retirement communities can be a great option here. These facilities offer both independent living as well as operate care centers that enable residents to move, as needed and within the same location, from independent living to assisted or skilled nursing arrangements. This relatively seamless transition can make the transition more comfortable for you and provide your loved ones peace of mind.
5. INCORPORATE ALL COSTS.
Whether you opt for a senior community or a semi-private nursing home room, the costs could be substantial. Similarly, there is a wide range of support options available, from weekly check-ins by a non-medical professional to in-home aides. Do not assume that your long-term care insurance policy is sufficient to cover these costs. A careful analysis of what your policy will and will not cover must be part of the conversation so that potential gaps can be addressed prior to spending savings in other areas.
By considering potential later-stage life expenses early and earmarking your assets appropriately, you can avoid surprises down the road when care is needed.
Your wealth advisor can help you proactively fund this part of your retirement, giving you and your loved ones a shared understanding of your wishes and, just as important, peace of mind.
This article was originally published in the April/May 2016 issue of Worth.