If you're healthy, you're wealthy, my mother-in-law likes to say. You can't dispute that. (And why would you want to disagree with my mother-in-law, anyway?) Still, this month's special report on retirement made me want to update and expand on her phrase: If you're not healthy, then even if you have been wealthy it's likely that you will spend through much, if not all, of that wealth if you need to live in a specialized facility or full-time care.
Extended longevity can be a wonderful phenomenon for those who are healthy. But even this group, as a whole, is worrisomely unprepared to finance life at age 85, let alone 95 or 105, a demographic that's expected to get a lot bigger in the decades to come. Add high health costs to long life and the blessing of unexpected years can feel like a curse.
Getting clients to prepare as best they can has long been a vital part of a planner's job, but the continued expansion in longevity means additional attention must be paid. Even for planning professionals, the details can be "overwhelming." That's the word James Bashaw, who runs a wealth management firm in Houston, used to describe his efforts to help his ailing wife, who needs to move into an assisted living facility.
As he completes one form after another, he told FP's Samantha Allen in this month's cover story, "It's not that you don't know the answer, it's that you don't want to think about it." Allen's story illuminates the growing trend of advisors either becoming or turning to geriatric strategists and specialists to help position their clients for their post-retirement years.
"It's such a great service to offer our clients," says one of those specialitsts, Libby Stafford, who works with Stearns Financial Services Group in Greensboro, N.C. "Even if some are not in that aging bracket yet, they do know that we provide this service and that it will be there for them when they get there."
Allen also talks with advisors about the merits of long-term care insurance and what factors should be considered when weighing the cost of a policy versus self-insuring. The future, of course, is unknowable. Nonetheless, if planners can't promise that their efforts will keep clients healthy, at least they can try to keep them wealthy.