Don’t go it alone: advice on financial planning for senior years

DETROIT - Although planning for a financially sound retirement can be an overwhelming process, it doesn't have to be if people start making decisions about it before they retire and seek professional help to steer them in the right direction.

Jim Lampertius, an attorney in Farmington Hills, knows it usually takes a trigger point to prompt most people into getting their financial and legal documents prepared for their senior years. "There is an element of procrastination, and for a few years I was like the shoemaker without shoes," said the managing attorney at Lampertius and Associates.

"Our international travel was a spurring point for us," said Lampertius, who adopted four Guatemalan children with his wife.

"Guardianship for minor children is a good example of a trigger point," he said. "When we adopted our first child, we really knew we had to expand beyond a simple will and medical and financial powers of attorney."

As an attorney who also holds a graduate certificate from Wayne State University's Institute of Gerontology, he has seen the court system shatter families who did not plan ahead. That experience and his growing family "was our main impetus to do a living trust as a married couple."

Living trusts are growing in popularity, he said, "and the true value of a trust is to protect beneficiaries." That could include such instances as a child with a disability or a spouse who is ill.

"Anticipating that help, and providing guidance on that help, ensures the best respect of the dignity for the person," said Lampertius, a lifelong Catholic. "It also provides the most effective way to get the best proper care and administration."

While many consider the financial retirement portion of their estate planning early on in their career, they often overlook medical directives, which vary by state.

Lampertius said it is important for a person at any stage of life to make sure their "financial and legal health is in order to properly respond to life as it evolves." In the past 20 years, he said, retirement planning has emphasized retirement accounts that enable money to be inherited or managed at death without accelerating all the taxes.

Not all retirees are able to afford a trained professional to help them get their finances in order and may also have difficulty with organizing expenses which is where Catholic Charities agencies often come in.

Several Catholic Charities agencies provide programs to help seniors understand and manage their personal finances and often also provide bill-paying and budgeting assistance.

Catholic Charities Hawaii offers a Money Management Assistance to the Elderly Program that fills the growing need of many elderly who cannot manage their own finances because of their increasing frailty, forgetfulness and confusion. The service allows elders to continue to live independently in their own homes and communities and avoid premature moves into nursing homes.

For those who are not in financial straits and not quite ready to retire, the AARP recommends another key way to stretch earnings for the later years: Keep working.

More than 60 percent of workers say they expect to retire at age 65 or later, according to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, up from 45 percent in 1991.

The 2008 book Working Longer: The Solution to the Retirement Income Challenge advises prolonging retirement for at even two to four years to preserve one's retirement savings and delay taking Social Security.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970