On a typical Easter weekend, we travel to the Tri-Cities to visit relatives. One particularly sweet soul that we enjoy seeing is Aunt Naomi. She is almost 90 years old and living independently.
“All I do is pay bills and check stuff,” she said last weekend: Is the door locked? Did I leave the water running? Where did I put the car keys? What time is choir practice? Should I take out a reverse-mortgage? Do I need to enroll in AARP’s exterior water line insurance program?
Although she is always smiling, it doesn’t always hide her worries about health, home and money. “I’m living to die,” she told me with a laugh. “Then you pay for that!” But seriously, she said, her insurance is not paying for her steroid injection to alleviate leg pain. The county just raised her property assessment and her car needs a repair.
For many seniors today, their only source of income is Social Security and their primary asset is their home. It leaves them in a tight financial squeeze. Could life have turned out differently?
If I asked her, I wonder what Naomi would tell her 35-year-old self about financial planning in 2017? I imagine she would stress the importance of saving and investing as early as possible. She might encourage young Naomi to get in the habit of living well within her means and being cautious with debt. Based on an impressive work ethic, I’m certain she would advocate for advancing her knowledge, skills, and training in the workplace.
What would she tell her 55-year-old self? In those peak earning years, she would most likely emphasize the need for adequate insurance to protect health, income, property and liability. Knowing her, now a big fan of Dr. Oz, she would be a champion for a healthier lifestyle that would promote improved wellness in later life. As she asks me a lot about estate planning, I’m sure she would recommend a thoughtful estate plan that addresses as many life or death contingencies as possible.
What would she tell her 75-year-old self? I think she would tell her to get her final affairs in order, such as, funeral arrangements and organizing important documents. And I wish she would tell her to be open to change, especially to the possibility of downsizing to an apartment or condominium with less maintenance responsibilities or even to a continuing care community. I think she would tell her younger, but aging, self to regularly review her healthcare and estate plans. She might tell her to think ahead and consider, “What if?”
We took Naomi to the Easter service at her church. As the pastor was describing the inevitability of earthly mortality, he quoted the late Bette Davis, “Old age is not for sissies!” We all got a laugh, but she seemed to chuckle a little louder. All the best planning in the world is no substitute for a positive attitude based on personal grit mixed with faith, family, hope and love.