An Open Letter to Generation X

An Open Letter to Generation X

November 16, 2021


Our parents are getting older and guess what - that could impact our own retirement plans significantly. For me at 51, it’s been surreal to navigate our healthcare system and is a good reminder that I will eventually experience these changes. Being in the field of retirement, I’m surrounded with reminders about the aging process, how it relates to money, well-being, and its multi-generational impact.  I am also cognizant that for most people with parents at or nearing retirement age, their journey may not be top of mind so I decided to encourage my generation to take steps now to ensure your parents can retire with dignity and that you are prepared for what can sometimes feel like a role reversal rollercoaster.

The time is now for us to embrace the concept of “full circle” and prime ourselves for the process of caring for our parents as they go through multiple life stages associated with their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. People are living longer than ever and to live well equates to planning. For most retirees, the goal is simple: To not outlive their money. Easier said than done when you have staggering statistics around healthcare costs that often hit mid to late retirement. As an example, according to a recent study by Fidelity, the average lifetime retirement health care premium costs for a healthy 65-year-old couple living another 20 years, covered by Medicare Parts B, D, and a supplemental insurance is estimated at a whopping $300,000. That’s big number to navigate and it’s only one aspect of the retirement equation.

What does this all mean for us? Here are some basic factors we can seek to understand from our folks to get organized because the last thing they want is to create a burden for you.

  • When do they want to retire and what does “retire” mean for them? If your folks are already retired, how are they spending their time? What sparks joy? Pandemic aside.
  • Do your parents work with an advisor? Some financial professionals operate in conflicted arrangements where there are incentives for them to sell certain products and services. Others are full planners devoid of such incentives like Retirement Wellness Group. Ask questions about how they operate and if you like them note a second opinion never hurts.
  • Do they work with other trusted professionals? An accountant, attorney, etc.? Get to know them too.
  • Do they have an inventory of their possessions?
  • Are your parents financially secure? When a paycheck and benefits from a job cease, have they accumulated enough to maintain a similar lifestyle? Can they recover from a surprise expense?
  • Do you know what type of insurance(s) they have? Be it life, long term care or "other" – it’s good to understand what type of coverage they have or may need.
  • Do they have a Will, Trust, Power of Attorney, a POLST? Heath and Financial directives that state what to do and how.
  • How do they want to be remembered and what are their wishes once deceased?

If you are lucky enough to have your parents in your life, know gathering sensitive, personal information can be challenging. Try easing in with a soft approach.

  • Have you thought about where and how you want to spend your time once you’re not working full (or part) time? What would be ideal and/or drive you nuts?
  • Are you working with anyone who is helping you plan for retirement? What do you like/dislike about them or that process?
  • Would you be comfortable introducing me so I can be of support and better understand what you’d like retirement to look like?
  • Are there any worries that keep you up at night (finances, health, family dynamics, etc.)?
  • Do you feel like you have the right things in place to protect you if something happens?
  • How can I help?

It’s a lot to wrap your head around but don’t wait for a crisis to get involved. Work now to help set them up for success. Take it in bite sized pieces with the end goal of inclusion along with guides like us who are familiar with the evolution of aging. The difference you make will last lifetimes.

I remember my childhood filled with adventure, learning and sibling rivalry along with my more challenging years when my parents loved me unconditionally and supported me through good times and bad – mentally, physically, and financially. They nurtured me, made me stretch and taught me how to do the right thing, stand tall and they still do that today. The opportunity to help them is an honor. It a big responsibility that requires expert guidance, advocacy, adaptation, and some uncomfortable moments but please don’t stand on the sidelines. Join the conversation. Call us, we can be of service.