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Elder Planning: Life’s Transitions After Retirement

Elder planningClients often fantasize about retirement; it becomes a sort of finish line for them. Get to retirement and you’ve made it. What they might not consider are the ways life may change once they’ve retired, and the financial, health care and other planning needs that go into preparing for the future.

Enter the knowledgeable CPA/PFS, who can go beyond retirement planning and assist with elder planning. There is a fine line between retirement planning and elder planning: While all financial planners help ensure their clients have enough savings to last until the end of their lives, elder planning also involves helping clients plan for life’s transitions after retirement.

You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t that the same as retirement planning?” Not really. Elder planning goes beyond financial independence and retirement to touch all areas of financial planning, including investment strategy, health care, estate planning, risk management (insurance) and end-of-life care.

Elder planning focuses attention on those life transitions that result from aging. How could changes in housing or health needs affect the client’s financial and legacy goals? Are proper documents in place to achieve these goals regardless of physical or cognitive impairment? While CPA financial planners would not get involved in a evaluating a client’s need for health care and housing, they are crucial in decisions about evaluating potential options, funding those options and defining the impact on their current financial goals. These decisions often require connecting clients with professionals in areas that complement our services, such as elder law attorneys, geriatric care managers and others who have deep knowledge in this area.

I think the key to successful elder planning is to address the future with your clients as they age rather than when they are in a crisis, as well as helping them make more informed decisions. Too many times I have seen families scrambling to figure out what to do with their parents in the event of a sudden decline in health. One such example is the sudden need to find a good continuing care retirement community (CCRC). It isn’t as simple as finding the one closest to home; there are other factors to consider such as base and add-on pricing, the facility’s financial stability, and quality of care. In this instance, proactively planning for a CCRC could have helped—and that’s part of elder planning. Brad Breeding, one of the speakers at the annual AICPA Advanced PFP Conference, wrote an AICPA Insights blog post about this topic last year.

It is so important for CPAs to know about elder planning that the AICPA’s PFP Executive Committee decided to make it a focus for 2016 by bringing PFP Section members the following resources:

  • A CPA guide to life transitions after retirement, including elder planning: Authored by Jim Sullivan, this comprehensive online reference, similar to last year’s CPA’s Guide to Practical Retirement Planning, will be published later this year. It will touch on all the topics associated with transitions later in life and include practical checklists and resources.
  • Series of articles for the CPA Insider and The Tax Adviser: Topics will include how to serve older clients, how to build rapport with older clients, the steps to take when a client is diagnosed with a terminal illness, estate planning and more.
  • Video panel presentation: This unique video will include practitioners discussing elder planning topics to ensure that practitioners cover all that they should with their clients.
  • Conference topics: Presentations will be given at various conferences, including the AICPA’s Estate Planning Conference in July.
  • Webcasts and podcasts: Topics will include life transitions and how they affect your practice, end-of-life planning, and estate planning implications of aging.

The bottom line is this: The more you can do for your clients immediately, before they face these issues, the more valued and respected resource you will be. The PFP Division will help you get there. Stay tuned!

For more information:  The AICPA’s PFP Division has a consumer booklet, A Guide to Financial Decisions: Implementing an End-of-Life Plan, with helpful checklists for CPAs to use with their clients.  In addition to the resources mentioned above, PFP Section members, inclusive of PFS credential holders, have access elder planning information in the CPA Guides on financial and estate planning and  Social Security and retirement healthcare, as well as a wide variety of client education available in Forefield Advisor

Lyle K. Benson Jr., CPA/PFS, L.K. Benson & Co., PC. Lyle is president and founder of L.K. Benson & Company, a CPA/Financial Planning firm based in Baltimore, Maryland. The firm specializes in personal financial planning, tax and investment advisory services for high-income individuals and families, as well as corporate executives and entrepreneurial, closely held business owners across the country. Lyle is immediate past chair of the AICPA’s PFP Executive Committee. Contact him at lyle@lkbenson.com.

Elderly couple courtesy of Shutterstock.

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