5 Steps to Address Concern About an Aging Parent

As your parents begin to settle into their final phase of life, their health, residence, and finances could become a factor in your retirement planning. This is especially true if you are the person your parents have tasked with settling their estates.

There’s no simple way to tackle all the logistical and emotional challenges associated with caring for an aging parent. But these five steps will help you get the help you’ll need to make sure your parent is safe, cared for, and financially secure.

1. Call a family meeting.

No two families are the same, but in most cases, you’re going to want to gather together all siblings and close family members for an open and honest discussion. If your parent is dealing with a serious and potentially debilitating health issue, don’t sugar-coat the truth. Hiding the facts now will only lead to hurt feelings, resentment, and poor planning.

Depending on the parent’s condition, you might consider dividing up a caregiving or visitation schedule. Even pitching in on small day-to-day tasks like helping mom or dad buy groceries can be a big help.

If you’re contemplating a more serious decision, like assisted living, make sure you give everyone space to voice an opinion. Try to keep the conversation as positive and solution-focused as possible. Employing a mediator or family counselor to facilitate might be a good option if you’re concerned old family issues could boil over and prevent a solid resolution.

2. Don’t try to parent.

Shifting from the role of an adult child to a caregiver is going to be a difficult transition for both you and your parent. Don’t try to do too much too soon. Seniors who feel like they’re being “babied” are prone to depression or dangerous outbursts of independence, like grabbing the car keys or refusing to take medication.

A better approach is to try to frame your caregiving as a way of being more involved in your parent’s current routine. Take a seat at dad’s weekly card game. Put the grandkids’ sports and performance events on the calendar and offer transportation. Bring an extra dish to a dinner party. Drive mom to the movies…and let a sibling know the house will be unoccupied for a few hours if there are any cleaning or hoarding issues that need attention.

3. Gather the essentials.

If your parent doesn’t keep all important documents in one location, now is the time to collect, copy, and file things like:

  • Identification (driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.)
  • Bank records
  • Home deeds and vehicle titles
  • Insurance records
  • Investment and retirement account records
  • Wills and trusts
  • Power of attorney
  • End-of-life directives
  • Login information for important online accounts (banking, subscriptions, social media)

There may be other documents that are unique to your parent’s living or financial situation.

4. Tag along.

Start attending doctor’s appointments. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that will help you familiarize yourself with your parent’s medical condition and aid with any at-home care like prescription drugs.

Also, ask your parent to introduce you to his or her financial advisor and attorney. Make sure the relevant professionals have all the important information about changes to your parent’s health, mental capacity, or living situation.

5. Plan for the next steps.

At some point, your aging parent may no longer be self-sufficient. The earlier that you and your close family members decide upon an action plan, the better. Do you or anyone in your family have the room, the time, and the means to take in your parent? How can non-caregiving siblings or other family members chip in on associated costs of living?

In many cases, an assisted living facility is a more realistic option. But be aware that your parent’s Medicare plan probably will not cover those costs. If your parent does not have retirement funds earmarked for end-of-life care, you and your close family members may need to hold another meeting to discuss how to pay for a facility.

None of these steps are easy, and none of the associated options your family settles on will be perfect. But the sooner the family is “looped in” on caring for an aging parent, the sooner discussion and work can be concentrated on giving him or her the love and support they need during this difficult time.

** Past performance may not be representative of future results. All investments are subject to loss. Forecasts regarding the market or economy are subject to a wide range of possible outcomes. The views presented in this market update may prove to be inaccurate for a variety of factors. These views are as of the date listed above and are subject to change based on changes in fundamental economic or market-related data. Please contact your Financial Advisor in order to complete an updated risk assessment to ensure that your investment allocation is appropriate.

Anthem Answers: October’s Top “What If” Questions

October is Financial Planning awareness month. To recognize this, we decided to compile and answer some of this season’s most frequently asked “What if…”. In these answers, we have blended answers with how Anthem Advisors can help you with each of these questions.

What if I draw off my account in a down market?

The reason your financial advisor has likely intervened this year has to do with sequence risk. Sequence risk is defined as the danger that the timing of withdrawals from a retirement account will damage the investor’s overall return. This risk is usually a lower priority for discussions when talking about risk due to the nature of its rarity and impact. In comparison to other risks that are frequently discussed, Sequence Risk appears during a recessionary period or bear market season more than any other time, and it greatly impacts those who are beginning to start pulling money off of their account. Sequence Risk causes a ripple effect because as you draw off the asset, the value in the account does not have enough time to catch up on the flip side of the market. Instead, the remaining dollars are left to work harder to get the account back to a new normal after the market has turned around.

Sequence risk isn’t always avoidable. For instance, RMD’s have to come out with age, or some people rely on their assets for income. In these cases, it’s important to speak with your advisor about strategies to mitigate some of this risk. It’s possible that you have a specific holding to carve off for tax reasons, or strategize the frequencies or amounts coming off of your accounts for this period.

On some levels, one can’t change where the money is coming from, it can’t just turn off. However, working with your advisor to strategize how and how much to pull can make all the difference in protecting the asset. Again, it’s a risk associated with the portfolio due to performance, locking in losses, and the longevity of the account’s health.

What if I can’t sleep during this market season?

Recessionary periods cause a plague of fear for lots of people. Whether they are honest or not, it’s hard to admit the fears that keep you up at night. For many, seeing performance the way it looks today can be terrifying. We are seeing some of the worst performance in the bond market ever, and the balanced portfolio is showing it is not invincible. However, instead of trying to manage your fears on your own, let’s start a discussion about proactive measures we can implement.

Maybe introducing strategic alternatives can help ease some wonderment. Alternatives have shined their own light this year as they have little to no correlation to the stock and bond markets. Adding alternatives to your portfolio expands your diversification and exposes different levels of risk than in a typical balanced portfolio.

The only other thing to actively do is to shift perspectives. Rather than focusing on the dollar and what that represents, look around you to find joy where you are. Your value does not come from a dollar on a page, but rather who you are. Your family and relationships and what you’re doing in your day to day. Don’t let the haunting of a recessionary period rob you of the joy around you. Talk to your advisor about what can be controlled and have faith in the future.

What if I didn’t start soon enough?

Compound interest is one of the wonders of the world. It’s a superpower where the account seemingly grows magically over time, and the more time it has, the more it pays off. While starting early makes an impact, it’s not too late to start now. Even without the length of time for compound interest, strategies can be introduced where you are. While it’s easy to say the sooner the better when it comes to retirement planning and investment, it’s not the only way to do it. Did you know that the IRS allows a catch up amount to IRA’s and retirement accounts with age? That means you can contribute more at age 55 into your retirement to catch up on some of your goals. Maybe there are some tax efficient methods to shave off what you owe to the IRS or strategies to keep more money in your pocket now and invest for the future.

It’s hard to answer this question in a general sense because every situation is unique. That’s why it’s important to find a financial professional to help you as you begin retirement planning. Your parent may have said “don’t cry over spilt milk.” Translating that here would be don’t fantasize about a false reality. It isn’t always about market timing, but about the patterns and behaviors. And to change patterns and behaviors, it’s never too late to start.

What if I don’t know what I’m doing?

We don’t expect you to have the answers; we expect you to bring the questions. One myth that we hear people believing is that you have to know a certain amount or that you need to have a wealth of knowledge on your own. While you can and should research into the team you hire, you don’t need to know everything to start a conversation with us. We probably couldn’t perform well at your job. I heard a fellow advisor say, “you hire an electrician or plumber when you don’t know how to rewire your house or fix the pipes. That means it’s normal and advisable to hire a financial professional to help you understand finances and get specific advice.” General advice is a great way to start, but it is not the same as specific advice to you.

We don’t take your trust lightly either. We meet you where you are and help you clarify and understand where you’re going. We ask questions like: What is your dream? What legacy do you want to leave? And how much is enough? A relationship with a financial professional should be built on trust and understanding. So, to answer this question simply, you don’t need to know the terms or know what you’re doing, that’s why we’re here.

What if I’m scared to retire?

Many folks struggle through this decision. After decades of work and transitions, it can be daunting to approach this idea of retirement. Whether it’s the fear of being bored or the freedom of not working, there can be a number of fears or curiosities about what to do on the other side.

Some popular ideas are to work part time somewhere or get involved in volunteering. Many groups meet up during daytime hours you probably missed while you worked or friends to grab lunch with. Local places still offer volunteer positions that can also be fulfilling. You could consider traveling or exploring areas of your hometown you never had the time to before. Picking up hiking or a physical activity to stay active can help with your physical health as well. It’s important to stay busy and keep your mind active to stay out of any impeding slump.

Most pre-retirees can picture so vividly what they are freeing themselves from, but they wrestle with the next phase of what they are retiring to. So gathering some ideas before you retire could alleviate some of those worries or fears that may haunt you. Also planning and discussing these with your loved ones could provide valuable perspective

If you want to discuss these or other “What if?” financial questions you have, please contact us:  anthem@oneascent.com or 256.288.0192     
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** Past performance may not be representative of future results.  All investments are subject to loss.  Forecasts regarding the market or economy are subject to a wide range of possible outcomes.  The views presented in this market update may prove to be inaccurate for a variety of factors.  These views are as of the date listed above and are subject to change based on changes in fundamental economic or market-related data.  Please contact your Financial Advisor in order to complete an updated risk assessment to ensure that your investment allocation is appropriate.

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