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Plan for the Future - Before It Arrives

In a recent survey of over 1,000 adults done by a financial services firm, 28% of those surveyed admitted they spend more time planning their vacations than for their retirement. Even though we know better, “fun and soon” often wins over “important, but not fun—and in the far-off future.” We know better and it is easy to procrastinate, but there is no better feeling than knowing you have a plan; it frees us to live our lives with much less stress and worry. The first step to having a plan is to get your information together and organize it.

Organize Your Information

Planning for retirement is more than creating a financial plan. A large part of long term planning is just getting your hands around all the parts of your life and capturing information about them for you and your family to use when the need arises. You will need information about personal and family history, medical providers and history, insurance policies, bank accounts and credit cards, personal and income property, investment accounts, retirement plans and pensions, government benefits, veterans benefits, federal and state taxes, service providers, wills and trusts, powers of attorney, health care directives, and final wishes. This is a lot of information! In today’s world we lead complex lives and pulling it together is not a small project, which explains in part why so many put it off, sometimes until it is too late.

Fortunately, there are resources available to guide and provide structure for this planning project. One is the book Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won't Have To, published by NOLO Press (see information below). It is a workbook that helps you capture and organize your personal information and records. It gives the reader a guide to collecting and organizing important records for themselves and family members using 28 downloadable, fillable forms that go to make up a personal planner, which can then be updated as information and circumstances change. Forms supplied cover all the areas listed above and more and are downloadable through a link printed in the book. A PC with a word processing program is required. Another book, Checklist for My Family: A Guide to My History, Financial Plans, and Final Wishes, published by the American Bar Association and AARP, provides coverage similar to Get It Together, but does not require a computer to fill out the forms, which are included throughout the book. Both are available in paperback and inexpensive.

One strategy for success as you get organized is to work with a family member. Many people find that involving another person helps them hold themselves accountable for getting it done.

Make a Plan for Long Term Care

An important part of a long term plan involves an answer to the question, “Where will I live?” Even though most older adults state they prefer to continue living independently in their homes as they age, circumstances can sometimes force a change and in-home care or a move to a senior living community becomes necessary. In many cases, there is ample time to plan the transition, research alternatives, and make a well-reasoned choice. In other cases, a health crisis or sudden change in circumstances can force decisions to be made quickly, with very little or no time to research. In these cases, advance scouting can pay off an support an easier transition and long term peace of mind. 

Do Your Scouting Before There Is Need

For each of the above senior living alternatives, create a draft list of senior living communities and home care organizations using information from friends and family members, senior living guides, and—of course—the Internet. Based on your research, make a list of those you would like to know more about. Some considerations may be reputation, word of mouth, and distance to family members. Then make appointments for site visits. For a home care organization, this may mean a visit to their office. Take a list of questions with you – this is important to get the most out of your visit. A family member or trusted friend should accompany you if possible. Links to printable pre-constructed checklists for each of the four alternatives are below.

After the site visits, sit down with a family member or trusted friend and compare notes based on the information you gathered in your checklist and impressions. Build a short list of your top preference(s) and make sure your family members know what they are.

The Bottom Line

Planning is not a “fun” activity and nothing you do can make it fun. However, having a plan allows you to get on with living your life knowing that you are ready for the future.

Resources for Getting Organized

Hurme, Sally Balch. Checklist for My Family: A Guide to My History, Financial Plans, and Final Wishes. American Bar Association/AARP, 2015.

Cullen, Melanie, with Shae Irving, J.D. Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won't Have To. NOLO, 2014.

Site Visit Checklists

Home Care Agencies: http://tinyurl.com/nvhca

Independent Living Communities: http://tinyurl.com/nvilf

Assisted Living Communities: http://tinyurl.com/nvassist

Nursing Homes: http://tinyurl.com/nvsnflist

AC Skylines Home Care provides in-home care and nursing services for older adults and is happy to meet with older adults and their families to discuss options for aging in place at home. For more information and a no-charge consultation, call AC Skylines Home Care Services at (309) 689-5343 or send email to BCowley@acskylines.org. Visit www.acskylineshomecare.org or Facebook.com/ACskylinesHomeCare.

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