All of us hope to live long, healthy lives, so we do what we can to take care of ourselves through proper diet, exercise, and avoiding unhealthy activities.
However, none of us can predict our future, so it pays to be prepared for anything including a serious physical illness or the onset of some type of mental incapacity such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Of course, you may never face these infirmities, but you should be aware that they could upset your long-term financial strategy and place considerable stress on your loved ones. What steps can you take to head off these threats?
First, make sure you know what your health insurance covers and how much you might have to pay out of pocket for treatment of illnesses such as cancer or kidney ailments. If you’re on Medicare (supplemented with Medigap) or Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C), you’ll want to know all about deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. However, if Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia is involved, Medicare may not cover the costs that could be incurred in an assisted living facility, so you may want to consult with a financial advisor, who can suggest ways of protecting yourself from long-term care costs, which can be quite high.
Your next move is to make sure you have adequate liquidity. It’s hard to predict how many out-of-pocket costs you could incur when coping with a serious illness, but it’s a good idea to have enough cash readily available, rather than dipping into your 401(k) or other retirement accounts. So, if you’re retired, you might want to keep up to a year’s worth of living expenses in a liquid, low-risk account.
Here’s another important step: Update your estate plan. Hopefully, if you have a serious illness, you’ll be able to recover. But it’s still a good idea to review your estate plan to ensure everything is in order, such as your will and your living trust if you’ve created one. If you’ve kept up your life insurance, you’ll also want to ensure your premiums are still being paid. And don’t forget to review your beneficiary designations on your 401(k), insurance policies, and other financial documents, since these designations can supersede the instructions in your will.
As part of your estate planning, you may want to include a durable power of attorney for finances, which allows you to name someone to manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated, and a durable power of attorney for health care, which lets you name someone to make medical decisions for you if you’re unable to do so yourself. You may also create a health care directive or living will to express your wishes if you don’t have a power of attorney for health care, or the person named in a power of attorney for health care can’t be reached in an emergency. And since estate planning can be complex, you’ll certainly want to work with a legal professional and possibly your tax and financial advisors as well.
You might think it’s somewhat grim to prepare yourself financially in case you become seriously ill or if your life is touched by Alzheimer’s or another mental infirmity. But it’s a positive move. You’re protecting yourself and your loved ones from whatever life may throw at you.
— Submitted by Meghan Kuczmarski, Edward Jones Financial Advisor