No kids? Plan carefully for retirement

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Whether you’re a RINK (retired, independent, no kids) or a DINK (dual income, no kids), you may find that building a nest egg for the golden years isn’t enough.

If you don’t have children, you need to ensure that someone will look out for your best interests should there come a time when your body starts to give out or you just can’t take care of yourself anymore.

You can pay for attorneys, accountants and financial planners to watch your assets. Health care professionals can monitor your health and people can be hired to cook and clean. But who’s going to coordinate your care, observe the people who are assisting you and make sure that your voice is heard and your wishes are respected?

We all need to think about these issues whether or not we have children. Today’s mobile society provides little guarantee that grown children will live nearby. Even when they live in close proximity, family and job demands may limit the amount of time they have to devote to an ailing parent. And, sadly, too often parents and children are either estranged or have a dysfunctional relationship.

If you don’t outlive your spouse, siblings and friends, you can hope to rely on them, but it’s a big plus to have someone physically and mentally strong to deal with the issues and hassles that may arise. The bottom line is you should begin assembling a team of professionals, friends and relatives. Let them know your wishes — and put them in writing — before you become dependent.

Living arrangements for people age 65 and older
Live alone 30.4%
Live with spouse 54.5%
Live with other relative 12.4%
Live with nonrelative 2.6%
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006

“People are afraid of doing this because they’re afraid of losing control,” says Chris Cooper, a Certified Financial Planner based in Toledo, Ohio. “They’re not losing control; they’re delegating control so that they stay in control. If you don’t do it, control can be taken away from you either by your own poor health or by a court.”

Cooper, who is also a nurse and holds a graduate degree in gerontology, founded ElderCare Advocates to assist clients who are dealing with long-term care planning and end-of-life issues.

“I oversee the services that they’re getting — money managers, accountants, household employees, home health care and nursing home people and transportation. I help create the budgets to help pay for this,” says Cooper.

“Long-term care begins when you can’t do for yourself what you used to do for yourself. If you used to mow the lawn and now you can’t, that’s long-term care. If you used to balance your checkbook and now you can’t, that’s long-term care. People want to think of long-term care as the day you go to a nursing home. If you get services sooner rather than later you’ll reduce the potential of ever going in a nursing home.”

Cooper is a rare breed. Most financial planners aren’t set up to handle everything that he does; but they can play a pivotal role.

Building the team
Raymond Mignone, a Certified Financial Planner in Little Neck, N.Y., and author of “RINKs — Retired, Independent, No Kids,” says a good certified financial planner will have contacts with reputable estate and elder-law attorneys, long-term care insurance representatives and accountants. As a result, they can often coordinate what he calls the “money team.”

“The financial adviser can be the coordinator. He’s the one who has contact on a more regular basis because he’s helping them manage their investments.

But there’s a second team, the emotional team. If you have brothers and sisters, then you have people who can help you, otherwise close friends,” Mignone says. “They’re the people who will be there when you need them.”

Timing can be everything because we never know when we might become disabled or even incapable of expressing our wishes. Once you begin acquiring assets, consider assembling your financial team. Among other things, someone should be given power of attorney for financial matters. You decide whether their power will be broad-based or limited.

Key members of your emotional team should also be asked early on if they would mind handling certain duties should you become incapacitated, as someone should be named to make health care decisions.

Recruiting team members
Some team members may not need to be recruited as early as others. As you age it’s important to think about the various areas where you may want assistance and then bring them into the plan, says Erika Safran, principal at Financial Asset Management Corp., in New York.

“When you’re in your mid 60s and early 70s and you’re well, tell people what you’d like to do. I need someone to accompany me on doctor visits. Is there a service, an outlet, a social worker who is available for this? There are companies that do that. It’s the equivalent of renting an adult child. They will check on people who live alone and they will take them to the doctor. It’s these small quality of life issues. Who’s going to interpret what the doctor says?”

Geriatric care managers can provide many needed services, including accompanying a client to the doctor. The profession has been around for quite some time, but the huge upswing in demand, as the baby boomer generation ages, is showing the need for certification standards.

“The geriatric care managers’ profession is not well-defined and there are no state laws governing it,” says Cooper. “You might have a nurse’s aide acting as a care manager or you might have a social worker with a master’s degree acting as one. There are no real standards and that’s where the problem is.”

National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers is trying to change that, according to director Debra Levy. In 2006, members voted to require that all new members hold one of four approved certifications: Care Manager Certified (CMC), Certified Case Manager (CCM), Certified Advanced Social Work Case Manager (C-ASWCM) and/or Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM). All current members must hold one of the certifications by Jan. 1, 2010.

“It’s not that difficult to hang out a shingle and say you’re a care manager,” Levy says. “We want to contribute to the quality of the profession.

Finding help
“Most major cities have geriatric care managers (from the association). They’re health and human services experts, social workers and registered nurses. Some have backgrounds in counseling or gerontology. We do a comprehensive assessment of their needs in their home, nursing or assisted-living facility. We consider physical, medical and psychological (needs) and we see if there are legal or financial matters that are not in place. We suggest a plan of care and then most of the time we’re hired to implement the plan.”

Fees for services vary, but the comprehensive assessment runs $300 to $800, according to Levy. Ongoing care ranges from $80 to $200 an hour depending on the complexity of the care and the region of the country. Long-term care insurance may cover costs, but Medicare and traditional health insurance plans do not.

Doctors, especially those specializing in the elderly, should also be able to assist with assessments and referrals to qualified care managers. You can also search the
NAPGCM database for care managers that belong to the organization. Be sure to check credentials before hiring anyone. Another source for information about geriatric care managers is