Far too many people wait much too long to make plans for their retirements, as well as all aspects of old age for that matter, with some never making such plans at all.
The consequences of not planning can be devastating for them and their families, according to a group of experts who discussed aging on Long Island this week.
“You’re never too young to plan, you’re never too old, you’re never too poor and you’re never too rich,” Jennifer Cona, managing partner at Melville-based Cona Elder Law, said Nov. 15 during a panel discussion presented by the Long Island Association (LIA) Small & Mid-Sized Business Committee at LIA’s Melville headquarters.
The event was billed as “The Top Challenges of Baby Boomers: Health, Caregiving, Finances, Retirement Anxiety and the Economy,” and LIA said the discussion was designed to “reduce your stress” about our golden years.
“I think the most important issue facing us as caregivers and our aging population is how it’s going to impact us as working elder caregivers and businesses,” Cona said. After all, “as business owners and as people who are trying to work and juggle these issues, it’s going to impact us both ways.”
Businesses are already seeing the impact from the lack of planning because many workers with deadlines and important meetings scheduled are often instead “flying out the door to deal with emergency issues for their parents” because “they haven’t planned ahead, they’re not prepared for those issues – whether it’s the hospitalizations or the home health aide didn’t show up or mom fell,” she noted.
In addition to the stress on those workers, businesses often suffer as well due to lost productivity and other issues, she said.
“Businesses have to get prepared for this silver tsunami, as they say, so that they can mitigate those issues,” she added.
The amount of money that many Americans have saved for retirement, meanwhile, is “woefully inadequate,” according to John Rizzo, LIA chief economist and a professor of economics and statistics at Stony Brook University. “Nearly half of Americans aged 50 and over have saved $25,000 or less for retirement,” he pointed out.
Compounding the issue, a growing number of young adults are living at home with parents due to issues including the high cost of housing and living on LI. Nearly three times as many young adults were living with their parents on the Island in 2016 as the rest of the U.S., he said.
Options for the elderly on Long Island include senior living communities that allow residents to remain independent in their golden years, such as Jefferson’s Ferry Lifecare Retirement Community in South Setauket, according to Linda Kolakowski, its vice president of resident life. Jefferson’s Ferry provides various levels of healthcare to residents and those services change and adapt as their healthcare needs change, but the cost remains the same throughout the time they live there, she pointed out.
“It gives you safety and security,” while keeping residents in their home environments, and also provides security for residents’ families and makes planning easier, she explained.
“People plan for retirement, but nobody plans for aging or for getting old,” Kolakowski said, adding that the result is many people regularly face new crises. “Nobody ever thinks it’s going to happen to them. It’s going to happen to the other person.”
Noting that about 57,000 people on Long Island have Alzheimer’s disease, Tori Cohen, executive director at the Westbury-based Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation, pointed out her organization helps not only those suffering from that disease, but family members who are balancing caregiving and work responsibilities.
When it comes to legal planning, it’s important for everybody to consider issues involving what will happen both before and after they die, according to Joseph La Ferlita, a partner at Uniondale law firm Farrell Fritz who specializes in trusts and estates.
“The key takeaway is planning for the inevitable because it is going to happen,” La Ferlita said of death. All too often, he told attendees, he “sees the outcome of the problem” of lack of planning when meeting with surviving spouses and others who’ve just lost loved ones, and the clients are confused and “don’t know where the assets are” in some cases, or “they’re concerned whether they’re going to have enough to live, they’re concerned about taxes and liquidity,” and also concerned about special needs children and family businesses.
La Ferlita also stressed the importance of everybody having a will, as well as health care proxies and power of attorney documents. The results of not having these legal documents is often unnecessary added misery and stress for family members who are already going through a tragedy.