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Boomers Refocus Their Planning for the Home Stretch

At this stage of clients’ lives, addressing fears is just as important as their goals.

A baby boomer couple, whom I’ll refer to as Aaron and Brigette, are having dinner with Carli, a woman who lost her husband some years ago. After catching up on what’s new in the neighborhood and around the world,  Aaron mentioned that he and Brigette are spending a lot of time on their financial planning. “We still have a lot of loose ends to tie up.” Brigette says. “Same here,” says Carli.

A Full Menu of Topics

Aaron opens the discussion, “Before we talk about what we have to fix, we should at least talk about what we don’t, and that’s estate planning. We’re done. Yeah, our attorney and tax advisor are talking about that sunset deal in a couple years, but frankly, we don’t think that’ll happen. And, even if it does, we don’t care.’

‘But there’s still plenty on our plate, pun intended, starting with our memorandum of instructions. You know, that’s the ’Sorry you have to read this’ letter that each of us leaves for the other, containing key information about where our investments and other accounts are and how they’re held, which advisors and institutions to contact along with their contact information and so forth. We also need to adjust some of the settings in our relationship with the trust company that’s handling our money. And we need to figure out what to do with our life insurance policies. And that’s just for starters, pun intended.”

Carli chimes in, “Ditto on the estate tax planning, mainly because with no children, I’m leaving everything to charity. The topics that hit home for me are investments and long-term care (LTC), which is the elephant in the room for all of us. I did take care of my life insurance with a life settlement. So, that’s my story.  Aaron, you’re on a roll, pun intended, so keep going.”

Memorandum of Instructions

Says Aaron, “The more we’ve read about what should be in these memos and how they should be formatted, the clearer it became that we’d have to bring ours back into the shop, and soon. The memos we did as healthy 60 somethings working at places that had human resource departments who knew us are just no longer adequate for us as not so healthy, retired 70 somethings out on our own. There are many more people, organizations and topics to deal with than when our financial matters were more compartmentalized. And a lot of things will have to be done within a pretty tight timeframe, with the right information close at hand to get them done right.’

‘Anyway, it’s not that the contact information isn’t current. We’ve kept up with that. The problem is that the accompanying instructions are too rudimentary to be helpful. There’s very little of the ‘what, when, why and how’ that the experts in this area say would be of the greatest value to the survivor, especially in a time of stress. And our formatting needs work too. It doesn’t present the steps and the accompanying instructions in order of priority from most urgent and time-sensitive to ‘when you get around to it.’

‘You know, It baffles us that more advisors don’t offer to help their clients create these memos. They can uncover needs for more planning or services and strengthen their client relationships much more effectively than with their usual marketing pitches.”


“As I said, along with LTC, investments is the topic that made me feel the most uncomfortable,” says Carli. “Every time I read an article about managing money as you get older, I think they’re talking to me. I listen to what other people my age, including you two, are doing and I ask myself, ‘What are you thinking? Why are you still trying to manage your own money?’ When I try to tell myself ‘It’s a hobby’ or ‘It’s good for me because it keeps me sharp,’ I know I’m kidding myself. I like to follow the markets and even choose the funds, but honestly, It’s just become too complicated, too stressful. And the clincher is when I think about what would happen to my money if and when my ability to manage anything starts to fade.’

‘So, I asked my attorney and my tax advisor to suggest some investment advisors and trust companies that I should interview. I’ll be talking to about half a dozen of them in the next few weeks. My attorney sent me a couple of articles to use to prepare for the meetings. “Preparing Baby Boomers to Interview Trustees” and “A Boomer Couple Interviews Investment Advisors.”

“We made that move to a trust company about a year ago,” says Brigette. “I can’t tell you how relieved we were to unload that responsibility, The relationship also provides us with an element of continuity that I was concerned was missing in our planning. But, as A said, we still need do a little tweaking in the relationship.”

Aaron interrupts, “Here’s the problem. Brigette has a background in finance and had always handled our investments. When we meet with the team at the trust company for periodic reviews, it’s obvious that they know that Brigette understands what they’re talking about, and I don’t. I’m in the room, but not in the conversation. So, after each meeting, Brigette tries to explain to me what they said and how they’re doing with our money, which, by the way, is pretty well.”

Brigette resumes, “It’s a little more problematic to me than Aaron’s letting on. I don’t mind explaining all that to him. My real concern is what happens if I predecease Aaron or just lose my marbles and nobody can find them. While he’ll have the right structure in place, Aaron will have a steep learning curve to understand what they’re saying, how to evaluate their performance, how and when to challenge them and so forth. That would disrupt the continuity and defeat some of the purpose of using the trust company.’

‘So, after talking with some others we know who have the same concerns, we’re doing a couple of things. First, I let our relationship manager know that when it’s time for the next review, I’ll send them the agenda. Instead of the usual direct dive into the returns versus the benchmarks and their gurus’ comments on the economy and all that, they should start with an overview of our investment policy statement, how the portfolio’s been constructed to carry out that policy, what the components of the portfolio are bringing to the table or taking away from it as the case may be, and then the usual perspective on the markets and the adjustments they plan to our portfolio. Not only will that take some of the burden off me, it’ll give me some assurance that their presentations to him in the event of my ‘absence’ will be clear and holistic.’

‘Also, we’ve gone back to our estate planning attorney to doublecheck that the individual we designated as a protector is empowered and charged with the responsibility to track the trustee’s performance and help Aaron, or me if I’ve lost the capacity, to communicate with them if necessary.”

Life Insurance

Brigette asks Carli to tell them what she did with her life insurance policy. “I have a new agent who told me about life settlements. He took me through the process and even did a teleconference with my attorney and tax advisor, who asked him all kinds of questions about how a life settlement company gets the best offer, how she chooses a life settlement company, how the transaction is taxed and so forth. All three of them went through other options I had for the policy, but I told them that If I could get a good price for the policy, I’d take it. And that’s what I did.”

Brigette says, “We’re still holding on to a couple of whole life policies from Feelings Mutual, though we’re no longer paying premiums. We’re very content to keep the policies for the duration, but we also have a new agent who suggested that we might want to see how we can deploy the policies for our advantage during our lifetimes. In fact, he sent us an article that discusses the options, “A Boomer at the Crossroads of a Vintage Policy.” Anyway, we chose one of the options he showed us. You should see the income the policies can generate for us now without, by the way, losing any death benefit. It was a good move for us.”


Carli then turns to LTC. “This is the my worst fear. It’s the great abyss. For so long, I didn’t pay attention to it because I considered it a subject for old people. Well, hello. Anyway, every aspect of it troubles me. It’s not the cost I’m concerned about. It’s the availability of quality care. The more I read and hear, the more I wonder what kind of services will be provided by what kind of facilities, if they’re even able to find and keep staff in the first place. I could stay in my condo and use a home care service as long as possible, but who knows how that would work out or for how long? This is such a puzzlement! And, you know, unlike you two, I don’t have anybody to look out for me, which makes it that much more frightening.”

Back to Brigette, “We’re on the same page, which is why we’re trying to learn as much as we can about the topic of elder care, broadly speaking. We’re going to meet with a couple of geriatric care managers to understand what they do, how they would help us create a glide path for that phase of our lives, check out providers and all that. You should join us. We’re even thinking of changing our law firm to one that offers comprehensive elder care services in-house because that could be a good way to coordinate our care with our affairs.  And we’d better get started on that, because it’s not like we’re going to get a text or email telling us that as of a certain date and time, we’ll have lost it. Like with the memo of instructions, I don’t understand why more advisors don’t offer programs on topics like this, I mean, not on the documents or the products, like annuities or LTC insurance. I’m talking about when and how to find and assess the services you need. Meanwhile, the waiter keeps looking over here, so we’d better order. Anyone remember the specials?”

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