Regular readers know that I recently turned 70. Fortunately, I have been blessed with good genes so most people, especially the students that I work with in the schools, don’t believe that I am that old. I tell them that if they had to get this body out of bed every morning, they would believe it.
Speaking about getting older, my wife and I have found ourselves having the “I told you that, no you didn’t” conversation far too often these days, and 99 percent of the time it is me that says “no you didn’t.” So now, assuming that it must be me, I have strongly requested that if she doesn’t see me write it in my calendar, please give me a Post-it note.
This has caused me to think about some of the many personal finance issues that seniors, including myself, really need to think about, discuss with their extended family and do as they age. We have discussed some of these things in past columns in connection with issues like identity theft and charitable giving, but I believe that revisiting this topic is always worthwhile.
First, I believe that it is essential to admit and accept the fact that you are aging. Eventually, except with rare exceptions, and we all know some, you are not going to be as sharp, and you will not be able to analyze things as critically. Also, at times, you may find yourself being more driven by emotion and impulse than by reason. In addition, you won’t know exactly when much of this will happen, so the key is to start planning for it now so that you can minimize any negative impacts.
Second, if you are 65 or older and you don’t have an estate plan and a last will, do it now, this month. Make it a top priority. This is your wake-up call. Of course, everyone should have them if you have any assets, no matter what your age, but for sure, when you are older. It just makes common sense, but we all know that doesn’t always result in action. If you have an older relative, ask them about whether they have a will.
Third, if you live with a spouse or significant other, have a long conversation about how you are going to help each other as you continue to age, and be a check on each other when it comes to household and/or individual financial issues. It is important that the conversation include a discussion about when will you know that you need some outside help from a professional, family member or truly trusted and knowledgeable friend.
Here are some action items that you may want to consider in your discussion.
First, whether you just have joint household bills or a combination of joint and individual bills, confirm with each other on the 15th or 20th of each month that all of the bills have been paid.
Second, start with a list of your charitable giving over the last three years and then each year make a budget, overall and per charity, for your planned charitable giving for the upcoming year. Before you increase a gift or add a new charity to your list, have a conversation about why. This will help to ensure that no one is being “taken in” by a charity scammer and that the decision is a rational, not strictly an emotional one based upon that heart-wrenching commercial or other solicitation.
Finally, consider going over all credit card and store charge statements with each other. The elderly sometimes do more impulse buying for a long list of reasons. Discuss whether the charges were needs or wants, wishes, luxuries or conveniences, especially if all the accounts are not being paid off in full and on time every month. I am not suggesting that these would always be easy discussions to have, but remember this is to help and to be a needed check on each other.
We will continue this discussion in the next column.