Planning for the possibility of mental decline is not something any of us likes to consider. The fact is, however, it’s critically important. And, if it’s your own decline that requires such a plan, don’t you think you should be the one who develops it?
This reminds me of something I thought about in my early 20s. Back then, I watched Bill Clinton blow up his personal life – and almost his presidency – by having an affair with an intern. At that time, I remember noting how men in their 40s must be unavoidably prone to colossal mid-life crises.
I felt so certain of this that I once remarked to my wife that all of us really should designate another person – call it your “life proxy” – who would have ultimate veto power of all of your major life decisions during that dangerous life stage.
So, you want to quit being an attorney and become a musician? Call in your life proxy to decide! Really? You want to get a divorce and marry your long-lost college girlfriend? Proxy to the rescue!
While I haven’t followed the advice of my younger self, I still think naming a life proxy was a sound idea. The mid-40s is certainly a funny age. Heck, I ran for the school board and I’m quite certain my life proxy, if I had named one, would have likely vetoed my decision!
Yet, even if you missed your opportunity to hand over the keys to your life proxy in your mid-40s, you still have another chance to be proactive during your retirement years.
I have had a recent experience with a wonderful client and her caring children. Her mental faculties have slipped over the years and the decline has sadly accelerated over the past few months. She knew she never wanted to be in this state. Yet, now that she’s there, she predictably and sadly cannot recognize the depth of her decline. For her, and for many others, the time to plan was well before she crossed that blurry threshold of self-recognition.
Fortunately, official recognition of just how vulnerable seniors are to financial fraud has begun to take hold. For example, at the time of opening a new account, brokerage firms have now begun to ask for what’s called a “trusted contact.” A trusted contact is someone who you want notified if the suspicion of financial exploitation or self-harm arises.
As an investment advisor serving a generally older clientele, I am a proponent of this idea. In fact, my firm is going to soon begin to gather our clients’ trusted contacts.
Clearly, designating a trusted contact is a far cry from naming your all-powerful life proxy to make all of the big decisions in your life, but it’s a very good place to start your plan as you advance in your retirement years.
Speaking of life planning, attend our next Money Series presentation by attorney Diane Huff entitled, “What the Heck is a Trust, Anyway”, to be held on Wed., October 17 at 6:30pm in the McGuire Rm. of the Traverse Area District Library. The Money Series is a program of the Front Street Foundation, a non-profit committed to providing open-access to financial education, for all. To register, go to MoneySeries.org or call (231) 714-6459.