In a recent blog post at Forbes, I share the story about parents of a client - a couple in their mid-seventies who recently moved to be closer to my client, their daughter. Their original home was in an area that had been affected by a natural disaster. The devastation made it hard for them to get around and gave them a good reason to move. They wanted to buy a new five-bedroom home so family can visit.
The full article in Forbes can be found here.
People age differently. There are old people in their fifties and spring chickens in their nineties. Most of us will start to have issues in our seventies and will definitely have problems in our eighties. But too many people think they will be the lucky outlier.
What is wrong with this picture?
First, money. Although they have a small amount of savings, a pension, and social security, they don’t have the liquid resources to purchase a home of their required size that will be close to their daughter, even with a mortgage. Most of their assets are tied up in their properties in their previous location. If they sold all of these properties, they could afford the home they want. But is this still the right thing for them to do?
I shared my concern about them buying a large home when statistically, their ability to physically manage such a property for long isn’t very good. When asked their thoughts on this dilemma, the father shrugged his shoulders and the mother announced, “I live for today!” They shared stories of family longevity and insisted they will be fine.
We discussed the likely need for long term care at some point, and they acknowledged this reality. And the discovery that they have no estate planning documents in place opened the daughter’s eyes that she has a mess on her hands if she can’t get them to follow through with cleaning up their old life. Our one accomplishment in that meeting was to verify they could not afford to buy the house they want without selling current properties and hopefully this will make him move forward on listing them quickly. Until then, they will continue to rent near their daughter’s home.
In this situation, we have to reluctantly bide our time. Who knows how long it will take to sell the properties and what events could pop up during the process. Until then, we’ll gently push for them to complete their estate documents. If something happens to their health, their daughter will need to step in and that will be a nightmare if they don’t have the legal documents in place.
Making good decisions as we age is tough – we don’t want to face the truth and the aging brain prefers to avoid complex problem solving. This is why it is important to think through aging issues while you are young – by putting a plan in place early, your brain is wired for that default and you are likely to make better decisions. You will be safer and your family won’t be left scrambling to clean up a mess.