Imagine standing in a boxing ring waiting for the first-round bell. In the opposite corner is your opponent – tall, muscled and scowling. What if you had a choice: fight this guy, or battle a different boxer chosen through a wildcard-type draw? The fighter you draw may, or may not, be tougher than your current opponent.
Who would you choose? If you’re like most people, you’d take your chances with the enemy in front of you – the one you know, not the one you can only imagine with dread.
That’s what makes today’s world scary for many older Americans – the enemies have evolved. They are unseen. They are wildcards.
Think about what plagues our aging population. Cybercrime. The costs of health care. Financial exploitation by family members or alleged friends. It can feel like challenges, threats and criminals are lurking around every corner of our society.
Previously, our enemies were always known. When the US was squared off against Russia or battling Nazi Germany, we knew who our enemy was. We also knew the what, when, where, and how we were fighting. When and where will they strike? What will they do? Steal our identities, cripple us financially, drain our bank accounts?
We’ve talked a lot this year about how something just doesn’t’ feel right. But why? We’ve had market highs, the economy is good, the unemployment rate is down to about 4%, interest rates are still low, housing prices are strong, manufacturing is as good as it’s been in more over a decade, and corporate earnings are near an all-time high. But still, something just doesn’t feel right.
I think this uneasiness is new the result of all the new uncertainty surrounding us. It makes the world feel scarier than ever before.
So, while the economy and the stock market are humming along, central pieces of society, including technology, finance, healthcare, retail, and media have undergone such rapid change that we’re left feeling unsettled. We wonder, “What will this river of new and newer bring next?”
That’s a legitimate question. Who will be hacked next? What happens if my health or my parents’ health declines? How do I protect my finances if my mind declines?
In sum, as I age, how do I protect myself from these lurking, hard to combat, unknown enemies?
The future doesn’t have to feel so scary and unknown. The key is to educate yourself on the changes we’re seeing. Start with these three strategies to protecting yourself (and your loved ones) from cybercrime, exorbitant long-term care costs, and financial exploitation.
In a nutshell, the goal is to not be “low hanging fruit.” You want to be harder to hack than the next guy. Do this by freezing your credit report, monitoring your financial accounts, and practicing good online hygiene. That last one means not opening emails from unrecognized addresses, not reflexively clicking on links, and, possibly even buying a new computer or tablet that will be used ONLY for financial transactions.
Health Care and the Cost of Long-Term Care
– According to Eric Burkard, CLTC, of Burkard Insurance, LLC, when he asks his clients to tell him two of their biggest concerns, he gets the same answer: “Who is going to take care of me, and how am I going to pay for it?”
Long-term care (also called skilled nursing care) isn’t cheap. The average monthly cost of nursing home care is almost $7200, according to insurance company Genworth Financial.
Remember – Medicare doesn’t pay for long-term stays in nursing homes. So, what’s a prudent aging person to do? The answer lies in that old health care planning standard – insurance.
These days, long-term care insurance isn’t limited to “use it or lose it” plans. Instead, there and are newer, hybrid policies that exist that are more akin to quasi-investment vehicles. As one example, linked benefit policies such as Lincoln MoneyGuard Reserve provide tax-free long-term care insurance if you need it; tax-free life insurance benefits for your heirs if you don’t use the care benefit; and a money back guarantee should you ever change your mind.
Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation
No one wants to think that a trusted friend or family member would ever siphon money from them. But it happens, and it happens so often that professionals recommend planning for the day when you can no longer manage your finances on your own.
Their advice? Plan when the sky is blue. You want to have financial safeguards in place before you ever need them.
Your best plan of action includes a Financial Power of Attorney, which allows you to appoint a person (called an “agent”) that you trust to manage your finances in the case of your incapacity. The document allows your agent to “stand in your shoes” and conduct your business and financial affairs and can take effect immediately, upon a set date of your choosing, or upon a finding (typically by at least two doctors) of your incapacity. Perhaps you’ll never need to use it. But as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. An estate planning professional can help you get your Financial Power of Attorney (and peace of mind) in order.
There. Now, don’t you feel better? The only way to reduce fear of the unknown is to make it known. In most cases, a little education and learning are enough to chase away the bogeyman.