Beyond Retirement: An End of Life Planning Lesson

Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP® Sandy Adams

As we work with clients at The Center, we talk about how to “live your plan.” To us, that means focusing and achieving your financial goals so that you can you can live those goals that you have been envisioning within your planning.  To be honest, this phrase often arises in the context of conversations about living out dream retirement wishes, like traveling the world, writing that book you always dreamed of writing, or owning a second home on the beach – not in the context of end of life planning.

I recently witnessed a client “live” her end of life plan.  While you might not think this to be a very significant or exciting accomplishment, it brings me to tears and smiles (all at the same time) every time I think of it.

Communicating Your Wishes

“Ann” was in her early 90’s and quite a strong character. Although she suffered from a chronic disease, she was relatively active early on in our planning.  She needed to update her estate planning because she had outlived all of her blood relatives and needed to put plans in place for when she knew she might not be able to handle her own affairs.  What she did know was that she would NEVER want to go to a nursing home – she wanted to be cared for her in her own home and we needed to find to a way to make that happen.  Ann put her wishes in writing and communicated those wishes to everyone involved along the way.

Outlining Your Plan

Over the next several years, Ann’s health worsened and she needed to hire a geriatric care manager and caregivers. Toward the end, there were caregivers at her home nearly 24 hours a day with some Hospice care provided. With careful planning, Ann was able to support this with her financial resources. I do not tell you that this was easy. There were many times over the years when Ann became anxious, claimed she was living too long, and wasn’t sure what to do. But she was never willing to compromise on moving from her home.  Ann had specifically outlined how she wanted to live (and how she didn’t want to live – in a nursing home).  On one of her last days, Ann said, “I am happy.” To me, this confirmed that she had carried out her plan for her end of life to her satisfaction.  These are the types of situations that I help my clients with often.

End of Life Reading

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande is a book that I read recently on end of life issues.  It brings to light that most of us do a very poor job of planning for or thinking about our end of life, and we certainly don’t communicate our wishes to our families. We do a lot to plan for our ideal lives, our ideal retirements, so why not end our lives right?  By taking the next steps and planning for the end of our lives, as well, we can make this happen (even though it is not always the most pleasant topic to discuss).  My favorite takeaway from the book is this:

            “All we ask is to be allowed to remain the writers of our own story.  That story is ever changing. Over the course of our lives, we may encounter unimaginable difficulties. Our concerns and desires may shift.  But whatever happens, we want to retain the freedom to shape our lives in ways consistent with our character and loyalties.”  -Atul Gawande

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In 2012-2014 Sandy has been named to the Five Star Wealth Managers list in Detroit Hour magazine. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.

Five Star Award is based on advisor being credentialed as an investment advisory representative (IAR), a FINRA registered representative, a CPA or a licensed attorney, including education and professional designations, actively employed in the industry for five years, favorable regulatory and complaint history review, fulfillment of firm review based on internal firm standards, accepting new clients, one- and five-year client retention rates, non-institutional discretionary and/or non-discretionary client assets administered, number of client households served.

This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Sandra D. Adams, CFP®, and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions of Atul Gawande. You should discuss any legal matters with the appropriate professional. The experience described here may not be representative of any future experience of our clients. Past performance is not indicative of future results.