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By Grace S. Yung, CFP
Although many of us regularly set money aside for “retirement,” the reality is that retirement isn’t necessarily just a single period of our lives. In fact, due in large part to the fact that today’s retirees are living so much longer, “retirement” can actually consist of a number of different phases. Because of that, it is important to plan ahead for what each of these phases may bring.
Many of us will likely go through four phases of retirement, where we will:
• Manage Ambiguity – For generations, people simply considered retirement to be those years “after they no longer worked.” But retirement is so much more than that. It can also be a time where you shift responsibilities and even pursue new and exciting interests. Because life spans are longer now, there are many more possibilities during this first retirement stage.
• Make Decisions – The next phase of retirement may find you having to make decisions about healthcare, as well as developing financial strategies to ensure that your money will last as long as you do.
• Navigate Complexity – As health and wellness become more of a concern, the third phase of retirement could very well be comprised of navigating the options that will help you endure, both physically and financially. This might include finding appropriate living arrangements, depending on your needs (and perhaps the needs of your partner).
• Live Alone – In the fourth phase of retirement, maintaining your health will typically take most of your time, effort, and resources. Because of this, pre-planning will be essential, since with-out a strategy already in place, assets can be quickly depleted. Many seniors who were in committed relationships will also be adjusting to life as a widow or widower.
Preparing Now Can Potentially Make Things Easier Later
For those who have been married or partnered, one of the biggest changes that occurs in the fourth retirement phase is going from a two-person to a one-person household. This transition can bring about numerous changes—emotional, physical, and financial.
Even if you enjoyed an active-singles lifestyle in the past, living alone after the death of a partner is not nearly as simple. It can become burdensome, as well as extremely lonely. Many in the LGBT community do not have children to rely on for companionship or long-term care, and home healthcare or assisted-living facilities can be costly.
Based on Genworth’s 2015 Cost of Care Survey, last year’s national median monthly rate for an assisted-living facility was $3,600, and the national median hourly rate charged for home health aide services was $202. These costs can really add up, quickly depleting any savings that you may have.
So how can you go about preparing financially for your potential needs in a fourth retirement? There are several strategies that can help.
Long-Term Care Insurance
Certainly, one way to help cover the high cost of long-term care expenses is to purchase long-term care insurance. Today’s policies will typically provide you with coverage for care that you receive in a skilled-nursing facility, an assisted-living facility, or from a healthcare provider in your own home.
There are many different types of policies available in the market today, so it’s important to know exactly what it is that you are getting and how the coverage will work. For example, one way to make things easier on yourself down the road is to have a long-term care policy that pays benefits on an “indemnity” basis rather than on a “reimbursement” basis. This is because a policy that “reimburses” you will require that you provide receipts from each one of your care providers. An indemnity policy, however, will simply pay out a certain amount of benefit dollars to you, regardless of the cost of care that you receive.
Power of Attorney
In preparing for the fourth retirement phase, you will also want to ensure that you have various legal documents in place. For example, drafting a power of attorney will give another individual the authority to act on your behalf and handle whatever legal and financial matters you specify, if you are unable to do so.
You should also consider drafting a living will. Here, you can state your desire to pass away without the application of specific life-prolonging artificial measures. You can also state your preferences for specific treatments and/or pain-relief options.
Having plans in place before an illness or injury takes place can be crucial. That way, your loved ones will know which steps are needed to move forward in terms of care, as well as with regard to your financial resources.
Be Sure to Stay Connected
If you live alone—or even if living alone in the future is a possibility—then it is essential that you maintain an active social network. Having other people to rely on can be key, not just for emergency situations, but also for maintaining your mental health.
Some organizations in the Houston area that provide assistance to the LGBT community include:
• SPRY (Seniors Preparing for Rainbow Years) – The SPRY program provides LGBT seniors with a variety of social services, including counseling, therapy, and peer support. It can also help you navigate through various healthcare and assistance programs like Social Security and Medicare. For additional details, go to programsforelderly.com/health-spry-therapy-gay-seniors.php.
• AssistHers – AssistHers is an organization that supports lesbian women who are struggling with life-threatening or debilitating illnesses, in order to help them live as normally as possible. For more details, visit the AssistHers website at assisthers.org.
• The Montrose Center – This LGBT community center offers numerous programs for Houston’s LGBT seniors, including health and wellness programs, education, and therapy. Considered to be the “cultural hub” of Houston’s LGBT community, it is home to dozens of social and civic programs. For more information, visit montrosecenter.org.
The Bottom Line
Planning for retirement is important, and knowing that there are various phases of this time in your life can be the key to having a successful retirement. Working with a professional who is not only knowledgeable in the area of the four retirement phases, but who also focuses on the LGBT community, can be extremely helpful in getting you closer to your ultimate goals.
Personal finance-related questions may be emailed to [email protected].
Grace S. Yung, CFP, is a certified financial planner practitioner with experience in helping domestic partners plan their finances since 1994. She is a principal at Midtown Financial LLC in Houston and was recognized as a “Five-Star Wealth Manager” in the 2014 September issue of Texas Monthly.