Let’s be honest; it can feel as awkward as having the sex talk with your kids. Money is one of the most difficult things to agree on between spouses and no one likes to talk about growing older. Talking about the financial aspects of long term care with family can feel both logistically and emotionally overwhelming. But since we’re being honest, not having the conversation can mean sacrificing opportunities for planning and positive outcomes in the future.
Where to S.T.A.R.T
Whether you are getting on the same page with a spouse or having a larger conversation with aging loved ones and adult children, setting boundaries and having a map will set you up for success. Here are 10 tips for having a successful conversation and a map for where to S.T.A.R.T.
- If possible talk in person. 93% of communication is non-verbal and choose a neutral space free from distractions.
- Create an informal agenda of topics that need discussion, but don’t feel pressure to get through all of it in just one sitting.
- Leave space to hear other’s reactions to your thoughts and really listen
- Have a sense of humor. Finding reasons to laugh will cut the tension
- Don’t talk when you are tired or emotionally heated
- Financial planning is a marathon. Set a time frame for each conversation and respect its start and end times. Schedule the next meeting when the time is up.
- Be mindful of the way you think about money and how it informs your decisions
- Don’t be afraid to seek guidance for your specific situation from professionals such as an Elder Law Attorney or Financial Planner
- Identify the problems/ goals and move the discussion toward solutions and next steps
- Document conclusions and plans as well as next steps and further conversations
S is for Savings & Insurance
Create a savings and spending plan that allows for optimum retirement readiness later. Be sure to include healthcare and long term care costs in your estimated costs. Important questions to ask are:
How much income can you generate? What are your assets? What can you expect in benefits? What type of supplemental insurance will we need?
According to Dr. Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, working longer is quickly becoming the new norm: 75% of people 50+ expect to work well beyond traditional retirement age; 20% already are. Regardless of how long you choose to work, it is important to make sure that you are aware of and taking advantage of benefits. The National Council on Aging has developed a website https://www.benefitscheckup.org/ to help aging adults take advantage of all benefits they are entitled to.
T is for Treatment & Long-Term Care
It is important to talk about your wishes when it comes to what kind of care you would prefer, if you had the option. While end-of-life conversations are never easy, many families are burdened by making care decisions in the dark. What are your wishes for yourself and your loved ones should a crisis occur? Who would you want to speak for you if you were unable to speak for yourself?
A is for Aging in Place
Many people tend to act as if aging in place were as simple and assured as growing old itself. However, if you and your loved ones plan to age in their Tacoma home instead of moving to an institutional care setting in Puyallup, it is important to financially support that dream. You should be asking, what finances and changes would be needed to support our choice?
R is for Realistic Goal Setting for Your Life
We all think of “the good life” differently. Our visions of a good retirement are as diversified as our ideas of a good life. So, it is crucial that our planning and decisions are driven by the question: What do I want for my life? It is important that we set tangible and realistic goals for the many facets that make up our lives. Looking at your future, you should be asking what would it mean for me and my family to be well financially, physically, mentally, spiritually and socially.
T is for Time Frame
Time is of the essence when it comes to saving. If we wait until we are ready to retire, it would be too late to make a substantial impact in our savings and our choices would be limited. Set a time frame for reaching your goals to keep you on track. Goal number one is to have a plan in place BEFORE you need it.
Once you have made your plans, be sure to discuss your ideas and expectations with family members before the needs arise. Being on the same page with your family at the onset of life’s third act can really save everyone stress, time and money later on. Rather than assuming that family will be able to provide care in the event of a change in needs, be open and honest about expectations. By asking the right questions, you are better able to plan and prepare for the future.
Published on April 4, 2016.