March 23, 2021 — Whew, you finally figured out your retirement. You know where you are going to retire, what you are going to do everyday, and how you are going to pay for it all. Congratulations!
But before you get too complacent, there is an important part of your retirement plan that you might not have considered – how that plan might change if you survive into your 80s and 90s (and we hope you do!). In this article we will first talk about the key issues that need to considered in what is called forward planning, and then provide comments from Topretirements members about their planning for long term retirement.
At 65 or 70 most of us feel pretty good and are able to do most of the things we have always done. Our health might not be perfect, but we are getting along OK. Unfortunately, this won’t always be the case, even though most people don’t ever consider that. Our health can change in an instant – cancer, heart problem, Covid long term symptoms, stroke, or an accident. Even if we escape those scourges, old age is inevitable. If we are lucky, it will happen, and diminished faculties will come along with it. Sound long range retirement planning acknowledges this and takes steps to best manage it. Most importantly, taking forward planning into account early in the process can lead to a much more sensible retirement plan, one with fewer mistakes and do-overs.
The major long term retirement issues
These are some of the big long term retirement issues to consider. There are undoubtedly more, and we look forward to your comments and suggestions.
Health. Most of the problems that come with old age are health related. So beyond taking good care of ourselves, we need to recognize we will probably need a lot of medical care as we age. Choosing a retirement location with easy access to high quality medical care is therefore important. Living on a lake might be appealing, but if it is 100 miles from a big hospital and we have a big emergency or require treatment for a chronic condition, it is not such a good choice.
Type of home. Living in a big suburban home in later life can come with a lot of problems. We might have to rely on others for routine jobs, not to mention the expenses. Single level homes are a must, because a second floor master is a big problem for someone with bad knees or a walker. Communal living in an apartment or attached home can provide more socialization and less need for driving. A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) might be expensive, but for those who can afford one, they usually offer great amenities, guaranteed continuing care, and a rich social life. There are many options, and they need to be considered earlier rather than later.
Ergonomic issues. Multiple levels in a home can be difficult for a person in a wheelchair and lead to trips and falls. Simple ergonomic features like tall toilets, door handles instead of knobs, and accessible counter heights can all be corrected, but they do need to be there.
Driving. No one wants to think about it, but if we live long enough, someone is going to take our keys away. When that happens there is usually a tremendous feeling of loss of freedom. That can be overcome to a certain extent by good planning. Independent living or assisted living facilities have vans or drivers to take you where you need to go. Or, you might live in an area where you can walk to a lot of things. Living far away from everything can become untenable.
Social life. Many people choose to live near or with their relatives, which is a great way to maintain socialization. An in-law apartment or Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) like a tiny house can be a great way to accomplish this. Living in a 55+ community of some type can provide the programs and people to keep us connected and happy.
Economic. Implicit in any retirement planning is having the confidence that we will have the financial resources to live comfortably in late retirement. Will we have enough money to afford the type of housing (independent living, assisted living, CCRC, etc.) that we might need? Spending too much money early on so we have to go on Medicaid to pay for a nursing home is not what most people are looking for. A better plan is to scope out different types of communities in advance and plan to be able to afford them.
How many times do we want to move? This might be the most important question to plan for early on. Failure to consider it can lead to a lot of unhappiness. If the area where you retire at age 65 does not have the medical facilities for a person in their 80s who has ongoing health issues, that is a problem. That can mean having to move in old age, leaving behind friends, church, and familiarity. Not that it can’t be corrected. Your Editor’s mother moved from Florida to Maine at age 98. It was a bit of a shock, but she came to like living in a nice assisted living facility just down the street from her youngest daughter. On the other hand, picking an area to retire with the resources to provide continuity of care later in life is a huge plus and a big comfort.
Forward planning, which acknowledges the inevitable, is the most solid approach to retirement. Best to think about it now and incorporate it into the overall retirement plan.
A few years ago we wrote an article, “Where Will You Be When You Are 80?”, which generated 44 comments. Here are a selection of some of those – and we welcome yours below!
Jean: Where – Eastern Pennsylvania which is near our home state on NJ but much more tax friendly for seniors the NJ and culture and medical better than we experienced while living in SC. While able snowbird in the winter to rental unit.
What kind of home – Single family house in a 55+ community.
Near relatives – We don’t have children but have lots of siblings and nieces and nephews, and old friends.
Maimi: I hope I am still alive at 80! Hopefully, I will be living independently in an apartment or condo near my family and the Atlantic ocean in New England. The tough part is trusting that I have enough money by then.
Kate: By 80, I will move into an apartment or assisted living near family for the simplest life (without a car) as possible.
Barb: We have concerns about enough money, and must continue to work at some level. A reverse mortgage is another resource we may rely on. We will leave Southern California in the near future, despite having family here. We will take the money from the sale of the property, and get an easy-care, easy-living small house or condo. Clearwater, FL and/or Prescott, AZ will be where we land. Walkabilty, user-firendly living, and excellent medical care are priorities. If either one of us ends-up alone, moving close-by to one of the kids is likely. If alone.
Dan: At 80, I would like to be living in a condo within a 55+ community to keep engaged with social activities.
JoannC: I keep saying that my next move will be the last, but that’s probably not true. I debate moving back to the area where I grew up (Northern California) and that I know best (if I can figure out a way to afford it) or moving to someplace completely new and more affordable than the Bay Area. If I have to move into a CCRC or something more appropriate at age 80+ or 90+, I at least want to be living in the area where I want that last residence to be.
Everette: By age 80, my wife and I plan to move to a condo with lots of amenities and close to groceries and medical or a continuing care facility that are close to our family in Virginia. We are still in our home and would need to downsize and simplify our lives.
Carole: I plan on being near to one of my daughters so they will be able to easily care for me. They both know this. By then, I also want to have shredded my big house filled with stuff – a much more difficult project than I anticipated.
Darla: I am in my 70’s and know that making these kinds of decision will be sooner than I’d like. Right now we enjoy two homes and are snowbirds like many but just the thought of downsizing makes me procrastinate. What I am thinking is when we are too old or too dangerous to drive we will give the deed to our winter home to our children with the stipulation that they get us there with them every winter for the duration. Wish we had a crystal ball.
Steve: We’ll probably downsize somewhere close to our kids in Texas. I think the bigger question is, since the baby boomer generation is getting older, there will have to be a change in the housing and care model, for us, since there will be so many of us. What will that model be?
Don: Help both our children buy their family home with preferably a separate cottage (Or large private in law suite wt separate entrance) so we have a place to stay when visiting.
We could go on with so many more great comments. These are just a few of the interesting Comments made to the earlier article. You can read them all here. Please add yours below (and if you were one of the Commentators from four years ago, please update your situation – we would to hear from you)!