If You Hope to “Age in Place,” the Right Financial Advisor Can Help You Plan for the Support Systems You’ll Need
Are you hoping to age in place – that is, to grow old in your own house, surrounded by the familiar sights and sounds and sensations of home? If you said yes, you’re hardly alone: roughly seven out of eight people 65 and older agree with you. But as Rajiv Nagaich so often reminds us, when it comes to aging, good intentions will never get us where we want to go, which is why 70 percent of retirement plans fail. The only way to achieve the kind of retirement future you dream of is to plan well – and to start early.
That was our take-away from this timely article from CNBC, in which reporter Deborah Nason walks us through some essential tips for aging in place. As her article explains, if growing old at home is your desire, you’re going to need a support system, especially if, like 20 million of your peers, you’ll be living alone. By “support system,” Nason doesn’t mean only caregivers, as we’ll see, but everything from someone to drive you to a doctor’s appointment to someone you can trust to repair a leaky faucet.
As the CNBC article also demonstrates, a growing number of financial planners have become semi-experts in helping their clients age on their own terms. These retirement-focused financial advisors can help with both the financial and non-financial preparations for seniors looking to age in place at home. Let’s take a look.
The Sentiment is Overwhelming: We Want to Stay Put
There’s no two ways about it: the majority of us want to stay in place as we age. In her CNBC article, Nason writes, “A recent AARP report shows that 85 percent of respondents 65 or older wish to stay in their current residences as long as possible. Now seniors are discovering that retirement-focused financial advisors can help with both the financial and non-financial preparations to do so.”
Nason spoke with Howard Pressman, a certified financial planner out of Virginia, who explains, “We’re often the only professionals people will consult when they’re planning for this phase of their lives. I saw my clients struggling [with this issue] and I wanted to help them think about the process of aging.” This is becoming so common that some financial advisors are going back to school, adding advanced degrees to their expertise.
Nason writes about Sandy Adams, a Certified Financial Planner in Michigan, who puts her master’s degree in gerontology to good use as a subject-matter expert. “One of [Sandy’s] responsibilities is to put together an aging plan for clients that focuses on housing (as they age), care (how and by whom), finances and personal legacy (how they wish to share values, stories, photos, and so on),” Nason writes.
Helping Retirees Fill Critical Caregiver Roles
As the article explains, these experts are especially poised to advise their clients who are single and/or without children to think critically about who will help them age at home. “These roles include decision-makers for health issues, drivers to doctor appointments if clients are ill or injured, household helpers for routine home maintenance and friends for regular socialization,” Nason explains.
Jason Siperstein, also a Certified Financial Planner and president of a Rhode Island-based wealth management firm, told CNBC, “A lot of the [retirement-related] conversations we have with clients are around the non-financial aspects. You can’t talk about money without talking about life. You can’t separate the two.”
Nason adds, “[Siperstein] refers clients to aging-in-place resources, such as Medicare brokers, discounted prescription drug services and a personal concierge service that does a wide variety of errands and handyman services. Siperstein also instructs clients on how to use Zoom and rideshare apps such as Über and Lyft.”
Home Modifications Should be Done Well in Advance
When advising people who want to age in place, experts encourage clients to prepare their finances and their homes at least five to 10 years in advance before their estimated need, to avoid disruptions to their lives later on.
Planner Sandy Adams typically provides her clients with other resources including:
- Licensed professional advocates who help with health management and advocacy and can act as health-care proxies for clients who have no local friends or family
- Local Area Agencies on Aging and community senior centers — non-profit agencies that help people navigate local resources
- Local senior transportation programs
- Home modification companies
Adams insists that this kind of planning should be done the sooner the better. “None of us knows when that event might happen that will cause us to suddenly need help,” she says.
Advisors Help Navigate Ins and Outs of Aging in Place
Patti B. Black, a CFP in Alabama, cautions clients to choose their advocates, such as those with powers of attorney, very carefully. “Another very important question to consider is, ‘Do you trust your decision-maker to do what you want if your situation changes?’ Would they be influenced by different financial ramifications?”
Black explains that this is something that the right financial advisor can guide a client through, along with questions about future care and end-of-life care. She knows better than some, as she cared for her own elderly parents.
The right financial advisor can also refer you to the following list of professionals, provided by Black:
- In-home senior care agencies, who conduct background checks on potential caregivers
- Consultants to help clients choose a facility (if necessary) who are familiar with a care community’s quality of care, personality and reputation
- Geriatric care managers, who act as private social workers, who do in-home evaluations, offer programs, provide care giving oversight, medication management, advocacy and more.
“It’s important to communicate to clients that there is a list of resources available when the time comes,” Black says. “Let your decision-maker know that they should reach out to [your advisor]. We’ve had a lot of experience with our own families and other clients and our goal is to establish a [helping] relationship with you before there’s a crisis.”
My Life, My Plan, My Way: Get Started on the Path to Retirement Success
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(originally reported at www.cnbc.com)