We can worry and plan for so many possibilities, but the ones that get us are often the ones we never see coming. I’d like to submit a few items for your retirement planning consideration that are not part of traditional budgets.
We can all come up with guesstimates for food, housing, property taxes, utilities, and insurance. Car purchases can be scheduled periodically (although please make a plan to stop driving at the point where your kids tell you that you should). But while walking my elderly dog yesterday and looking at my weed filled yard, I realized there are two areas I’ve never really incorporated into my own retirement plans.
The first is routine household care. If you plan to stay in your own home as you age, you will almost certainly need more of this than when you’re younger and active. Even if you’re a do-it-yourself type, you probably won’t be forever. I’d happily quit wrestling with the snow blower and the lawnmower THIS MINUTE, but right now, hey, what are kids for? But a recent stint with a fractured foot and a child away at camp have given me many thoughts about how much lawn and snow removal assistance I might need at 75 or 90, and how house cleaning services might be essential.
I’m a pretty avid gardener, but I would have to face changing my “design” and get-to projects if I had a landscaping service—no one would fool with my yard the way I do. And those of us who have a cleaning person every other week, tidying up in the interim, would probably want to step up that schedule. Some people think that cutting back on these services might be a way to cut costs once they are no longer working and have “plenty of time”, but in fact, the reverse is true. You will probably need more services, not less. Based on the fractured foot incident, and the resulting immobility, I have a good window on how a garden can transform from nice and fairly under control to the front yard of Sleeping Beauty’s castle in less than six weeks. You don’t want the EMTs to have to hack their way in to get you.
But back to the aging dog. Vet care, while so worth it, can be astoundingly expensive. The dog and our beloved cat with cancer have rung up sums that, this year, are approaching 5 figures, and we’re only in July. And I’m here to say that this isn’t the first time it’s happened over the years. I could never willingly put down an animal that had a chance at a decent quality of life, so for me it’s essential to have a pretty large pet care budget. Then there are all the services for pet care that can come to your house if you’re not up to hauling the dog to the vet, but they’re going to cost you, too.
One of the most heart wrenching aspects of moving to assisted living or nursing care is the necessity of giving up pets, so before you acquire an animal at your retirement age, think about 15 years in the future (an animal’s life span, give or take a few years). That’s caused me to realize I need to choose a smaller breed dog in the future, I want my long-term care insurance to cover home care, and my daughter will need to bond with and be capable of caring for any animals that come to live with me.
Staying in your own home, surrounded by beloved pets, is a delightful prospect, but like nearly every other goal and dream, there are aspects of financial planning that need to be considered. Excuse me, but the cat is demanding petting…