A senior man looks out over the rail of a cruise ship.

Tips for the Solo Senior

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Portfolio Manager Neela White returns to discuss the podcast to discuss issues facing the solo senior. Neela has been on the podcast many times before sharing her knowledge and experiences on these sorts of topics, so I encourage you to investigate the archive and check those episodes out.

  1. What is a solo senior?
  2. What should they be planning for ?
  3. How should they plan differently than someone with a partner?
  4. What systems should they put in place for safety?


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Chris Cooksey: Hello and welcome to the Advantaged Investor, a Raymond James Limited podcast. A podcast that provides perspective for Canadian investors who want to remain knowledgeable, informed, and focused on long-term success. We are recording this on July 19th, 2023. I'm Chris Cooksey from the Raymond James Corporate Communications and Marketing Department, and today, Portfolio Manager Neela White returns to discuss the solo senior.

Neela has been on the podcast many times before sharing her knowledge and experiences on these sorts of topics, so I encourage you to investigate the archives to check those episodes out. Welcome back to The Advantaged Investor Neela. Hope your summer is going swimmingly.

Neela White: Hi Chris. It's good to be back. And yes I was just having a conversation on how fast and fun this summer seems, and I'm trying to make a conscious effort to slow down time in my mind. Enjoy each day.

Chris Cooksey: I think that's a great goal because I don't know about you, as I get older, time seems to move faster. Yes. I'm not sure why you get closer to the end and that happens, but you know, I guess that's fairly normal. Now, you and I were talking, and you had mentioned you had done a presentation recently and many people came up to you afterwards and asking questions and ideas around being a solo senior. So let's look into those situations. We look forward to hearing your advice on those advice you'd give those people. Does that sound good?

Neela White: It does. And in indeed, you're correct. I was in doing a presentation in Burlington. We had a fabulous turnout for a beautiful warm day in July. And yeah, and it was both a female and a male question. Men and women were asking, what to do because, you know, whether it be through divorce, whether it be through estrangement, whether it be through death of a spouse there's many reasons why you choose or you become a solo senior.

And it also could be, you know, while you were married you did have children, but the children are mobile and they've moved to different provinces or different cities for employment, in which case you are essentially aging on your own. And I think it poses a bit of a different and maybe a bit more in depth and circular planning that you need to do because you need to be able to surround yourself with the support system that you're going to need to do it ahead of time just because, cultivating relationships investigating things, it's not a 24-hour turnaround.

It takes time to find where you're comfortable and who you're comfortable with. So, I think a couple of the comments that I made to the seniors that were asking me about this is, what should they be planning for? And, you know, the people were in and around 65 to 75, and one fellow was 89, and it's the same as what you'd be planning for as a couple or within a relationship, and it would be financial planning. You need to make sure you have the resources available for what and how you want to age, emotional support. And I think that's one of the areas that becomes discounted. You know, I'm fine being a loner. I'm fine existing within my four walls, and tons of studies are reflecting that this actually causes a whole host of emotional issues and health issues. I think that's a very important area that's not taken as seriously it should be. And also physical wellbeing. We've heard it, we know it - movement, physical activity walking dancing. Anything that keeps you moving instead of lying down or sitting a lot will only do great things for your health and for your emotional stability as well. So, I think those are a couple of really basic ones to deal with.

Chris Cooksey: I think that makes a lot of sense. And you know, off the top there when you're talking about solo seniors and the definition of what a solo senior would be, I immediately thought you know, a spouse or a significant other, but I think that's a really important point – a solo senior could be someone who doesn't have many friends or whose children have moved away or like you said, it's more the, I don't know if you would describe it as the environment you're in, but you know, the situation you're in. Do you have those necessary social inputs and social support in order to achieve what you are looking to do? And then if we start thinking about planning, of course, if you have a spouse and you have a one-bedroom condo, say, i you're single, you may have that one-bedroom condo. So planning becomes, I’d guess very important, because paying for said condo out of one set of funds is different than two sets of funds. Is that, am I getting that?

Neela White: You know what, obviously when you are sharing expenses, because maybe there's two pensions coming in or there's the ability to cost divide and stuff like that, things become more affordable. But it does become an issue when all of a sudden you go from X input to X input, but your expenses are still the same. So I think it's really one of those ideas that you also need to look at. What is your ultimate budget when you retire? How does that budget change? And it's things like looking at, is where I'm currently living still going to be affordable? Is it a place where I can age? Can I bring in care? Can I afford to bring in care if I can't, what have I established as my workaround? What is my plan B with the budget that I have? I think budgeting becomes very, very important when you are a solo senior, as well as I think. Know, one of the bigger ideas is where am I going to get the support I need? Are you in a neighbourhood where there is a hospital, where there is a dentist, where there is a church or a community center where there's a mall, so that it is a supportive, accessible environment.

As opposed to maybe you're living in a remote area, which is fine right now because you're able to drive and you're able to go to those amenities. But it does change, and it could change, obviously, as we all know, it could change at the drop of a dime. I think it's one of those things if you're aging and you're in that type of area, that's great. I think your next step, if you're already in that area, is to look further into the area to say, okay, if I need care, does my budget support me moving into retirement living? If it does within your area, you know, on the weekend or on a weekday, go for a tour, take a look at what it looks like, what it feels like, and, and oftentimes when you go for a tour, they'll actually invite you to stay for lunch. So you get an idea about the food, but do that investigating before again, the needed arises. Especially too if you're thinking of long-term care. If there's maybe some existing issues right now, what the prognosis on those issues is. That it will decrease your independence. I think it's one of the things that you should look at, because we know we're hearing in the news right now about the lack of accessibility of long-term care or when you put on your list that here's the five homes that I want.

Most people have never investigated the homes they're putting down. They're just putting it by, okay, this is closest. Closest as opposed to, closest may not always be the best. So you'd want to do all of these things within your community ahead of the need, and especially if you're a solo senior, because what you do have to look at is who will be the person helping you out, maybe picking up your groceries, maybe taking you to the doctor's appointment to the pharmacist to pick up your prescription. All of those things you want to have assigned. With a buddy system or however you're going to work around within your social network to make this plan work, to maintain your independence as long as possible.

Chris Cooksey: And those are great points. I think really in general; don't be forced into the decision. Try some stuff out ahead of time. I know my wife and I recently have spoken about how we've lived in our house for a while now and real estate prices being what they are, every so often you think about cashing out and moving. But my wife has health considerations, so how far can you really go? And of course, I'm not a solar senior yet or at all at this stage, but these are very important things to consider. If you're feeling good and are active and all that stuff, you may not be thinking about that side of things. And it's really important to plan for that, I think.

Neela White: And I think that's one of the conversations that we need to normalize more. I mean, for a lot of people there is this difficulty or this, this emotional hurdle of having that conversation about what will I look like when I require help? Most people don't like asking for help. They feel awkward. They feel that it somehow weakens them as opposed to if this is a normal conversation saying, hey, right now my biggest worry within the house we're in right now is stairs. We have quite a few stairs, and I have issues with my knees because I have rheumatoid arthritis that I do think, hey, our next move can't include all of these stairs. What are the other issues? The other day I was watering the garden and brought in some water on the kitchen, tiled floor. Whew. Oh no, almost slipped. Caught myself. But, you know, wrenched my back enough that I thought, oh my gosh, if I had landed flat on my back and I was alone in the house. And I couldn't go to a phone. How long would I be lying on the floor before I felt safe enough to get back up? Right? Presuming I'm not hurt. I think you also want to look at things like safety systems, medical systems, you know fall alert systems are great, especially if you're living in a house by yourself. That way somebody's alerted to you needing help. I think alarm systems. You know, just to make sure that the doors have an alarm system. Especially if somebody knows that you're living on your own. I think that's a good thing.

Chris Cooksey: Fire too, being right into that same system as well.

Neela White: Yeah. You know, fire, carbon monoxide, those are important things. And I think also having a call in system. So whether you have family that's close to you or friends? I think it's a good idea that if you know somebody who's living on their own or you yourself are, arrange a call system where every day you know, somebody calls in the morning to make sure everything's okay. It doesn't have to be a long phone call. Hey, happy Wednesday. How's everything going? Good, good. Okay. Talk to, talk to you, talk to you this evening, and just do a check-in system. That way when there's, you know, one or two missed calls, somebody's alerted that something may be happening to you on your own in your house.

Chris Cooksey: That makes sense. So you have your official safety things like, like we mentioned, alarm systems and you know, you and I both grew up around the same time and remember those commercials about the falling and I can't get up type situations, but you know, when you're young, that seems so foreign. But as you mentioned, I've slipped recently as well, and you know, you start, you start realizing that maybe you know, there are some things we should be putting in place here to make sure we're all feeling safe and whatnot.

This has been a great conversation and to me it comes back to what we talk regularly about, you know, relying on your financial planner, relying on your portfolio manager slash advisor. Be honest with them, let them know what's going on so they can help, they may have a great network or probably have a great network of potential advice and, and things to do.

Is there anything else you'd like to lead the listeners with?

Neela White: You know what it's something that I constantly mention to everyone, start the conversation today. This idea of the superstition of if I talk, start talking about it today, it's going to happen. Right? Hey, that would be like if I talked about winning the lottery, it's going to happen. Does it happen? No. Right. So, okay, I'm not going to do that. Stop talking about that as the financial plan. It's not, but I think it's just really important to start little bits of these conversations. As frequently as need be. So you get comfortable with the wording, and comfortable with the idea, and you start developing a comfort and a rough plan that one day you can actually sit down and say, okay, here are my health conditions.

Who needs to know this information? Here's where my documents are. Who needs to know this information? That by thinking about it and translating those thoughts to paper, it's the start of a plan. It doesn't have to be a long, hard, emotional conversation. It could be drips and drabs. What's your biggest risk in your house? Okay. Take care of that risk and know that the next place you're going to go, make sure that risk isn't there. Same with your finances. Same with the emotional wellbeing. Where do I find myself at greatest risk? You know, is it a Sunday evening when I don't have a routine or something like that, put stuff in place and recognize those things.

That way you're supporting yourself as best as you can, and when you do that, you're then able to convey to the people around you who are part of your plan, how they can best help you and support you as well.

Chris Cooksey: These plans are like insurance, right? They're there just in case. Something happens and you don't have to start from zero and figuring stuff out, correct?

Neela White: Yes.

Chris Cooksey: Well, Neela, I always learn a lot. The listeners always learn a lot when we speak with you. I hope you'll join us again soon. So thank you very much for taking the time today.

Neela White: Thanks for having me and have a great summer and I look forward to chatting with you again in the future.

Christ Cooksey: Sounds great. Reach out to us at the AdvantagedInvestorpod@Raymondjames.ca. Subscribe to the Advantaged Investor on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast. Please contact your advisor with any questions you have. On behalf of Raymond James and the Advantaged Investor, thank you for taking the time to listen today. Until next time, stay well.

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