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4 things to consider for longevity planning

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“The only two things guaranteed in life are death and taxes,” or so goes the famous saying. Although we know the deadline to file our taxes, we don’t know the date of the last day that we’ll be here on this Earth.

Do you picture yourself being 90 plus years old? Not a lot of people do and, worse, not a lot people plan to get to that almost-centenarian age. You can blame all the bacon lovers out there or the lack of fitness fanatics. However, the odds of being more than 90 or 100 years old are rising fast. According to the U.S. Census, life expectancy is projected to continue to improve in the coming years due largely to medical and technological advances.

More intriguing than the centenarian’s secret to reaching such an age is this: How are you going to make your retirement last throughout this  “fifth golden age?” My grandmother just turned 92 years old, and I can tell you that she never thought she would “last this long,” as she often tells me.

Even though she didn’t plan for this extended retirement, she currently receives only two sources of income: a pension for working more than 30 years as a nurse for the health department and her Social Security, which has a hefty Medicare amount discounted from the monthly amount. Although her expenses are minimal (her house and car were paid off when my grandfather died very suddenly), she didn’t invest in any other retirement funds. Her current sources of income are just enough to cover her basic lifestyle expenses, but not enough for a trip to Europe, a vacation home or a yacht. More than material things, I really think she would have used additional funds to help take care of other family members.

Back when my grandma started working during World War II, her retirement contributions were scaled back because of the war and because women didn’t earn as much as men. She’s told me that there weren’t a lot of products for retirement that she could contribute to because the government pension was supposed to cover her retirement indefinitely. However, employees in the private sector were encouraged to invest in private retirement products, like defined contribution plans.

My grandma worked past her retirement age and finally retired in the early 1980s. And even though it’s been more than 30 years, her government pension has only increased 3 percent since then, which doesn’t even account for the inflation rate.

Given my grandma’s story, here are some of the things that you should talk about with your clients when preparing them for the chance that they might live to be more than 90 years old


1. They might need to scale back on their previous lifestyle.

Once upon a time, there were trips to New York and Europe, and many trips aboard cruise ships. Now, there are only trips to the supermarket or weekends at the son or daughter’s house. When the harsh reality sets in, the retirement that your client had in mind might not be possible if they didn’t plan accordingly, due to outliving their retirement funds or the increase in living expenses because of the economy and inflation rates.

How can your clients afford their previous lifestyle or at least live the retirement they want? Make sure they start investing early (hint: millennials can benefit the most from this because time is on their side), help them take advantage of new products that are specifically designed for longevity like qualifying longevity annuity contracts and plan, plan, plan. And when you’re done planning, keep revising the plan, adjusting for new needs or expenses, and make sure to include your client’s changing views. For example, maybe that big dream house they bought is now too big to keep up and it’s time for a smaller house.

golden girls

2. Changes in living arrangements

The beautiful dream house that your client bought in 1950 may very well be in dire need of repair. From getting rid of lead paint to asbestos, some older properties need to be updated to code standards for safe living. But how will they make these arrangements if their retirement funds are barely making ends meet by the time they turn 90 years old?

Sure, the family can pitch in or they can get a loan at a bank and hire someone to make the repairs, but some people might consider having their parents live with them instead of making expensive repairs to an old house. Others might consider moving their senior to an assisted living facility or a nursing home, much to the senior’s dismay.

While being over 90 years old and still being able to manage daily tasks by themselves is amazing, there are some risks involved with living alone at that age. Talk about all these possibilities with your clients and make sure that they talk about it with their family members beforehand.

Often, it is difficult for both the older person and the family to live under one roof, let alone sell or rent what had been their main dwelling for the past 60 years and where the children and grandchildren grew up. And in some families, it’s taboo to talk about assisted living or senior communities. “You’re not getting rid of me like that,” says my very annoyed grandmother whenever she hears of the subject.

This is where long-term care insurance plays an important role because it may offer a backup plan for your clients and potential family caregivers. Another alternative that is becoming a new trend: some seniors and older people might prefer to look for roommates, and live with friends just like on the TV show The Golden Girls. Other times, however, they need the care of trained nursing staff. (AP Photo/Nick UT)

 old lady drivers

3. Driving Miss Daisy

Being mobile is not only vital to one’s existence, but also a source of pride. We all know what it is to depend on other people to do basic things like going to the market to buy potatoes. But when you’re 90 years old, the human body responds differently than when you are in your twenties.

My grandmother still has her 1962 Chevy Impala in her garage and often says that she wants to take driving lessons to not have to depend on anyone else. Even though her mind and eyesight are in great condition — sometimes even better than mine — her body responses and instincts have slowed down. This is difficult for seniors to grasp, especially when they have been independent for most of their lives. But it’s just another point to consider and discuss when addressing longevity. Hashing out who will help take them to medical appointments or on daily errands can ease some of the stress that these changes cause for both seniors and caregivers.


4. Health care costs and LTCI

Even if you make it to 90 without any considerable disease or disability, chances are that you will be seeing the doctor at least once per month. A common cold can turn into deadly pneumonia or a fall can leave the elderly incapacitated. These visits to the doctor or other specialists can add up to a hefty out-of-pocket health care bill. Medicare is supposed to cover for these expenses, right? It depends on the coverage and many other factors.

As health care costs continue to increase and Medicare seems to be running out of funds, as well as Social Security Disability which could be broke by the 2016 elections, there are a few options for decreasing out-of-pocket health care costs like supplemental Medicare products. Of course, these come at an added cost.

And here’s a video of what 102 looks like.

See also:

Want to live to 100? 4 things you need to know

Why this 71-year-old advisor never wants to retire

5 charts that will help you reach the senior market

5 things senior clients wish their advisors knew

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