Life moves swiftly for most of us, and it often seems to pick up speed as we get older—days, weeks and years passing by all too quickly. And many people experience a bit of a shock when the “someday” of retirement arrives, seemingly out of nowhere, bringing with it more than a few difficult decisions.
For better or worse, the days of large, physically close extended families and secure retirement options have disappeared for many senior citizens. The burdens of those decisions can be eased, however, by making plans for future care when that future is still in the distance.
Today's senior citizens and Baby Boomers approaching retirement will have to wrestle with some major decisions in the future.
1. Lifestyle Changes
More than a few seniors base their whole retirement around the desire to live somewhere warmer (or closer to family), but uprooting your life can be a tricky thing to do.
Changes in lifestyle can be the most disruptive for those who have not given much thought to planning for life after retirement-- or for their future care. It can be particularly poignant for couples who pull up stakes to retire in a different city or state, moving to an unfamiliar locale far from friends and established support systems.
Even seniors who retire close to adult children or other family must wrestle with this kind of "relocation stress" to some degree.
2. Financial Worries
Most seniors today feel less prepared than their parents for retirement. Medicine has advanced to the point where Americans are living longer, healthier lives, but uncertain economic times and higher costs can be worrisome as we age. The truth is that no matter what care and caution you use in your financial planning, there are situations that can throw even the best plans into disarray.
If you've started planning for your life after retirement, it may be beneficial to consult with professional advisors who can help you make the decisions that will make you future more secure.
3. Living Arrangements
As disturbing as it is to think about losing any measure of independence and self-sufficiency, honest discussion with potential caregivers is a way to banish fears and help put contingency plans in play. Set mutual benchmarks that will prompt another action, a sort of "If A occurs, then we must do B" scenario. That way, any changes, alterations, adjustments and decisions will be easier. The key is to develop honest strategies for dealing with specific events. Even roughing out a timeline can be important.
4. Legal Concerns
If you have ever had the experience of having to make health care decisions for another person, you know how agonizing it can be. You will do yourself and your family a huge favor if you have a discussion about your choices while you are able to rationally explore options, and healthy enough to weigh those options realistically.
- Prepare a will and update it when necessary, certainly if your life situation changes in any way.
- Consider a "Living Will," medical directives and medical power of attorney documents.
- Communicate your desires to your spouse, your children, trusted neighbors, and your attorney or investment adviser.
- Talk about the possibility of a long-term disability or recovery process, and talk about your wishes in case of your death.
By making decisions for yourself in conformance with your beliefs and preferences, you can eliminate possible regrets or delays in case of emergencies.
5. Long-Term Care
Despite all your best planning, it may be that you will, at some stage, need long-term care of some sort. Again, you can dictate under what circumstances, in what facilities, and for how long. Today, you can also plan for the contingency financially through purchase of a long-term care (or nursing home) policy to cover the eventuality.
These are important steps to take when you are young and healthy. Preparing for the future shows that you care, and it may be the best legacy you can leave for those who care for you. If you spend some quality time considering the possible direction of future care that might be necessary, you can exercise greater control over what that care is. That is a beneficial decision.