I am in the middle of reading Atul Gwande’s book “Being Mortal”, which takes on the topics of aging, decline and death, and how our society has turned these into medical problems rather than human ones.  Gwande reminds us that American medicine has prepared itself for life but not for death, and we treat aging, frailty, and death as just another set of clinical challenges to overcome.  As a society, we are so focused on medical treatment for every ailment at every stage of life, and we often fail to recognize, especially as people age and decline, the importance of a life as meaningful and rich as possible under the circumstances.  Gwande discovers how we can do better, as he profiles reformers in the medical profession who illustrate how the ultimate goal for many people – a good life all the way to the very end – can be achieved.

Reading this book has inspired me to further the development of my own ideas around financial planning for the later years of life.  Most conventional financial planning doesn’t adequately address the financial implications of declining health in the later stages of life.  At the very least, a good financial plan should consider the possibility and financial impact of long-term care events and high medical costs.  But even if someone has a well-constructed plan, what happens when there is a life-changing medical diagnosis?  Suddenly, the trajectory of a person’s life, and finances, changes.  When this happens, many questions are raised – how much will my health care cost?  Can I expect to need long-term care services, and what will that cost?  Do I have enough money to pay for what I need?  What if I don’t?  What changes do I need to make to my finances to manage?  Where can I turn for help?

In future posts, I will address these questions and others in this critically important, and often overlooked, aspect of financial planning.  One initial tidbit of advice – wherever you are in life, there is no better time than now to start planning for life’s uncertainties.  Of course we can’t predict what may happen to our health – and what our health care will cost, especially as we get older – but there are some tools and techniques everyone can use to prepare as much as possible before a major health event occurs.