How to plan for aging in place

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In my work with seniors, as head of the Right at Home of Rhode Island agency, I’m often in the room during conversations about financial planning for seniors who want to age in place.

I don’t consider myself anything close to being a financial adviser, especially when the quality and viability of a person’s sunset years depends on proper guidance. That said, I’ve come to learn a bit about what questions to ask, and of whom to ask them. And so, I wanted to shed light on this important topic, and loop in some of my favorite experts to do so. 

Certified Financial Planner Jeff Massey, the founder and president of Massey and Associates, in Warwick, and host of the “Massey on Money” radio show, was kind enough to speak with me about the right questions to ask if you or a loved one is hoping to age in place, and how to fund and financially structure that choice. For those who may be new to the term, aging in place refers to seniors staying in their home, usually with support, as opposed to moving into a facility.    

Here’s a roundup of key questions that should start you down the right path – so you don’t need to go anywhere at all.

• What are your qualifications? Before even scheduling a meeting with a financial planner, you should ask questions about their background, experience and training. Speaking with someone with the correct specialty and ethics will help ensure that they have the expertise to guide you. According to Massey, financial planners specialize in the “dull and boring” – and that’s just perfect. Don’t choose a planner based on charisma or chemistry – instead, look for the proper credentials and experience.  

• Who else should you consult? Any planner worth their salt will understand that there’s much more to comfortably aging in place than just finances, and that’s where a geriatric-care specialist may be helpful. For example, geriatric social worker/consultant Karen Egan helps some of my clients put together the whole picture of support that they will need. A good financial planner may also suggest that you consult with a trusts and estates attorney or an elder-law attorney. An attorney can create a trust, last will and testament, financial and health-care power of attorney, and a living will – all key documents to have in place as part of a well-thought-out financial plan.

• What is your philosophy on risk? Once you’re 50+, it’s about dialing down the risk, and diversifying your financial portfolio. If someone is trying to sell you something high-risk/high reward, be wary. 

• Is Medicare relevant to me, and how? Medicare planning is a specialty all in itself. Speaking with an expert who understands the state-specific nuances will serve you best. There are a lot of misconceptions out there – and many people get it wrong.

Best wishes for a 2020 full of good questions and good answers!

NAOMI FINK COTRONE runs the Right at Home of Rhode Island agency, which provides care to elderly and disabled adults throughout Rhode Island.