Like many other questions I pose to clients, who ask me the question first – my answer often begins with . . . “it depends.” This particular question is often posed by clients doing pre-retirement planning and this may be the best time to be considering one’s options about how best to plan for retirement. I would consider how one answers this question posed in the title to be part of how we look at our elderhood and its challenges and uncertainties, about which I have recently blogged. So I will start with some basic questions.
How long will you live?
Sure, I bought a crystal ball a couple years back from a local shop, Grandpa’s Attic in Littleton, but I haven’t yet found a reputable online “gazing” course to hone my crystal ball reading skills. . . . ! Let me know if you have any leads on that.
Will you have health conditions that will make it difficult for you to live independently?
Some of us already have chronic health issues by the time we hit our 50’s or 60’s, so this might be a “heads up” that things could get progressively more difficult. But many of us just want to simply pretend that a downturn in our health status isn’t likely and so somehow it wouldn’t be possible that we will outlive our financial resources.
Will you have enough money saved to cover for the needed additional care?
Many elders I know want to leave something to their kids after they’re gone. How does the need to pay for care services, which one typically had been paying for previously in one form or another (if the elder had not been a longtime recipient of government benefits) adversely impact the person’s ability to leave a legacy to family members? Well, simply put, it can pit your own well-being and financial wherewithal against your child’s desire to inherit from you. I know, it sounds crass and the kind of thing that would never happen to you . . . but the fact is that we elder law attorneys see a fair amount of this. Why provide the temptation for your kids, to pit your ability to pay for your care against their ability to inherit funds from you?
If you don’t have sufficient funds to pay, who will pay for your care?
Many people assume that if they can’t pay their own way, perhaps family members will care for them. In fact, our health care system (and I am reminded of Walter Cronkite’s quote “America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system”) relies heavily on family caregivers to provide free services to help manage their loved one’s care, improve the patient’s quality of life, as well as reduce costs to the health care system. Many folks simply want to assume that they will be able to stay in their home, regardless of their physical or medical condition. This behavior has a name: avoidance or denial!
Will there be sufficient levels of public assistance available in the even you run out of money?
If you think that there will be plenty of money from your fellow taxpayers to fund your care, you might want to reconsider! The Medicaid expansion in Colorado under the Affordable Care Act made many more funds and programs available to impoverished elders who could not afford long term care services, but the continuation of these funds and services is not a sure thing! The failed American Health Care Act would have gutted those funds available for elders. Read more here from Justice in Aging’s blog.
Do you already assume that long term care insurance is going to be too expensive?
I met a financial advisor last year who was fairly new to the business, she told me that only “wealthy people” get LTC insurance. I explained to her in my experience that was not the case! There are people who make getting a LTC policy a financial priority, and they aren’t always those folks who can otherwise afford easily to self-insure – meaning the wealthy who can afford a Cadillac LTC policy or who have enough funds to privately pay for care without making a dent in their kids’ inheritance.
The fact is, there are more ways to fund the purchase of an LTC policy than you can shake a stick at! Here’s an article by Wade Pfau from Forbes magazine that has several helpful links to the smorgasbord of options currently available.
© Barbara E. Cashman 2017 www.DenverElderLaw.org