plan ahead

One doesn’t have to look far to find seniors in deplorable conditions. The later years arrive sooner than expected – especially if friends or relatives let you down, which is more common than we’d like to think.


Plan      A will, a trust, a power of attorney for finance, health directive [pull the plug], Medicare supplemental insurance, long term care insurance, possibly a final move, and final arrangements. Plan your senior years to make it easier on your relatives and for yourself. 


Reasons for moving        Be near children – 70% of those over 65 live within an hour of a child, cost of living, climate, assets tied up in house, house and yard are too much work, neighborhood’s changed  ….


Final move         70% of seniors spend the rest of their lives in the place they turned 65. A move means changing addresses, banks, subscriptions, phone books, insurance ……  learning the streets and stores, looking for a doctor, dentist, mechanic, plumber.  The sooner you move, the bigger the place you can afford, the lower your house payments in the long run, and the earlier you can begin remodeling. It’s one of your last and best chances to beat the game and should come before everything else.  

[ When working on your new house, do the ‘high up’ jobs first – attic, roof, jobs on ladders …. then the ‘under the sink’ jobs.]


Retirement communities          [senior trailer parks, apt complexes, condos ….]  Many of these offer safety, quiet, recreation, transportation to shops and medical facilities, and some political and economic clout. They offer being around one’s peers, which means more people home during the day to mix with, safe walks at night, and being around those who’ve planned ahead enough [and were lucky] to be in such a place and be less of a burden on relatives.

Living like this, away from the competitive ‘outside world’, is like seeing your grandchildren – you enjoy it, but are glad to drive thru the gate to your home where it is quiet, more orderly and well-maintained. Seniors deserve it; they’ve paid their dues.

Residence      You want for your use [or for resale value if in a retirement community] to be on the ground floor with no steps at at least one entrance, to have no stairs, to have wide doors, low thresholds, door levers instead of knobs, lower light switches and thermostat, higher outlets, handles in shower, lowered bathtub, and wireless smoke alarms in attic, basement, garage and house – when one goes off, they all go off. You might want an automatic interior sprinkler system. You want short pile carpet with a pad that is not spongy, safer and easier appliances and tools, sensor lights for security, ceiling fans with remotes to help air out the house daily and reduce energy costs, no throw rugs, a quiet whole house fan for some climates, and an extra room for an eventual caregiver. If your hobby is home repair, you want a fixer-upper; if handy, a garage; if gardening, a yard; if the internet, access to it. You’ll also want these should you become disabled. Other – /

Car      A minivan is easier to get in and out of – especially during emergencies. Automatic seat belts and the latest safety features [automatic braking system, stability control, side curtain airbags], global positioning system, backup warning system with cam, cell or emergency phone – /, AAA membership, and a wide garage for easier access to your car and more storage.

Money      The average American spends 18 years in retirement. Only 2% are independently wealthy. Experts estimate a middle income person needs around 70% of his pre-retirement to maintain his standard of living. Low income-earners need 90% or more. Social Security pays 40%. Reverse mortgages help but proceed with caution.

Health      Find the best doctors. Get 2nd opinions when in doubt. Do preventative work. For procedures not covered by insurance, consider having them done abroad for one-eighth the cost at places like For exercise start with what you enjoy – walking, gardening, dancing, working on the house …

Relatives      You won’t believe the horror stories. Some are negligent, deceptive, abusive or greedy. Some are fair but incompetent. You need to periodically work with them on various matters from here on to discreetly feel out which can and will care for you properly.  Lear about caregivers and other arrangements.  I rent rooms to caregivers, who work elsewhere, to learn about them and built contacts.  I know from renting rooms for 28 years, the longer you rent to the kind of tenants you need, the better.  You get to know what kind of arrangements and temperaments are best for you and for them.

Long term care insurance      Complicated; thus the overview below [from Consumer Reports 11/03] seemed to be a lifesaver, but later Bottom Line had higher figures. One financial advisor said in 06 that 2 million was necessary to pay for one’s own care.

Skip a plan if:

Your net worth is less than $200,000. Medicaid will pick up the bills after you exhaust your funds. Depending on the state, your spouse may be allowed to keep some assets and his or her own income up to a specified limit, and also to remain in the family home.


Your assets exceed $1.5 million. You will be able to afford to pay for your own care.


You can’t afford the premiums for the necessary coverage, or you don’t anticipate having enough money to cover sharp premium hikes that may take place during the years you own the policy.

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Consider a plan if:

By around age 55, you have a chronic medical condition that you and your doctor believe could eventually require nursing-home care or if you have a family history of a debilitating disease.


Your assets are between $200,000 and $1.5 million, and you must protect them for a spouse or relatives.


You have no willing or available family member to take care of you. Even with the support of community and professional home-care services, you’ll need a family caregiver. Women live longer than men so they are more likely to need nursing-home care. This is something for which you have to plan your senior years.

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Al Garner [has lived in since ‘03]

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