Senior living: 9 expert tips for maximizing money and memories

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Each of us is on a trip toward retirement, and — health willing — a happy retreat of senior living. Like any trip, the destination will be sweeter with proper mapping and planning. The senior years shouldn’t be a day-to-day adventure, but rather a relaxing life spent with loved ones and loved “funs.”

Here are 9 tips from area experts for maximizing money, memories and memories (keep that dementia away as long as possible.)

Get your GPS ready. It’s time to map the route to senior LIVING.

Hint! These tips reap the greatest benefits if implemented early. Gen Xers, we’re looking at you through our reading glasses!

1. Show YOU the money

“Most people would benefit from having a personal financial advisor create a comprehensive financial game plan,” says Bruce Wingrove, Private Wealth Advisor with Wingrove & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. in Murray. “That would include reviewing how you will cover your essential expenses, lifestyle expenses, unexpected events and the legacy plan.”

Essential expenses.

First, it’s important to gain a sound understanding of your income, cashflow, monthly expenses and savings rate.

Lifestyle expenses.

Next, figure out how you want to live today and into the future, including family time and “bucket list” goals.

Unexpected events.

“Once we have solved for both your essential and lifestyle expenses, we want to ensure you are protected against the unexpected,” Bruce says.

Legacy planning.

In addition to the money you will leave for the next generation, legacy planning includes the contribution you want to leave. “Legacy is about the impact you’ll make over time on the people, charities and causes that are important to you,” Bruce says. Wealth advisors can identify other legacy-related paperwork — like wills and trusts.

“Legacy is about the impact you’ll make over time on the people, charities and causes that are important to you.” — Bruce Wingrove, Wingrove & Associates

2. Compare the care

It’s more fun to plan a trip to Hawaii than a long-term care destination. But life’s journey often includes skilled nursing for ourselves or our parents —and doing research beforehand helps with decision-making.

The federal government offers “Nursing Home Compare” (www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare) that provides a simplified “star” rating of facilities in topics including health inspections, staffing and quality measures.

“Once you’ve narrowed down a few choices, go to the facility and get a tour,” says Derek White, MPT, senior vice president with Independence Rehab, headquartered in Provo. “If you’re there during the day, look for an active therapy department. Look for cleanliness, happy caregivers and happy residents.”

Also, ask about regular activities, special events, church services and other amenities important to you.

3. Be sure to insure

Insurance needs change as we age, so mature your plans accordingly.

“The biggest change as people age is the purpose for carrying a life insurance policy,” says Neal Dastrup, owner of Neal Dastrup Insurance with locations throughout Utah County.

Neal points out that young people need life insurance to protect against financial difficulty created by the death of an income earner. That income will cover food, clothing and housing.

“When children have matured and leave the home, that need changes to maintaining a reasonable lifestyle,” Neal says. “Certainly a widow or widower can return to the workplace, but they will be competing with younger and more recently educated competition for the best jobs. Life insurance provides the income bridge for that situation.”

Insurance should also cover final life expenses (funeral bills, debts, taxes, miscellaneous medical expenses not covered by insurance) and housing costs.

“When children have matured and leave the home, that need changes to maintaining a reasonable lifestyle.” — Neal Dastrup, Neal Dastrup Insurance

4. Those darn fruits and veggies

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard about this menu a million times. Eating right maximizes brain function and delays age-related memory problems. A 2017 study by Columbia University found that participants who ate a plant-based diet had less brain atrophy and lower risk of cognitive decline over a span of six years compared to those who ate the standard American diet.

“For younger people, maintaining a normal body weight, developing a regular program for cardiovascular/aerobic exercise, avoiding belly fat and eating a Mediterranean diet will reduce the risk of chronic diseases including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity,” says Dr. Stephen Peters with the American Fork Memory Clinic. “This will lead to healthy mental and physical functioning through the aging process.”

Managing weight and exercising regular in the younger years will benefit all aspects of senior years.

“Leading a healthy lifestyle throughout your life will make a big difference in your later years — so begin thinking about senior healthcare now,” says Derek White, MPT, senior vice president with Independence Rehab, headquartered in Provo.

5. Slow the flow

Once you’ve arrived in retirement-land, monitor spending closely.

“Many retired people spend too much and have a withdrawal rate that is way too high,” says Bruce Wingrove, Private Wealth Advisor with Wingrove & Associates. “The result is they spend down their retirement accounts too quickly. It is important to work with an advisor who will monitor this with you a few times a year. The money needs to last longer than you do.”

6. Where there’s a will

It’s important to guard assets through a will or trust.

“Protect your estate,” says Bruce Wingrove, Private Wealth Advisor with Wingrove & Associates. “A trust or will is a good first step. If you have children, it’s also a good idea to have guardianship papers in place.”

“If the person doing most of the treatments has the title ‘aide’ or ‘technician,’ you should be skeptical.” — Derek White, Independence Rehab

7. Recover like a champ

With increased age comes increased surgeries and increased rehab. Joint replacement surgery is often required to renew physical capabilities and reduce pain. With joint replacement surgery comes physical therapy.

“The best providers focus on treatments, education, training and exercise that can’t easily be duplicated at home,” says Derek White, MPT, senior vice president with Independence Rehab, headquartered in Provo. “Yes, they should give you a home exercise program — but when you’re in the clinic or at the gym, their focus should be on advanced care.”

Derek also suggests avoiding rehabilitation providers where most of the treatments are done by unlicensed or non-certified aides.

“If the person doing most of the treatments has the title ‘aide’ or ‘technician,’ you should be skeptical,” Derek says.

Professionals with the designations of physical therapist, occupational therapist, physical therapist assistant, certified occupational therapy assistant, and speech and language pathologist are preferable.

8. Life-savers

When saving for retirement, starting early is huge. However, starting late can still be beneficial. Bruce Wingrove, Private Wealth Advisor with Wingrove & Associates, suggests maximizing the allowable retirement savings each year. For 2017, that’s $18,000 for those under 50. If possible, savers should also contribute the maximum of $5,500 to a traditional or Roth IRA.

9. Senior games

Prioritize what you value and make the most of it. Retirement should leave plenty of time to do the things you love. Embrace it!

“My dad always told me not to try to be the richest man in the graveyard,” says Neal Dastrup, owner of Neal Dastrup Insurance. “Enjoy the income you have been blessed with. If your income and your savings have been successful, plan to spend on things that are of value to you, whether they be church service, worthwhile donations, endowments, family events or travel. The key to retirement is to financially be able to do things you find fulfilling and important.”

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Greg Bennett is an editor and writer with Bennett Communications. His primary responsibilities are with Utah Valley Magazine and the company's custom publications division. He's the father of four children and has been married to his wife, Adria, for 18 years. Contact Greg at greg@uvmag.com

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