Probably I’m not the only one who has seen the deluge of ads on TV for Medicare supplement insurance. One that really bothers me though is the bit with the actress saying she’s only in her 60s and “I’ve got a nice long life ahead.” She’s so smug and so sure she’s just fine and will stay that way.
The ad taps into the belief most people cherish, which is that impairments happen to other people and that they will just keep being fine, at any age. People say they want to live to be 100. Their imagination is that they will be perfectly capable in all ways and will not need any help at 100. That is belief, not truth.
What makes a “nice long life” anyway? No one ever wants to think about infirmity and cognitive decline. And yet, by the time we reach that nice old age of 85 at least one in three of us, and maybe even one in two will have Alzheimer’s disease. Not so nice. And oh, by the way, that supplement insurance the actress is promoting doesn’t pay for care if you need it at home long term. Neither does Medicare.
Every financial planner who has a client over age 65 needs to be considering that the “nice long life” that is part of our cultural fantasy is indeed dreaming for most people. It’s not about longevity. That we’ve probably got. It’s about good health in old age. That, we have definitely not totally figured out. As 10,000 people a day are now turning 70, it’s time to get past fantasy and consider how to make that long life a lot safer financially.
Are your client’s assets enough to pay for the care they are likely to need? If not, you, the client and her family must engage in the essential discussion about who will care for the client as she ages and how much it will likely cost. One must do the math. The cost of caring for someone with dementia at home is staggering. And the advisor needs to calculate it. This is not considering the usual figures thrown around about “the average couple at age 65 will spend “x” dollars on out of pocket medical expenses for their lifetimes”. None of those commonly used figures consider what it may cost to pay for a person with Alzheimer’s disease who lives for 7-20 years with the disease. Help from someone will be absolutely necessary for anyone with dementia.
Your portfolio review with a client at retirement is a good time to talk it over and bring up the actual, not fantasy prospects for the future. And here’s hoping you will not be influenced by stupid TV commercials about what the future may look like. Longevity can be wonderful, yes, and you can help make it financially safer for your older clients. A nice long life is certainly possible. And a long life with accessible assets to cover long term home care near the last phase of life is ideal.
Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, elder law attorney, AgingInvestor.com