The Women's Journal

As Seniors Age – Financial Health Also Needs A Checkup

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By Frank Demarinis

Based on an AARP 2018 financial survey 32% of seniors 65+ have no retirement savings. Over a third experience zero or negative balance after paying basic monthly needs and on average pay an excessive share (30% or more of their income) for housing. These sobering facts coupled with a possible future requiring some medical support or home care leaves little financial ability to maintain independence. “Affordable Senior Housing” is becoming an unrealistic option with increasing demand, lengthy wait lists and decreasing availability of benefits including Medicaid, Veterans Assistance and Supplemental Income Assistance.

The financial stress seniors face in meeting basic housing needs cascades into a quagmire of problems ranging from increased anxiety to poor physical and mental health. Regardless of one’s financial level of “well-being” every senior wants to maintain independence as long as possible. Planning for the “What If” of outliving one’s financial solvency is just as important as Healthcare Directives, Power of Attorney and Emergency Planning. There is a saying in money management – “The wealthy have financial planners; the middle class have accountants. Low-income individuals have entitlements and benefits.” Whatever level we reside, there is opportunity to maximize income, limit expense and make tough decisions to maintain or downsize our household.

With many seniors relying exclusively on Social Security or a modest pension, a medical emergency can risk losing the equity they’ve worked hard for and even jeopardize their home. We often make decisions emotionally rather than objectively by human nature. Trying to maintain one’s primary home often becomes a stressor as important as maintaining one’s personal health. Avoiding taking a hard look at our financial future may force us to live below the poverty level and ultimately lose that independence we are fighting to maintain.  

When individuals simply “follow their current course” we often find clients making less sensible financial decisions to maintain an unrealistic standard of living. Most seniors can relate to paying $150 [a month] for cable, internet and phone yet know they can’t cover a $500 emergency. We should take the time to assess what we are paying for, budget sensibly, and avoid drowning in increasing debt. On some basic consultations we have found clients still paying high premiums on life insurance policies that were already at maximum benefit and could be cashed out for full surrender value. Others were still paying for policies or benefits even though they did not know where the paperwork was, or whether there was a POA assigned to handle the claim if they in fact had a medical crisis.

Senior Advisors of Delaware, LLC is a case management agency providing money management, consultation, health planning and Power of Attorney services for seniors living independently wanting to remain at home. We offer Power of Attorney and Emergency Planning, Advance Directive Documents, and can act as an agent on call to respond to the “What If.” Our main goal is always to ensure you are protected against nursing home confinement. Our nonprofit program “Advanced Directive” maintains emergency service for seniors without local family, child or individuals able to respond in a crisis. If you are concerned about who will step in to help if a medical emergency happens to you or a loved one, or you are concerned about your ability to financially manage your home, call us for a free consultation. Grant Assistance for seniors 85+ living in their own home at risk for frequent hospitalization or nursing care is also available.


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