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Preparedness (Part 2): Self-Preservation

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reverse mortgage blogThough we no longer need to fear being devoured by a wild beast as we run flat-out back to our cave, the fight-or-flight instinct remains strong in humans. Today it’s often expressed as road rage. But one place our instinct for self-preservation goes dormant is end-of-life planning. As we explored last week, many people still believe that if they act like an ostrich, they’ll be exempt from the Grim Reaper. Yet, a devastating number of seniors also take their own lives because they feel there is no longer any reason to live.

One of the best ways to restore inner peace when it comes to aging is by being sanguine about estate planning, which can help older adults avoid financial regrets. A reverse mortgage expert who has witnessed seniors both prepared and floundering when it comes to financial acumen and documentation says, “For those of us middle-aged and older, anything can happen unexpectedly at any time. It is imperative that someone close to you knows where all the important paperwork is filed/stored. For example, I have an adult daughter who knows where all my papers are, is a signee on my safety deposit box, knows who my financial advisor and banker are, and how to contact them. I also set up a special joint checking account and funded it with sufficient funds that she can pay all the bills while sorting out my affairs and acting as Executor of my estate.”

While this LO may be more financially astute and better prepared than many, given the nature of his work, it’s a discussion families need to have, whether it’s initiated by the reverse mortgage client, one of their children, or an outside professional. Some people say they have “made arrangements” in the event of a crisis — but have they done enough preparation for their own eventual departure?

What might delay or derail seniors’ intention to focus on preparedness? Relationships are key, because they are a form of self-preservation:

  • How others see us
  • Status among peers
  • Acknowledgment of effectiveness in our jobs
  • Amassing sufficient funds to enjoy our lives even into old age
  • Maintaining attractiveness to others
  • Projecting a positive attitude
  • Support of family/good friends

For many people, these driving forces play an important role throughout life.

Like the LO mentioned above, you can serve as a role model for reverse mortgage prospects by sharing what preparedness actions you’ve taken, and suggesting steps seniors can take to start preparing for their end of life scenario. Basics include:

  1. Create a will.
  2. Organize important documents (e.g., house title and deed, insurance and investment information, marriage certificate, Social Security card, birth certificates, bank books) and tell a trusted family member or friend where they are kept!
  3. Choose a power of attorney — and inform this individual of their role, making sure they are able and willing to accept it.
  4. Select a health care POA in the event you are unable to make crucial medical decisions for yourself.
  5. Draw up a list of people to be contacted as you near your end of life, or that you wish to be notified after you die.
  6. Tie up loose ends (e.g., did you want to start a college fund for a grandchild?).
  7. Resolve outstanding grievances/issues. The most important step in preparedness is making peace with relationships that affect self-preservation. There may not be a literal tiger chasing you, but the pain of unresolved disagreements or a longtime cold shoulder can certainly feel like a wild animal at your throat.

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10 Comments

  1. Great Post – I’ll be incorporating some of these thoughts – and action steps – into my NAIPC presentation. I serve on the Outreach Committee of the Greater Atlanta Chapter and ALL my audiences need to hear this. Sometimes hearing something said in a different way will resonate with someone who previously sloughed off the information as not important.

    • Carol,

      You’re so right! Finding the words that resonate is the key for all of us, in every aspect of our lives ~ and especially in something as crucial as planning for the close of life.

      Let us know how your talk goes!

      Blessings,
      Amara

  2. While the new information above is very necessary, I was somewhat disappointed by the concept that somehow we need to help seniors deal with their disillusions and emptiness by offering them an alternative that somehow we are light energy. That outcome is worse than nothingness, it is living as part of the Matrix without any means of escape.

    If one believes in God and in this lifetime as our time in which to find Him, knowing loss and feeling emptiness are very important steps in that process.

    How does one know what it means to be filled to overflowing unless one has known emptiness. If all one has known is gain, then of what value is gain? Loss must be experienced to appreciate gain so as to use it wisely.

    To me substituting one ideology for another is not caring for the real needs of our seniors. The real need for seniors is to reach out beyond themselves to seek God even in the last stages of their lives.

    • Cynic,

      Your comment is puzzling, as there are no references to God or ideology in the post; it is a straightforward list of practical steps people can take to prepare for the future.

      • Amara,

        You are correct as to Part 2 but not as to Part 1 (see Preparedness (Part 1): Shedding New Light on The “D” Word). As to God, if He does not exist than one strong alternative is death is the door into null. You present that alternative as one accepted by a significant number of seniors.

        I hope that helps.

        The_Cynic

        • Cynic,

          I am still not sure how to respond to you. I present information that I hope will be helpful to people who serve seniors, and certainly acknowledging end of life issues is part of this. A film that explores issues of death and dying in a multifaceted context, and factual information about seniors and suicide, do not imply that anyone ought to believe in God or a specific ideology.

          You might be interested in one of the most riveting books I’ve ever read on the subject of how we live and how we die: Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, a Harvard Medical School professor and surgeon.

          Thanks and blessings,
          Amara

          • Amara,

            I appreciate your kind thoughts but I have a very different view of what seniors should be presented who believe that the step following death is to enter into nothingness. On that point we simply disagree.

            May all of our lives be filled with mercy and grace.

  3. I don’t really see how The Cynic got off on this philosophical path from your article. I think the whole point is to make your clients aware and to be prepared for both the unexpected and expected events that we all need to acknowledge. There are so many older people who have not taken the steps needed to protect their assets and health choices until it is too late to put them in place. In our dealings with them, isn’t it the right thing to do to alert them to these needs so they can take the appropriate steps? I think so and believe others will agree.

    • Hi Dick,

      Thanks for your support! You expressed my focus so beautifully: to help reverse mortgage professionals support seniors in taking the steps necessary to protect their assets and health choices, while there is still time. It can be very challenging to get some seniors to face these issues, but/and, it’s far better to prepare than to confront the inevitable in crisis mode.

    • Dick,

      It seems you did not read Part 1 referenced above last month. Here is just one paragraph which I was responding to:

      “Einstein put death in a grander context when he observed, “Matter is energy. Energy is light. We are all light beings.” The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change form. Coupling these two scientific truths, we might infer that when we shed the body, we become pure light — energy in a lighter form.”

      I waited until Part 2 to see how this inference would be put together with creating a will and other practical measures.

      Perhaps you see the quotation and other statements in Part 1 as preparing “many older people who have not taken the steps needed to protect their assets and health choices until it is too late to put them in place.” I do NOT! How does the quotation relate to that? Part 1 was full of philosophy to which I was simply disagreeing.

      You go on to say: “In our dealings with them, isn’t it the right thing to do to alert them to these needs so they can take the appropriate steps?” As reverse mortgage originators, it is our responsibility to explain reverse mortgages, help prospects determine if it is right for them by entertaining their description of their situation, and answering their questions. If you feel you are a health expert or an asset protection specialist, you might have a point although the mortgagee you account to might be happier if you focused more on the HECM than other financial products in representing their interests to the borrower.


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