If you’re planning on aging at home, you must look at the emotional and the financial costs, explains Audrey Miller.
Many Canadians are viewing retirement through a different lens than they did a few years ago.
“The pandemic has reset how people are thinking about aging in later stages of life and elder care for themselves and loved ones,” says Tony Maiorino, vice president and director, head of RBC Wealth Management Family Office Services. “Previously, people thought they would live at home as long as they could, and then when they couldn’t, they’d move to a residence.”
Canadians still want to age in place, and now they prefer to avoid moving at all, a survey by the National Institute of Ageing illustrates.
The poll found well over 90 per cent of Canadians aged 65 and older intend to stay in their home as long as possible. The institute, based out of Toronto Metropolitan University, also highlighted that Canadians face many challenges in doing so, noting 25 per cent of individuals aged 75 and older have at least one unmet need. Those requirements include an inability to get groceries, clean their homes, or even dress and feed themselves.
Those concerns can and should be addressed in a comprehensive retirement plan, Mr. Maiorino notes.
“The challenge is educating individuals about getting on the right path at the very beginning versus waiting until something happens that requires action and then spinning their wheels trying to figure out what they can and can’t afford.”
Financial planning for retirement beyond its early years – which many aim to fill with travel and other leisure – is more important than ever, given that the costs of elder care are already high and likely to increase. Inevitably, Canadians will require more of their savings to address public health-care shortfalls.
“So, aging in place safely sounds great, but what will that really cost?” asks Audrey Miller, a social worker and managing director of Elder Caring Inc., which helps individuals and families create elder care plans. Ms. Miller and Elder Caring Inc. are RBC Wealth Management’s healthy aging partner and currently provide services nationally to its clients.
She notes the typical rate for a private caregiver is about $35 an hour which, depending on need, can exceed $100,000 annually. Home modifications are another potential big investment. Installing a chairlift and bathroom remodification with safety supports, for example, costs between $12,000 and $25,000, she says.
“When we look at strategies like aging in place as long as possible, it’s not just about the financial cost, it’s also about looking at the emotional costs.”
Aging individuals are often moored to the idea of remaining in their home without considering other, potentially better options, including assisted living, where services such as meals, laundry, cleaning and socialization are provided. Monthly rents range from $3,000 to more than $10,000, Ms. Miller says.
This is where a wealth management team like RBC’s can provide clarity, Mr. Maiorino says. “We work with clients to cost out many scenarios, from home modifications and extended home care to selling their home and moving to a seniors’ residence.
“Part of this process is looking at all their assets to determine which ones should be allocated first to pay for these needs, particularly from a tax perspective to stretch their dollars further.”
Planning is by no means simple. It often involves multiple variables – from the amount and types of retirement assets and income they have, to their longevity and medical history.
The process involves some foundational steps, such as ensuring individuals have an up-to-date power of attorney, someone they trust to manage their finances. Equally important is designating a substitute decision maker, again identifying a trusted person to make health-care decisions on their behalf.
“These are must-haves for all individuals to ensure if they can no longer take care of themselves their wishes are still respected in their care plan,” Mr. Maiorino says.
To that end, they must also discuss their plans with family, including identifying the location of important documents, he adds. It is equally important to consider who would be an appropriate choice to act as your power of attorney for property when the time comes. Family or friends are often the default, but there may be times when a professional power of attorney for property may be the best option.
These considerations should come up when working with a qualified wealth advisor to build a plan addressing the entire spectrum of retirement – a task best tackled as soon as possible, Mr. Maiorino says.
“Working with your advisor and having these conversations sooner rather than later ultimately allows you to develop a plan offering more flexibility to meet your elder care needs – whatever you determine those to be.”
This article was originally published in The Globe and Mail .
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