Monthly Archives: September 2015

5@55. Good for you. And simply Good!

We’ve been getting questions since our last post announcing our joining the “5 @ 55 Campaign.” Primarily they all are about, “Just what is this 5 at 55 anyway?” Well, here it is. The “5″ refers to the five legal documents everyone should have. The “55″ refers to that age and stage in life where folks start to prepare for retirement.

What are the “5″ legal documents folks should have by age 55? Here’s the short list:

1. A healthcare power of attorney. This document is sometimes called a healthcare proxy. By this legal document you authorize another person, your “agent,” to make medical decisions for you and handle your confidential medical matters. What does that mean? This is a subject all by itself. Your agent may be your HIPAA personal representative dealing with your confidential medical matters as when speaking for you with a treating or consulting doctor in a hospital. Your agent may be contacting your health insurance company about a benefits question. And, your agent may be dealing with end of life medical care, which brings us to the next legal document.

2. An “advance directive’ or “living will.” This the legal document that authorizes your agent to make end of life medical treatment decisions. Under Michigan law the agent’s duty is to follow your instructions, which is your advance directive.

3. The general power of attorney. By this document you name an agent to handle all other matters for you. We typically use the above separate document for all medical matters since the medical field is so regulated as to need a separate power of attorney and since there is no need for your general business providers, such as your bank, to know your confidential medical affairs.

4. Your Will or your Trust. It seems that “everybody knows” they should have a Will, but many people question whether they should have a trust. Now there’s a subject for a few blog posts!

5. A “Cyber Will” or perhaps better described as a “Digital Diary.” While the names may be confusing they get at what you need. Few people realize just how digital their lives have become. Almost any business we have is handled digitally. Just consider: what you can do without your cell phone! Not much, I’ll bet. Well you should have a record of all your accounts: bank accounts; credit card accounts; home and auto loans; leases; investment accounts; email and social medica accounts; and ? Your Will or Diary will list all and have your account numbers, your user ID and your passwords in one handy place. That way if you have an unplanned trip to the hospital or something happens while you are on vacation (isn’t that ALWAYS true?) your helpful agent will be able to take care of anything you want done.

You can see there is a lot more to cover and in future posts I’ll do my best to do it!

Jim Joins 5@55 Campaign

How to Make Retirement Planning Complete

There is a new legal service and awareness program for people planning for retirement. It is called “5@55.” Read that as 5 at 55.  5@55 means  there are 5 essential legal documents to complete basic retirement planning. I’ll review those documents in a later post, but for now I wanted to layout the benefits of the campaign.  I think you will like it.

The basic concept is that at age 55 the kids are gone and off on their own lives. Most major purchases such as a new home and furnishings are done. School loans are gone. Now at 55 we have 10-12 years to prepare to retire. But, what does “retirement planning” include?

I have problem with the subject “retirement planning.”  Too often focuses on two things only: 1) money; 2) activities. I think those are self explanatory, but still let me explain a bit.

The subject of money is clear. It’s all about”Do you have enough money to retire?” There are those “retirement advisers” who claim you will need at least a million dollars to retire. Their not so subtle message is that you need to hire them to get your nest egg to grow to a million. Anybody planning for retirement at 55 can see the futility of that message! If you are not well on your way to a Million Bucks none of these guys can help you!

The “activities” part of standard retirement planning advice is all about “what are you going to do in retirement?”  This is important – Where will you live?  What will you do in that “leisure time” and so on?  But wait!, there’s more to retirement planning.

What is missing in the standard retirement planning conversation? It is about what happens when your retirement plan goes off the track? From the elder law viewpoint it raises the question of “what do you do when your retirement turns into being a caregiver/care manager?”

For too many retirees, retirement simply means time to become a full time care manager for a parent. I’ve written extensively on the subject, just take a look at the articles on my website, For some folks, it comes as no surprise and may even be the reason for retirement: Mom or Dad has gotten to the point where they cannot manage their daily affairs anymore.

For a smaller number of retirees life has a cruel twist. Instead of having fun in the sun, a spouse becomes the caregiver for their husband or wife. It is always a medical condition. It might be a heart attack, stroke, early dementia or Parkinson’s Disease. Whatever the condition it is life changing for both spouses.

The 5@55 campaign contemplates these twists in life and prepares you for it.

I think of the 5@55 campaign as the cheapest form of Long Term Care Insurance. Through the basic legal document set, you are ready just in case life throws you the “Retirement Sucker Punch.”

But wait! There’s better news. The 5@55 campaign does not just help you in case of long term care, it also helps you with the “Speed Bumps of Retirement.” What if you “bust” your knee in one of those retirement activities?  You are in the emergency room.  (“I told you” that zip lines are for young lunatics. But noooo, Mr. Tarzan had to . . . . “)  What if you get a touch of the Ol’ Traveling to a Foreign Country Food Poisoning? You will need your spouse to take care of business for you for a bit. He or she will need a healthcare and general business power of attorney to handle the insurance and all other matters that would otherwise need your individual attention.

So, there you have it. With standard “retirement planning” you will not be prepared for the “Retirement Speed Bumps” or the “Retirement Sucker Punch.” But with 5@55 preparedness you will be ready and able for whatever life throws at you.

More later,