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Retirement Tip of the Month

Are you a “Solo Ager”? Here Are Some Things to Consider

A “solo ager” is a person who, upon retirement, has no family or close friends in their immediate vicinity. Growing numbers of Americans, whether single, widowed, or divorced, live alone, making solo agers more prevalent. Furthermore, many are childless or have distant adult children who live far away, leaving them to their own devices. If this applies to you, there are a few things to think about. Solo retirees who are the most well-prepared for retirement tend to be the happiest. It’s crucial to be prepared, because there are certain issues unique to you as someone without friends or family near them.

Who to Appoint to Make Financial Decisions

Without family nearby, settling some financial issues can be more challenging because you have to find reliable people to assist you. If you are unable to make decisions, who will take your place and make decisions on your behalf? Although it’s a difficult question, it must be raised. It might not be the best idea to assign family and friends to the positions of executor and proxy. They’re nevertheless frequently* the first option. Make sure someone will be accountable before asking them to carry out one of these significant responsibilities. Make it apparent to them what you need from them. The proper abilities and knowledge may also be necessary to fill these positions.

Are you a solo ager? Do you need a friend to act as your executor or health care proxy? Then, you need to ask yourself (and them) some questions. Do they have the time? Is it safe to assume that they will outlive you? Are they financially literate? And can you afford to pay them back?

Have a Checklist and Other Legal Directives

Solo retirees will, at the very least, require a living will outlining their preferences for treatment under various circumstances. A living will is essentially a written declaration of your preferences for medical care in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. For example, you may decide it’s not worth continuing medical interventions like CPR, the use of a mechanical respirator, intravenous or tube feeding, dialysis, etc. Each of the fifty states lets you “express your wishes regarding medical treatment in terminal illness or injury situations, and to appoint someone to communicate for you in the event you cannot communicate for yourself.”

In contrast, a healthcare proxy is a type of durable power of attorney that designates a specific individual to carry out your intentions and make medical choices in the event that you are unable to do so. These documents can be prepared with assistance from your lawyer, and you should also make sure your family is aware of them. In the event that you are admitted to the hospital, it’s also a good idea to give copies to your primary care physician, and/or carry them with you.

What Local Professional Resources Can You Use?

Qualified financial experts might be able to take on the responsibilities that family members would traditionally hold. An elder law attorney could be part of your team of professionals to address legal concerns. A geriatric care manager or patient advocate may also be involved to supervise the making of healthcare decisions. Additionally, you should have a financial advisor to handle your finances and local friends or neighbors who can support you in times of need.

Have a Financial Power of Attorney or Revocable Living Trust

Once you reach a particular age, you have to start planning ahead for a time when you might be more vulnerable. Even if you currently feel relatively safe and independent, things could change in the future. There are safeguards in place if you didn’t do anything to plan ahead for these situations. However, in general, you likely shouldn’t let strangers who aren’t financial experts be in charge of your finances.

You may have been encouraged to select a financial power of attorney to oversee your money. But for a solo ager, you may be better served* with a solid revocable living trust that offers more flexibility and privacy. Check with an elder law attorney about which financial options could best fit your needs.

*Sources: Right at Home, Kiplinger 

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