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Thinking Ahead

Dennis Friedman

WHEN I RETIRED, I thought about creating a website and writing about my retirement. I looked into what it would take to build a site and have someone edit my work. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the only ones who would probably visit my site would be my sister, brother-in-law and maybe a few curious friends. It wouldn’t be worth the time, effort and money—especially when HumbleDollar offers all the benefits an unknown and inexperienced writer needs.

Meanwhile, I saw a video of Bruce Springsteen, the 73-year-old musician, falling on stage during a concert. I’m not surprised. Although he looks to be in great shape for his age, as you get older, you’re not as agile. The reason I bring this up: Falling is one of my greatest concerns.

I’m also in my 70s and my doctor warned me about staying upright. As you get older, your bones aren’t as strong and falls can be more dangerous. An elderly woman in my neighborhood fell. I never saw her again. Her house was eventually sold. The fall might not have killed her, but it surely turned her life upside down.

My doctor cautioned me that, since I’m so active, I’m at a higher risk of falling. She told me to include sufficient amounts of vitamin D and calcium in my diet, and to perform weight bearing exercises to help keep my bones strong. I’m like other folks, who think they aren’t going to fall and hurt themselves—until they do.

My cousin Pat fell recently and hurt herself. She’s recovering and currently not as mobile. She and her husband have been looking at continuing care retirement communities, or CCRCs, that provide multiple levels of care as your needs change. Although their daughter is close by, they feel there will come a time when they might need more help.

She mentioned that they looked at one CCRC, where it costs $250,000 to purchase a condo and the fees were about $8,000 a month. The CCRC will pay their moving expenses and the monthly fee covers most of their expenses, including 30 meals per month, weekly housekeeping, home repairs, homeowner’s insurance and transportation. In fact, she says they do so much for you that her husband is afraid that he won’t have anything to do if they move there.

What really caught my attention is that, if you need long-term care—including memory care—later in life, they would guarantee a place for you at another on-site location. More important, they wouldn’t kick you out if you ran out of money.

Running out of money is another concern I have as I get older. My wife and I have a comfortable retirement. Our fixed monthly expenses are low and our Social Security benefits can easily cover them, without us having to tap our investment portfolio. But I also realize how financially devastating a major health crisis can be. When my mother had a heart attack and needed 24-hour care, I thought I might need help taking care of her. Here in California, where we live and where my mother lived, the cost of a caregiver was $27 per hour in 2019. I can’t imagine what it is today.

Caregiving costs can add up quickly, especially if you don’t have family and friends to take care of you. My wife and I don’t have long-term-care insurance. I don’t have much faith in the insurance companies when it comes not only to premium increases, but also to getting approved for benefits when you can’t perform two of the activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing and eating, or when you have serious cognitive impairment. Fern, my mother’s friend, had long-term-care insurance. After three years, she exhausted the coverage and had to move out of her house. It may not be the silver bullet for everyone.

Our plan is to self-fund our long-term-care needs with our Roth IRA accounts, while living off the rest of our assets. But when I think about those lifecare communities that my cousin talked about, they might be a good deal at a reasonable price for some folks. But I can’t see us moving to one or, at least, not yet. We love where we live. We’re going to take our chances and stay put for now, because our friends are here.

Friends are very important to me. I found that out when my wife left for six weeks to take care of her mother. It was lonely without her. But it would have been much worse without friends to keep me company. I got a glimpse of how the elderly are at an increased risk of loneliness.

When my mother passed away, I notified her few remaining friends. One of them was Helen. My mother and her were friends for almost 50 years. Helen lived by herself and was homebound because of her mobility issues. But her son lived nearby if she needed help. She also had a few other family members who would visit occasionally. When I told her that my mother passed away, she cried. I felt sorry for her, because I knew what my mother’s death meant to her. It meant the loss of her last remaining friend, and one less person to talk to.

Dennis Friedman retired from Boeing Satellite Systems after a 30-year career in manufacturing. Born in Ohio, Dennis is a California transplant with a bachelor’s degree in history and an MBA. A self-described “humble investor,” he likes reading historical novels and about personal finance. Check out his earlier articles and follow him on Twitter @DMFrie.

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