Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Financial Planning for Later Life

Photo by Zuerichs Strassen
The Washington Post ran an article recently about how hard financial planning for later life stages can be. Even when families are relatively well prepared, the process can be complicated and the landscape ever changing. If that was not enough, some people who present themselves as elder care planners might actually be working on commission. The unintended effect is to recommend unnecessary financial products or services for families who are trying to make the best decisions for the long term care of their loved one.

While the complexity and possible conflicts of interest may be reasons that some of us do not choose to plan for the cost of care for the later years in life, this is certainly a shame because of the many benefits of planning. People who plan ahead for elder care costs and long term care costs often report feeling an increased sense of control and reduced anxiety about the future. Further, planning and professional assistance can often help a family save on care and improve the quality of life for the elder.

This post describes the range of elder care financial planning services, from simple self-serve options to the variety of specialists who help with specific cases, and everything in between. We share this with the hope that it leads you to find the most appropriate assistance to start the process with your loved one. As with all planning, it is always better to start early.

Resource Locator Tool

First, our organization maintains the Resource Locator Tool, which can be found online at payingforseniorcare.com. The free, self-service tool consists of a simple questionnaire that helps identify programs and services that are available to the elder. It searches over 400 regional, state, federal and private programs. While this can be a fast and simple first step, families will need to take the program information and make their own plan. Click here to use the Resource Locator Tool.

State Social Service Agencies

Throughout the country, there are local Area Agencies on Aging that have offices where families can come in and talk to a support person about their situation. Because of the role and familiarity with the local networks, they are great advisors on which assistance programs are available. Some are not as familiar with national, private or Veterans Administration assistance. Of. Because the popularity of these free services, there can be wait times for an appointment. Find your local agency here.

Elder Care Resource Planners

A step up from free services would be to work with an Elder Care Resource Planner. They help elders and their families to identify all options and build a plan to fit the elder’s evolving needs for care. Their approach is comprehensive in that they will review all of the national, state and private programs to find the highest level of support. Elder Care Resource Planners are not as expensive as other types of professionals with prices that range from $500 to $1,500 per engagement. It should be noted, though, that while the Planner develops the plan families must take responsibility for the implementation. Learn more about Elder Care Resource Planners.

Medicaid Planners

Many seniors may have to rely on Medicaid at some point. The Bipartisan Policy Center reported that Medicaid pays for two-thirds of the costs of long term care in this country. A specialist Medicaid Planner can help families learn how to qualify for this program. In this area, it is often helpful to have guidance because of the complexity of the rules and the financial products that exist to help families qualify. This service can greatly improve the likelihood of an elder being accepted into a state Medicaid program. Fees range from $2,000 for a simple case to as much as $5,000. Learn more about Medicaid Planning.

Geriatric Care Managers

While Geriatric Care Managers typically oversee the care of an elder, some also assist with some of the financial aspects. Because of the depth of their knowledge of the health needs of seniors, they offer a valuable service that helps families anticipate the changing needs of the loved one. They can also be quite knowledgeable about local prices and providers. They are usually educated as nurses or social workers and may not have a financial planning background. Their services will typically be hourly and range from $50 to $200. Search for geriatric care managers.

Veterans Benefits Advisors

The Veteran’s Administration accredits advisors to help vets learn about their benefits and apply. These specialist advisors can help vets and their families save time and improve the chances that they will receive their full benefits. They are required not to charge for actually preparing an application, but they do charge for their other time helping clients. Prices range from free to about $2500. See a list of Veterans Benefits Advisors.

Financial Planners

Finally, financial planners received specialized education and accreditation as professionals to advise families on their finances, retirement, and preparing for long term care. They typically work with middle and upper income level individuals and may not have much specific knowledge of local aging programs and services for low income families. They focus on a range of financial products to preserve wealth and can be pretty expensive. They will charge either by the hour or based on the size of the client’s net wealth.

Planning for later life stages can be challenging but the benefits are clear for families. We hope that this list of the common types of resources available to help you plan will enable you get started. Please feel to let us know about your experiences or any types of planners that we missed in the comments.