With the hope that you don’t think I’m sharing too much information, I’m going to be honest and say that I’ve been dealing with some health issues for the last couple of months that my doctor just hasn’t been able to figure out. Even though I believe, hands down, that Dr. Brian Winn over at Kaiser Permanente is the best primary care physician I’ve had in my entire life (really), I’ve been complaining to him about symptoms that have not let him come up with any easy answers. That has meant I’ve sometimes been forced to slow down and take it easier than I’m naturally inclined to do. And now you know why this newsletter is being sent out a week late!
Don’t worry; I’m not sharing this with you so you’ll be concerned about me. Dr. Winn is certain I don’t have anything terminal or disfiguring. I’m sharing this with you because not feeling well came on quite suddenly and unexpectedly. That got me to thinking (as most things do) about money management and financial planning. Specifically, it got me thinking about how all our best efforts can fall short if we don’t plan properly for those things that are not fun or pleasant to think about, like aging and having changes in our health that comes with age.
It’s fun to think about all the traveling we’ll do in retirement and all the ways we’ll spoil our grandchildren. It’s fun to think about what beach town will be the place we watch sunsets in our sunset years. But for our retirement plans to be real as well as fun, there are some other things we all really need to think about and plan for.
Some say retirement’s greatest threats are inflation or the cost of adult children continuing to need support or the potential of getting ripped off, but many retirees face even greater threats, some of which never get discussed and are rarely planned for, including the loss of one’s ability to see, hear, taste, touch and smell. The gradual increase in the price of bread, eggs and milk are not likely going to destroy your retirement, but did you know that medical costs attributable to the three most common senses — vision, hearing and dental — are not covered by Medicare and can divert much-needed savings out of the money you might be counting on for monthly expenses, let alone for your travel plans, if problems arise and persist.
Think about some of the things we have in our daily lives. Good hearing lets us easily communicate with family and friends. Good vision lets us jump in the car and drive pretty much wherever we want whenever we want. But the loss or reduction of those senses can force us into entirely new daily routines that come with costs. For example, did you know that hearing aids can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000, as my mother-in-law just discovered? And taking a taxicab everywhere if you can’t drive could quickly exceed the price of a couple tanks of gas each month.
Keep in mind that our sense of touch and smell will also erode over time. Touch and other physical capabilities can be affected by arthritis or other diseases. Strokes, cancer and arthritis may take away some of our most important physical abilities. The mind and heart can be protected by preparing mentally and emotionally to deal with such challenges, but we need to consider some financial preparation as well.
Nothing alters retirement plans and dreams like a physical impairment. When we are thinking about our futures and the money we’ll need to live the retirement lives we want, it’s important to anticipate – and include – the costs we will likely face to keep our ears hearing, our teeth chewing and our feet dancing.
Because Money is a Relationship,
The Money Counselor