THE Talk 2.0

I had a conversation the other day with an acquaintance that reminded me that we are not getting any younger. This gentleman was sharing his experience caring for his grandmother in her later years. In the course of conversation, he remarked that despite the decline in her health and mental acuity, she never felt herself to be old. “In her mind,” he said, “she was still the young woman who joined the Army at the tail end of WWII. She would at times tell me that when she looked in the mirror, she didn’t recognize herself. She’d say, ‘who’s that old woman?’” I think many people of an advanced age would perhaps agree that, while getting older certainly can have some physical signs to accompany it, one doesn’t necessarily nor automatically feel old. I certainly don’t feel my age.

Many of today’s seniors are still very independent, both in body and in mind. The mindset that “I can always take care of myself” can make them reluctant to openly discuss their affairs—particularly their financial affairs—with their adult children. It isn’t an easy mental shift to think about needing assistance with anything, especially after so many years of being independent. Unfortunately, too many boomers are in denial about their own aging, or simply fail to plan for the eventualities that will come. At some point, issues of living to an advanced age will have to be addressed, and too many families struggle with managing a crisis that could have been averted.  When that happens, sub-optimal solutions become the norm.

Senior adulthood is simply another stage of life and can be filled with growth and opportunity. To take full advantage requires that we continue to envision and plan for our future. A book I recommend on the subject is The Other Talk: A Boomer’s Guide to Talking with Your Family About the Rest of Your Life.  It is based on the recollection of the often difficult first talk that we had, or didn’t, with our teenager about sex.

Now that the teenager is well into adulthood and we Boomers are moving into seniorhood, it’s time for The 2.0 Talk. I encourage every boomer to have the conversation with their adult children. While financial planning is an important topic when talking about the rest of your life, it is impacted by so many other questions: where to live, how to manage health concerns, and end of life wishes, just to name a few.  Whether you have a plan in place or haven’t yet given much thought to doing so, simply sitting down with your family and talking through your vision and purpose has its own rewards. It can very well lead to deeper, more meaningful, relationships between generations. The how and when and what will differ from family to family, and it might be awkward for some, not so for others. It probably isn’t the most natural after-dinner conversation, but setting aside time with loved ones and mustering the courage to do this is important. It is almost assured that it  becomes more urgent as time goes by.

The Other Talk doesn’t have to be a serious or morbid conversation, or even a long, detailed one. Just starting can make a difference and can open the room for other conversations. Being open to each other’s perspectives can be a step toward a fruitful discussion. You may not want to start off talking about what everyone will inherit when you are gone.  We have some discussion starters if you need them. You could start by sharing this blog post.

By the way, it is much easier when the parent initiates the conversation.  But the child can easily start the discussion with something like, “Hey mom, how do you want to be remembered when you’re no longer around?”

Scroll down and leave a comment on where you are on the topic and the questions that arise after you have read this post.

Time to Choose a Different Medicare Plan?

5 questions to ask yourself

It’s that time of year again. And no, we aren’t talking about Black Friday or Cyber Monday? It’s the Annual Election Period (AEP) for Medicare which runs until December 7. I know, reviewing your coverage probably isn’t on your to-do list for the holidays. Just think of it as a special gift you get to pick out yourself. The open enrollment period is a chance for a do-over if you don’t like the plan you have or if it no longer fits. What changes you can or decide to make will depend on the type of Supplement coverage you have, whether it’s Original Medicare (Part A and B) or a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) from a private insurer. Here are 5 things to consider to help you decide if your current Medicare Supplement coverage is right for you (or a loved one).

1. What are my true medical needs?

This might seem like an obvious question, but how’s your health? It is important to review any plan details to find out what you’re actually getting, or perhaps more importantly aren’t getting, compared to your medical needs. Someone who is fairly healthy and mostly engaged in preventive care practices is in a different situation than someone who might have a serious on-going medical condition requiring more intensive treatment. Your situation can change over time; plan benefits can change from year to year as well.

2. Does my doctor or hospital accept my plan?

It is important to know if the doctor you would like to see will accept your coverage. But also just as important is knowing that you will be able to get the care you need at a hospital or other treatment facility. Basic Medicare only covers certain procedures or may pay only a portion of a medical procedure, and this can affect the treatments and procedures that medical professionals may recommend. You also may not need extra coverage for certain medical procedures.

3. Do  I need drug coverage?

If you have a private health policy, or carry other prescription drug coverage, you may not need a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D). If you do decide you need the coverage, look at the options in light of what you need. What are your current out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions? Do you take expensive medications?

4. Do I really need coverage for some things?

Have you dreamed of the day you could take off to see the world? If so, you may consider travel coverage. Medicare supplement plans (Part F, G, etc.) sold by private insurance companies can help cover costs Original Medicare doesn’t, but the costs for these plans vary widely and it pays to shop around. Depending on your circumstances, you may be over-insuring by choosing this type of coverage. It may be more cost effective to simply set that money aside.

5. How much premium can I afford?

How much are you currently paying for plan premiums, out-of-pocket expenses and copays? Every insurance company has to offer similar benefits for Medigap insurance, but they can, and do, charge different premiums for the same coverage. Some Medicare Advantage plans may not be much more costly than the premium for Original Medicare, and may cover some additional routine care expenses (like vision, dental or wellness programs). Many include prescription drug coverage. On the other hand, such plans can also have higher premiums, different provider networks, and out-of-pocket limits. Consider the long term; what’s your tolerance and capacity for financial risk and how does that fit with your Medicare plan?

You only have until December 7th to review the coverage you have and elect something different, if what you have isn’t working for you.  If you don’t have the time to review it now, the good news is that you will only have to live with it for one more year before you have another opportunity.