October 2014 Bar Bulletin
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October 2014 Bar Bulletin

How Traditional Retirement Planning Traps the Unprepared

By Rajiv Nagaich


(First in a series)

In 2011, the first wave of Baby Boomers turned 65 and for the next 15 years they will be turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 a day.1 For those individuals and for those who retired before them, issues surrounding retirement will play a significant role in the next few decades of their lives.

Though we approach retirement with the glee reserved for children leaving school for the first day of summer vacation, that enthusiasm and optimism can be short lived for retirees unprepared for the realities of aging. For many retirees and their families, a health care crisis will be their doorway to the realization that traditional planning on which they built their retirement will prove to be woefully inadequate in many respects.

Here is what I mean. Assume for a moment that you are a retiree. And that your planning was based on the traditional wisdom suggested to you by your medical providers, financial professionals and legal counsel. This means that to get ready for retirement you enrolled in Medicare and purchased a good supplement plan because you realize that without insurance you may not have access to health care you will need in retirement.

Following the financial planner's advice you managed to pay off your home and have a housing plan whereby you want to age in place until you get to a point where you can no longer manage living at home at which time you expect that you will move if you have to.2 Your financial planner also helped you create a retirement nest egg, which you will be able to count on to navigate through retirement.

Finally, you went to see a prominent attorney who helped you put together a trust, making it possible for your children to avoid suffering through the probate process and have named your agents under powers of attorney so someone has the ability to manage your affairs on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. At this point, you strongly believe there's nothing left to do in preparing for retirement past actually retiring.

Will you be right in assuming that you have done all you can to protect your assets, live a quality life and not be a burden on others? Maybe; maybe not.

Let me paint a picture of a hypothetical situation where this planning will prove to be inadequate. One evening as you sit kicked back in your recliner watching your favorite television show, you suddenly experience a massive headache - what Dr. Mark Alberts, director of the stroke program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago,3 calls the "sudden onset of the worst headache of your life."

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