The hardest questions are often the most important questions for financial planners to discuss with their retired clients.
With 65 year-olds now living another 19.2 years on average, and the median cost for a private nursing home pegged at $80,000 per year and rapidly climbing, it’s not surprising that the cost of long-term care is one of two top concerns among retirees with over $250,000 in assets, according to a recent UBS survey.
“It’s the number one thing that people do not want to talk about and also the number one thing that can blow up their retirement if it’s not addressed on the front end,” Kimberly Maez, an Ameriprise private wealth advisor based in Colorado Springs, Colo., declared in an interview.
Illness often accompanies advanced age, and three out of four Americans older than 65 suffer from health issues like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia. But planning for these outcomes often involves uncomfortable conversations, planners say. Asking clients to envision future health problems and determine what they want to happen if they become incapacitated, forces them to face their own mortality.
Cliff Ryan, founder of elder Planning Advisors of Maine, focuses his planning practice on working with retirees and pre-retirees. He says discussing these topics gets easier as clients age. “The older someone is, the more easily they will talk about their own potential demise,” he says. “When they’re getting a bit older, they’ve seen their friends, relatives or parents go through it – and they realize it’s a reality.”
But whether the issue is loss of cognitive faculties, long-term care financing or estate and succession planning, an educational approach can help initiate a dialogue with clients, says Alan Loss of Personal Wealth Advisory in Lancaster, Pa. To that end, Loss’ firm hosts seminars on topics like “Long-Term Living” and “Preparing for Family Transitions.”
These may be uncomfortable topics, Loss says, but the need is inevitable. He encourages clients to attend and bring their children. Says the advisor: “We’re trying to facilitate the process so that the clients’ wishes are followed.”
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