“I Wish I Had…”: Avoiding Common Regrets as You Prepare for Your Third Act

By Published On: August 23, 2023Categories: Aging Parents6.2 min read

How do you imagine your golden years? If you’re like most people, you may picture a life filled with relaxation, travel, hobbies, and quality time with loved ones. After all, retirement is a time to kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labor after a lifetime of hard work and perseverance.

Yet for many retirees, this carefree lifestyle is just a dream. The 9-to-5 routine may be behind them, but they never feel truly free. Instead, they find themselves stressing about their future healthcare needs and financial obligations, lamenting the fact that they didn’t plan more carefully.

No one envisions their golden years filled with regrets. But for many, retirement is a stark reminder of the missed opportunities and oversights that now stand in the way of financial freedom. Instead of dreaming about the possibilities that lie ahead, these retirees often find themselves thinking, “I wish I had…”

“I wish I had looked more closely at my long-term care policy.”

Long-term care insurance (LTC) can be pivotal in offsetting healthcare costs later in life and determining the quality of care you’ll receive. But like most types of insurance, your coverage depends on the details of your LTC policy.

Indeed, LTC policies come with a variety of options, clauses, limitations, and potential riders that can significantly impact your access to care and overall financial burden. For instance, some policies have waiting periods or deductibles before benefits kick in. Meanwhile, others may have strict definitions of what constitutes a qualifying event to trigger benefits.

Furthermore, the rising cost of healthcare may reduce the value of your daily or monthly benefit amount over time. If your policy doesn’t contain an inflation protection rider, your benefits may fall short of your actual expenses when you eventually need care.

To avoid being blindsided by potential gaps in coverage, it’s essential to thoroughly understand your LTC policy, including waiting periods, benefit triggers, and coverage limitations—well before you’re facing the reality of needing assistance. In some cases, you may need to purchase supplementary coverage or implement additional financial strategies to prepare for the possibility of costly custodial care in your later years.

“I wish I had gotten my affairs in order before cognitive decline set in.”

Cognitive decline can be a silent journey, its signs often sneaking up slowly and imperceptibly. By the time many older adults truly recognize its impact, even the simplest tasks can seem like insurmountable challenges. Suddenly, making informed choices, understanding complex information, or recalling essential details can feel strenuous or out of reach.

Thus, the onset of cognitive decline isn’t the time to start putting incapacity and end-of-life plans in place. In addition to the possibility that you may not be able to effectively communicate your wishes, those who don’t have your best interests at heart may attempt to exploit your condition for their own benefit. Ultimately, your wishes may not be heard or respected by those who have legal authority to make decisions on your behalf.

Therefore, it’s critical to put essential documents like an advanced healthcare directive and powers of attorney in place well before you need them. That way if you reach a point where you can’t manage your affairs or communicate your intentions, you can rest easy knowing someone you trust will be there to act accordingly on your behalf.

“I wish I had researched assisted living and nursing home options before I needed them.”

The environment in which you spend your later years can have a profound impact on your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. As you age, your needs and preferences evolve, making the choice of assisted living or nursing homes more than just a logistical decision—it’s about preserving dignity, ensuring comfort, and facilitating good health.

Waiting until the last minute to explore this decision may result in fewer options, potentially forcing you into a facility that doesn’t suit your preferred lifestyle or offer the best care. Furthermore, the location may be far from family and friends, making it difficult for them to visit regularly and leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Not to mention, the financial implications of these decisions can be significant. Without ample time to plan, you may not have the financial resources or right insurance policy to cover the cost of a quality facility. Researching your options ahead of time allows you and your family the opportunity to discuss, plan, and make collective decisions, securing everyone’s peace of mind.

“I wish I had taken the time to create a more comprehensive estate plan.”

Many people view the completion of a last will and testament as the cornerstone of estate planning. While a will can be a valuable component of your estate plan, relying on it alone can leave significant gaps in your preparations for the future.

A will primarily dictates the distribution of your assets upon your death. However, many assets, such as jointly owned properties, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies, bypass the will and transfer directly to named beneficiaries.

In addition, a will must go through the probate process, a public legal proceeding where a court validates your will and supervises the distribution of your assets. In doing so, the details of your estate become a matter of public record, potentially compromising your family’s privacy.

On the other hand, instruments like living trusts not only help distribute your assets more efficiently but also bypass the probate process entirely, thereby preserving your family’s privacy. By leveraging more sophisticated estate planning strategies, you may be able to preserve more of your estate and prevent many of the issues that often lead to family disagreements and discord.

“I wish I had communicated my end-of-life wishes to my family.”

While it’s human nature to shy away from contemplating our mortality or potential incapacity, the implications of neglecting such considerations can be profound.

Indeed, addressing end-of-life wishes isn’t merely about your individual desires. It’s also about giving your loved ones the tools and guidance to act in your best interest when emotion and uncertainty cloud their judgment.

Without explicit communication, your family may be left to make incredibly difficult decisions under duress, which can lead to disagreements or guilt. These types of situations can strain relationships and introduce conflict during times when unity and support are needed most.

Communicating your end-of-life wishes to your loved ones can be daunting. However, proactively addressing them is an act of love, providing clear guidance to those you leave behind and allowing them to make informed decisions without the weight of ambiguity and doubt.

“I wish I had asked for more help.”

Mapping out the third act of your life isn’t just about ensuring your peace of mind but also about providing clarity and guidance for your loved ones. While the journey can be challenging and overwhelming at times, you don’t have to go through it alone. With expert advice and a comprehensive approach, you can navigate the complexities of aging with the confidence that you’ve made informed, forward-thinking decisions.

At CornerCap, we provide support for every aspect of our clients’ financial health and well-being, from identifying assisted living facilities that align with your values and preferences to developing a comprehensive estate plan and communicating your wishes to your loved ones. Contact us today for a Plan360 evaluation and let us help you develop a holistic plan for your third act.

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A Will Isn’t Enough: Preparing for the Hidden “What Ifs” that Can Compromise Your Golden Years
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