Unfortunately it is one of the last taboo subjects of modern society. We are all aware of it. We all know it will happen one day. But, it’s still one of those topics we don’t dare mention by name.
And, unless there is a tragic accident, we will all become old.
Yes, even you!
Even though we know it’s coming, very few of us will plan for it and just hope it will all work out in the end. Over the next fifty years the number of 65 year old’s living in the US will increase from 46.2 million to just over 98 million. It’s the fastest growing demographic in the US and the one most likely to need some kind of end of life care. It is also been stated that one in three of us will get some form of dementia.
This means that the responsibility is going to be on you to make sure you’re looked after in your old age.
There are many steps you can take at every stage of life to help with the situation and make your old age a lot more comfortable for both yourself and your life partner…
1. Be Organized
Althought is’s not something you’d like to think about right now, there is a chance that one day a loved one may have to come in and make decisions about your care for you. Try to make things easy for them by being organized. Make sure all your financial documents and plans are in one place. Keep a clear list of everything coming in and out of your household finances, any savings or investments you have, any properties you own and any debts you might have. Knowing exactly what your finances are will be invaluable in sorting your care for you.
2. Make a Will
If the worst happens and you die without making a will (called dying intestate) then the law gets to specify how your money will be divided. That means your assets might not necessarily go to those you want them to after you’re gone. If you want to stay in control and decide who gets what, then a will is a must. While it’s possible to draw one up yourself, even a tiny, technical mistake can invalidate it so it’s always a clever idea to get it done professionally. It is worth noting that any will you draw up now might be invalid if you marry/re-marry so make sure you keep it up to date by checking it every five years or so and possibly redrafting it.
A living will is a document in which you express how you’d want to be treated in different situations in case the time comes when you can’t make your desires known.
3. Have a What If… meeting
Just because you’ve decided to tackle your old age head on it doesn’t mean your family and friends will be happy about it. They may think you’re being morbid or worrying about nothing. Or, maybe they’re not ready to tackle the subject. That being said, it is important you have a what if… conversation with your nearest and dearest letting them know exactly what your wishes would be if you became incapacitated or died.
I have some friends who live alone and worry that something might happen to them. So, they made a pact to call each other every morning just to check in. It gives them peace of mind that someone is checking in on them and it has also created some deep, meaningful relationships.
4. Organize your power of attorney
A power of attorney gives a person the authority to act for another person in specified or all legal or financial matters. It is a legal document giving power of attorney to someone.
If you think you might one day need someone with the power of attorney for you then you should set it up well in advance of when you might need it. You will not be able to do this if, at some point in the future, you are deemed not to have ‘sufficient mental capacity’ (the legal ability to make decisions for yourself). So, do it now while you still can. A power of attorney doesn’t have to be expensive to set up but if a loved one is forced to handle your financial affairs without it will be an even more expensive and complicated process for them.
5. Set up a pension or an IRA now!
Many financial experts state that to maintain your standard of living after retirement you’ll need at least 70% of your pre-retirement salary; a figure which rises to 90% for those from lower earning households. With that in mind it’s important to start planning for those additional funds at retirement early.
If you are currently working and your company has a pension plan, make sure you participate in that. Another option is to establish an IRA (individual retirement account) where you can contribute money each year, up to a legally allowed limit, to the account, investing it as you choose based on your retirement goals.
6. Plan a Budget
A good idea, when considering the financial implications of retiring, is to make a retirement budget. What do you plan to be doing? Will you be taking up any new hobbies? How expensive are they likely to be on a monthly basis? Do you have a bucket list you want to work through? Calculating how much you’ll need on a monthly and annual basis for retirement will make a multitude of other decisions you must make easier.
You should also plan to pay off all you debts before you retire. It may sound like an obvious point but after retirement, unless you’re super prepared, your ability to pay off debts will be vastly reduced compared to while you were working. With that in mind make sure you clear as many as possible while you can. They can also cause problems down the line if you’re trying to get into a care home but debt collection agencies are chasing you for your assets.
7. Keep working?
70 is the new 60 is the new….you get the idea. There is nothing that says you have to retire at the age of 60 or 65; in fact that decision could be completely wrong for you.
Obviously the main question you need to consider is if you can afford to retire. There are many other factors to consider before you make that choice as well, not the least of which is are you mentally prepared to retire? While the thought of not having to get up for work every morning is enticing, it can leave some people angry or depressed with literally no reason to get up in the morning. When planning for retirement make sure you’ve thought about how you’ll fill your days. Will you be taking up a hobby? That’s great, but ask yourself; does it have to wait till you retire?
Sure you’ll have extra time to spend on it but why put it off? Why not start your plans now, staying physically and mentally active have many benefits, as you’ll see in the next few paragraphs.
8. Stay healthy and mentally active
While the majority of the advice discussed so far has centered around your finances, they’re by no means the only thing you need to consider. Looking after yourself by losing weight, quitting smoking, only drinking in moderation and generally staying active will not only mean you live longer to enjoy all your financial planning. You will also improve your ability to remain independent and able.
It’s not just your physical health you need to look after either. Keeping mentally alert has a range of proven benefits from staving off depression to delaying/slowing down the onset of dementia. For more ideas on this check out The 6 Simple Steps to Keep Your Mind Sharp at Any Age.
9. Plan for your needs…before they become necessary
The last thing you need in your old age is stress. Try to envision the kind of needs you might have and deal with them while it’s still easy to do so. Here are some things to consider:
- Are you still in the family home you’ve been in for the last 20/30 years? Do you still need three bedrooms?
- Would a smaller house and garden will be much easier to manage as you get older?
- Should you consider moving closer to family to form an extended support network?
- Is there anything you can do to the home itself that might make it more navigable as you get older?
All these things are well worth considering as you reach retirement age.
10. Make friends
As we go through life our social networks tend to revolve around either family or work or both. As we get older work friends may drift as we lose touch with them on a day-to-day basis and family might move away or pass on themselves. If you don’t have a wide network of friends you could be setting yourself up for isolation in your old age. Try to take stock of who you know and who you can stay in touch with easily after you retire and extend your range of social activities to widen your social circle(s).
In spite of all this planning you’re about to do, keep this in mind. You can’t control everything! People get old; it’s an inalienable fact of life and it will happen to all of us. Plan for what you can and then just relax and enjoy your senior years; after all you’ve earned it!