I looked out my kitchen window early this morning and witnessed a blue jay so full of himself that he was bouncing as he sang. I think, no, I am sure that he was singing the Easter hymn, “Welcome Happy Morning”. It may be the same hymn that those of you who are fortunate enough to have retired may have sung on your first morning as a retiree. Even though the retirees that I work with tell me that their days are generally filled with activities, I think that many of these chores can be scheduled as is convenient. There may also be the opportunity to give time to charitable and civic organizations, to travel, to visit with and help out with grandchildren. To insure that these grandchildren do not have to help pay for your care, then, of course, there is the need to plan for long term health and financial security. As mentioned many times in these articles, the cost of health care in retirement is a major factor in future quality of life. Taking the time early on to map out your routing for the possible need for long term care—whether it be home health, assisted living or skilled care nursing facilities—is important. In the April 16 online version of Morningstar, it was noted that experts estimate that 70% of us over the age of 65 will need some type of long term care. According to a 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey published in March by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, workers are less confident about their ability to pay for medical care and long term care than they are about meeting basic expenses. There is a good reason for this. The long term care system is fragmented and not easy to understand. For example, Medicaid pays for about half of all care, covering nursing home and community-based care, but only if you spend yourself down to indigent levels. Medicare provides coverage for up to 100 days of skilled nursing home or rehab if ordered by a physician. Not much help there. That leaves private insurance, and many insurers have decided that the business isn’t worth the trouble. Many carriers have stopped writing policies while increasing premiums on existing policyholders. Despite all this, you need to do your homework, because there is a good chance that you, your spouse or both will need some type of assistance in later years. Shop around because there are different ways to buy long term care these days. Buy what you can afford. Three years of coverage with a 90 to 180 day elimination period is a good starting point. Consider inflation protection, but be cognizant of the cost. As always, if in doubt, consult with a reputable financial advisor for help.
Welcome, happy morning, because you have succeeded in getting your children out of high school and out of the house. They are on their way to meeting their dream of a college education. As you celebrate, be aware of these statistics. According to information in the April, 2013 Financial Advisor magazine, the average total student debt load increased to $27,253.00 in 2012, a 58% increase during the last seven years. More than one million adults have student debts of over $100,000. With TOPS, undergraduate degrees may not be so expensive in Louisiana as in other states. However, when loans are necessary, do your homework. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a web based tool kit called “Paying for College” to help student borrowers find solutions. There is also a worksheet included that allows students to compute how much they will need for particular colleges with different aid packages. Student debt as a percentage of household debt is now 8.5%, and the $870 billion now outstanding in student debt outpaces that of car loans and credit card lending. Let the buyer beware.
Ever since Easter Day, I have had the tune to “Welcome, Happy Morning” dancing through my head. I find the words comforting and am going to take the liberty of sharing some of them with you: “Welcome happy morning, age to age shall say; Hell today is vanquished, heav’n is won today! Lo, the dead is living, God forevermore! Him their true Creator, all His works adore. Months in due succession, days of lengthening light, hours and passing moments praise Thee in their flight. Brightness of the morning, sky and fields and sea, vanquisher of darkness, bring their praise to thee.” God speaks to us in so many ways. I pray that you find Him in your life today.
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