Taking Charge of Your Retirement

When do you begin to plan for your own retirement?  My four brothers and I gathered at the home of my parents in upstate New York the weekend before Thanksgiving in 2011 to address my parents’ concerns about “weeding out the family treasurers”.  At then 81 and 85, they realized that early decision to age in place in the family home of 50 plus years is turning out to be more challenging than they had realized. When each experienced a health crisis at the same time earlier in that year, the need for assistance and a change beamed an alert. The dinner conversation turned to alternatives to staying at home and what is available. The next day there was a field trip to one option in their locale. They have since visited others and one of my brothers who works with investments has helped them review their income and assets and their projected income for these later years.  A change at their ages and during the winter, is unlikely, but spring was more of a push to move while they had options.

When we are well and healthy, we assume life will go on as it has and we can maintain the “status quo.”  Certainly, when one retires, the adjustments to real income are a wake-up opportunity. But, if your retirement income allows you to maintain your residence and life-style, denial of potential needs later on stays strong.

It is never too early to start planning your retirement. Any planning and saving will serve you well.  There are a lot more uncertainties today when one looks ahead at retirement. Our parents’ generation had the opportunities for company pensions with fixed benefits, a healthy Social Security system, and a healthy US stock market. Today, pensions with fixed benefits are rare. The health of Social Security is in question, and any investments (personal or retirement-401K or IRA) rise or fall in response to the world-economy’s weakest link. In addition, we may have the opportunity to live longer than our parents with advances in medications and treatment.

While I applaud the village concept, modeled after Beacon Hill in Boston, for many this will be an interim measure for quality retirement living. If we have the good fortune to have a long life, we will most likely have multiple retirement living scenarios.  The early years will be active and probably providing services to others. The middle years will have some cut backs in spending and activities. Then, we need to plan for a period where we will need some assistance and maybe more.

There is no exact formula for how to retire or how to manage your affairs in your later years. You really are the person who is most responsible for  your retirement and later years experience. You should be in charge of how it goes down – What determines quality living for you? What can you do now and what can you afford? What assistance might you need to maintain your life-passions or your day-to-day needs?

Seabury’s care managers are a great resource if you are facing challenges in your later retirement years or if you are trying to figure out next steps in your middle retirement years. They are also a great resource for children of parents who have not planned for all of their needs or who need assistance executing their plans.

For the younger generation, take charge now. It is your retirement to design to suit you.

Christine Bitzer is Assistant Director of Seabury Care Management and can be reached at cbitzer@seaburyresources.org  You can contact Seabury Care Management at (202) 364-3044.

Featured Image: Flickr @Ralph Zuranski

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