Envision a Complete Retirement Picture

Physician's Money Digest, April15 2005, Volume 12, Issue 7

When financial planners talkabout the importance of envisioningretirement, most peoplethink about the fun things they wantto do: travel, golf, move to a vacationspot, garden, read, do volunteer work, oreven take on part-time paid work they'vealways wanted to do. They forget to thinkabout growing less independent. Whathappens when travel becomes more diffi-cult, our hearing or knees weaken, we forgetto take medications and pay bills, andwe can no longer garden or play golf?Most of us won't want to admit that wecan no longer do some of the things we'vealways done for ourselves.

Waiting until the last moment oftencauses emotional stress for everyone andhas significant financial consequences.Envisioning this stage of your life is asimportant as planning for the fun stuff.

Lifestyle Audit

To help prepare for inevitable lifechanges, fully assess your lifestyle and circumstances.First, list the activities thatenrich your current or planned retirementlife and what physical and mental skillsyou require to carry out those activities. Doyou travel or go to cultural events? If so,do you drive? Do you exercise or playsports? Do you spend a lot of time on thephone or in front of your computer sendinge-mails to friends and family? Do youprepare most of your meals or eat out?

As we physically and sometimes mentallydecline, we will likely lose some of theskills required to do these activities. Thesedeclining skills won't necessarily force usinto assisted nursing homes, but they willrestrict us. If our eyesight or health falters,driving ourselves to the symphony or 500miles to see family may become impossible.

Eventually we may not be able to carryout one or more of the classic six activitiesof daily living used to gauge our self-sufficiency: dressing, bathing, eating, movingfrom one place to another, toileting, andstaying continent. Or we may suffer fromcognitive impairment such as Alzheimer's.

Contingency Plans

By contemplating these possibilities,you can make contingency plans. Say youcurrently live in a two-story home withyour bedroom upstairs and the laundryroom in the basement. What happens ifclimbing the stairs becomes difficult orimpossible? Will you put in an automatedchair lift or move to a single-story home? Ifyou live miles from the nearest town,would you consider moving to a city,where you're closer to medical assistanceor family? Is an option a retirement communityor even an apartment in a continuingcare community where you canprogress into assisted living or a nursinghome should the need arise? What is thefinancial impact of these options?

Advanced preparation and thoughthelp us to better recognize detrimentalphysical and mental changes as they occur.How severe should a problem becomebefore triggering a planned change in circumstances?Should you move from thattwo-story home before a problem actuallysurfaces, move at the first inkling, or waituntil you no longer have a choice? Discussthese options for change with your spouseor children well before problems arise sothat they can be better prepared to help.

This article has been produced by the Financial

Planning Association (www.fpanet.org), which is

the membership organization for the financial

planning community.