Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Will to Live Trumps Living Wills

I guess you could blame the “forever young syndrome” (just made that one up), but what else would account for the fact that 64 percent of boomers admit to not having a health care proxy or living will. This startling fact comes to us via an Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll.

Bottom line, boomers are feeling healthy and don’t wish to dwell on death. Therefore, they feel they don’t need to address end-of-life issues. Despite plenty of high profile cases where individuals had no explicit instructions as to their medical care, more than half the boomers born between 1946 and 1964 have opted to ignore the potential for such calamities.

Ahem, ahem. That’s me -- clearing my throat. I don’t like to dwell on death either, but look around people. Friends and acquaintances you used to know are not with us anymore. When you were in your 40s or 50s, it didn’t seem like a big deal when you heard that someone in their 60s had died. Then, ever so gradually, you started to hear about people who died and were the same age as you. Creepy, but you put it in the back of your mind. Fast forward to present day, and now you’re realizing that more folks that you know are dropping out of your cohort (a new euphemism for the act of dying). The reality for all of us is that we are going to continue to lose these friends and acquaintances -- at an alarming rate -- in the not too distant future.

Experts remind us that even if you’re the picture of health it’s still a good idea to have a living will that specifies your wishes for medical care if you’re unable to communicate those wishes to your doctor. At the very least, a health care proxy gives you the ability to select someone you trust to make decisions about your medical care.

Do yourself a favor (and for those who love you) and visit this link on how to create your own living will or advanced medical directive. Each state has different laws regarding living wills but the Resources link will help you sort that out.

Denial is a big river. But when the boat starts to take on water, you might wish you had a can to bail it out. It wouldn’t hurt to do a little planning for when the day comes that you’re unable to express yourself. And therein lies a poignant irony. Boomers are known for expressing themselves, and yet, the death denial response is so strong that we/they/you cannot bring ourselves to plan for that inevitable day. The river doesn’t flow forever.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

What Golden Years?

It’s tough enough that boomers need to keep working because of shrunken retirement funds, but even worse when we’re accused of preventing the next generation from assuming our jobs.

Edward P. Glaeser is a professor of economics at Harvard and the author of “Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier.” He wrote a piece for the New York Times titled Goodbye, Golden Years.

So when he says that it’s a myth that boomers are robbing younger workers of their chance to move up, we should listen.

Glaeser notes that boomers keep working because they believe they cannot afford to stop. About 40 percent of 55 to 64 year-olds do not have retirement accounts. Almost a quarter do not even own stocks or savings bonds. Their median net worth is now $254,000 (including housing), which is down from $273,000 just three years ago.

But Glaeser thinks that boomers remaining in the workplace may turn out to be a good thing for young workers, even if it sounds counterintuitive. Boomers may crowd out younger workers in some instances, but as older workers continue to earn wages, they buy more products produced by younger workers. Boomers will also continue to pay taxes that help our overall fiscal problems gold nestegg while they bring a diversity of perspective and experience to the workplace.

Glaeser’s hope is that older workers, who may be more inclined to be entrepreneurial, will start new businesses. Statistically, the older you are, the more likely you are to become self-employed. And that self-employment in turn can generate jobs and taxes.

Maybe the whole idea of retirement at 62 or 65 was a mid-century aberration. It was not always a foregone conclusion that workers would throw in the towel as soon as they hit the magic number.

If boomers find fulfilling work or self-employment well into their 70s, they just might find that the golden years are golden after all. Or at the very least, a little more time to earn some green.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.