Friday, July 12, 2013


Recently I conversed with an 86 year-old widow caring for her 62 year-old disabled son. Fortunately he is highly functional and a pleasant man. She told me of her plans for her son when she can no longer be the chauffeur and main functioning member of their family. We agreed that her plans were not for “if” but allowed for “when” the transition would take place. She is a wise woman.

A major transition in our country’s economics occurred on October 15, 2007.  It was the day the very first baby boomer filed for social security benefits.  For the next 20 years more than 10,000 baby boomers will hit retirement age every day and nearly 75% of them expect to live well into their 80s, even 90s.

Major companies for many years have recognized this shift in finances and wisely prepared for it. Fewer and fewer companies offer pensions. Most encourage and contribute to 401 plans. This means the employee must save and plan for herself.

It also means that contributors to social security will no longer be doing so but will become a draw. For millions of retirees their monthly checks are not enough to live on, an income which, of course, social security was never meant to provide. Somehow expectations have exceeded the possibility.

In practical terms the transition from “if” to “when” affects the money the baby boomers’ children thought they could spend on vacations that “they deserved”; it means they will not have their homes paid off by age 50. It means they will not have the savings necessary for assistance “when” they need it at age 62 or 72 or older, costs that—without medical bills and prescriptions—can deplete their funds by $3 to $9,000 per month.

Baby boomers themselves can be the worst culprits in the denial game. The statistics of people over 62 shows falls as a major debilitating experience. But we continue to load our golf clubs into the van with no plan about when the physical fails.

Today my right eye ball was measured for cataract replacement. My two technical nurses had both experienced life threatening car accidents but neither knew about the POLST form.

If we fail to plan realistically, we plan to fail at great cost.  (I do dislike this ditty but have none other that serves the purpose as well.) Transition is not about “if” but “when.”  

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