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Creating your own future

Your legacy should include more than an inheritance. It should also include freedom from difficult decision-making or financial burdens for your loved ones.  Preparing properly for your future will help you navigate your later years. Plus it will enable you to enjoy your retirement to the utmost, because you’ll know you have taken care of everything.

Aging may be a natural and inevitable process, but doing it the right way takes careful planning. Of course we all know we need to save aggressively, so we can remain independent, fund our retirement, and have assets to leave our heirs. But we often overlook another ‘must-do:’ making sure your future goes the way you want it to.

Staying In Control As You Age

Get your docs all in a row

Does your family know how many savings accounts you have? What about stocks you may own? Your social security or pension income? Can they find your safe deposit box key – and are they authorized to use it? This information is critical, especially should you become unable to make sound financial decisions in future. Get organized now, and keep all your financial documents in one place. Write a list of your expenses, and all savings, investments and other assets. Don’t forget to include deeds, mortgage, property tax records and any outstanding debts. Then tell your loved ones where everything is. And add a co-signer to bank accounts and safety deposit boxes.

Draw up not one but two wills

If you die intestate (without a will) it will be up to the government how your assets get divided. Ensure that inheritances go to the heirs you choose by having a will made, which clearly states your specific wishes. Then update it when life events occur (marriages, babies, divorces, deaths). A good rule of thumb: review your will every five years, to make sure it still reflects your wishes, and to see if any changes in the law might affect it.

 

Now that you’ve declared what you want done with your assets, tell your family what you want done with you. A living will is a document that explains what medical treatment you want to receive if you become so ill that you can’t communicate for yourself. It usually addresses whether you want tube feeding, life support, or other life-prolonging measures.

Consider automating your finances

As Baby Boomers move toward retirement, it can become more challenging to manage money. Add snowbirding to the mix, and keeping track of bill payments also gets difficult. A simple solution is to have all your sources of income, including social security, pensions, disability checks, etc. automatically deposited directly into your bank. Then have your recurring bills, such as mortgage or rent payments, utilities, and insurance, auto-paid by your bank on a set day each month.

Have a family discussion

No loved one wants to hear a conversation begin with “if something happens to me…” but initiating the dialogue while you’re hale and hearty makes it easier for everyone. Advance care planning isn’t only beneficial to you, it’s a way for your family to avoid uncertainty and future disputes. Your ‘what-if” discussion should include:

  • Any health conditions you may have, and how they are likely to progress
  • Who you have chosen to make decisions for you if/when you cannot
  • The kind of care or life-extending treatments you want and those you do not

 

To help you get the conversation started, the American Bar Association offers an informative Tool Kit for Health Care Advance Planning and other resources at www.americanbar.org

Take good care of yourself

Perhaps the best way to prepare for a comfortable retirement is to enter it at your physical and mental best. We all know we should lose weight, stop smoking, limit alcohol, and get regular exercise. And perhaps equally important is maintaining friendships and participating in activities that keep you mentally alert, which can help delay or avoid isolation, depression, and dementia.