Retirement Stage Three: “Slow-Go Years”
by Stan Corey
John Lennon once said, “Life happens while making other plans.”
The “Slow-Go Years” are that later stage of life when things seem to slow down a bit. You find yourself spending more time closer to home and enjoying family and friends. Perhaps you become more involved in the local community. But at this stage you can also have a sudden medical issue occur that will sideline you, whether it be a failing joint or a disease diagnosis. Maybe children or friends have noticed that you are “slowing down a bit” or that your memory is not as sharp as it was in the past. It can be challenging for those in this stage to even admit there is a potential problem, and this denial can lead to procrastination in making some necessary decisions. Many times, I have heard a client say that they “will know when it is time to make a change or relocate to a more manageable location.” The problem is, they rarely do!
One of the major considerations that will influence decisions in this stage is health. Maybe you or your spouse has experienced health changes that have resulted in less mobility. Or maybe your spouse’s health scare was so severe you had to face the prospect of being a widow or widower. As a result, you may have realized it’s time to think harder than ever about moving to a retirement community or relocating to be closer to family or friends. These are both common choices.
Here are a few comments I have received from clients over the years:
“My kids are suggesting I move closer to them or into a retirement community that offers independent living as well as various levels of care. But I hate the thought of moving or going to an assisted-care facility.”
“I didn’t expect to have to make so many changes to my home in order to accommodate my reduced mobility.”
“The older I get, the harder I find it to make changes. Maybe I’ll die before having to make a move!”
“Trying to find a place is depressing. I cannot find anywhere I look forward to moving to.”
Do these statements reflect some of your own thoughts about making changes?
The Upside to Downsizing
This stage of life is when you may want to make those difficult decisions about downsizing, which, in this context, usually means relocating as well. Relocating often requires eliminating many of the possessions you’ve accumulated over your lifetime—decluttering. Unfortunately, too many in the Slow-Go Years interpret relocating as the beginning of the end. And this often leads to putting off taking important action. But rather than the end of life as you know it, it’s actually the beginning of a new stage that will provide you as much freedom and independence as possible. Yes, there are many decisions to be made, but if you take charge and make these decisions yourself, you are taking control of your future and not leaving it to someone else.
Decluttering is not just about getting rid of unneeded possessions. It is also about simplifying your finances. Have you made plans to finance the cost of long-term care, or have you purchased long-term care insurance policies? Make sure you’ve written your intentions down and be sure you’ve identified all income sources. For example, you can generate additional money through selling your home, obtaining a reverse mortgage, selling your life insurance policy, withdrawing cash value from whole life policies, dipping into retirement accounts and personal investments, and selling personal property such as a car that is no longer needed or old jewelry that the children do not want. Just remember that furniture, unless it is an antique, has little value other than the amount you’ll receive by donating it.
You can speed up decluttering by including your family members in the process. For instance, you can give your adult children a chance to indicate what items they want for themselves. A simple way to declutter is to give away items to family members, sell items in an estate sale, make gifts to charities, and throw away the rest!
When involving your children in the decluttering process, consider asking them to provide you a list of items they would most like to keep upon your relocating or death. An alternative approach (or additional) would be to create a list of items that you’ve designated specific children to receive. You can include this list with your estate documents. Your executor or successor trustee will be charged to carry out your wishes, and having a letter of instruction from you can make that job much easier.
Living Well During Your Slow-Go Years
As Henry David Thoreau said, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” A major goal the Slow-Go Years is to provide you as much freedom and independence as possible by simplifying your life. Simplifying may include not only decluttering but also setting up automatic bill payments, reducing the number of investment accounts and bank accounts, and making sure your will, revocable trust, power of attorney, and medical directives are all up to date. By taking the steps to modify your home, relocate, combine financial accounts, and update your estate documents you’re setting yourself up to enjoy your life on your own terms and not depending upon others to make the difficult choices for you.
Along with simplifying your life, adapting to change is another fundamental quality of living well during your Slow-Go Years. Aging in place may be one step along a series of care options you’ll need. By maintaining a flexible mindset, you’ll navigate each transition with more ease and less stress than if you insisted on one particular option and refused to budge from your position.
Lastly, no single living option will correspond with all people at a certain age. What’s right for you depends on your financial status, health, preferences, location, spouse, and family situation.
Photo credit by “Little Big House of Miracles” by Tigles1Artistry (Portugal) and fellow Silver Sager and “Three Houses” by Victor Efimchenko (Russia).
Stan Corey has been a Certified Financial Planner Professional (CFP), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), and Certified Private Wealth Advisor (CPWA) for almost 40 years. Though retired from the day-to-day activity of providing financial advisory services, he continues to consult in specialized areas as a financial fiduciary. Stan is a sought-after expert who regularly provides financial commentary at national conferences, in print and online publications, and on TV. He has a reputation for taking complex financial issues and making them understandable to the average person. He likes to say he is a “financial translator.” He has published two books: a novel, “The Divorce Dance,” in 2016, and a non-fiction work, “When Work Becomes Optional,” in 2018. Web site: www.stancorey.com.