“It’s not the men in your life that matters, it’s the life in your men.” Mae West had a way with words and exuded a playfulness in life. The legendary actress and playwright delighted audiences and horrified guardians of morals with her hourglass figure wrapped with feathers and furs and husky voice that purred double entendres. She said, “If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” Paradoxically, she lived a more disciplined life, she didn’t smoke or drink, and died at 87 in her LA home.
Living longer challenges our basic wants of freedom, dignity, health and not being a burden. We need more wealth, experience and negotiate the process of aging, strive to reduce the high cost of elder financial abuse. This article outlines some actionable steps to help you prepare and protect your future and that of your loved ones.
The costs of living longer are financial and emotional. When are you ready to retire, enjoy a life of leisure and hang up your tool bag, briefcase or lab coat? The decision for some is easy. Others struggle because it can be a big transition mentally and emotionally. Do you have enough wealth, or on track, to last a lifetime? If your lifestyle requires $100,000 a year over and above your pension and Social Security benefit, and you retire at 65, you’d need about $1.6 million in wealth if you expect to live for 20 more years, assuming 5% return and 3% inflation. If you live 30 years, you need $2.2 million, and $2.7 million for 40 years. Serious saving and prudent investing is required. And as we grow older, emotional challenges shift to making life simple (less lawn), using alternative transportation (lunch with friends), and the assistance of caregivers (changing light bulbs).
As we get older and capacity diminishes, the risks rise for elder financial abuse. And the costs go beyond money lost. According to figures reported by ElderProtectionCenter.com, elder abuse costs US seniors about $36.5 billion annually, one in five seniors report being a victim of financial fraud or abuse, and nine of ten abusers are family members or other trusted individuals. This abuse can lead to distress and depression. And despite being widespread, the crimes often go unreported or undetected.
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s accounts for about 80% of the cases, and afflicts one in nine Americans age 65 and older and one in three age 85 and older per the Alzheimer’s Association. Another type of dementia is Parkinson’s. And here are three stages of decline and planning steps to consider.
Mild decline – Time for difficult conversations with he or she, the family and professional advisors. Discussions include financial, legal and caregiving plans, and for the afflicted about his or her wishes with loved ones for future care. Planning steps include reviewing estate plans and beneficiary designations, and executing durable powers for finances, power of attorney for health care and living will.
Moderate decline – Time to deepen the working relationships between family and professionals. Financial planning should be wrapped up because legal capacity may be in question.
Severe decline – This is when the family is working primarily with professionals. Legal capacity might be lost, and proper planning helps continuity amongst the family – otherwise guardianship may be necessary.
May West also said, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Amen to that. Life has its ups and downs. It’s the rough spots that give us the most grief, and why we plan. Paraphrasing the words of Denis Waitley, we expect the best, plan for the worst and are prepared to be surprised. Good luck to you.