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"Ask Anne"

What should I be thinking about as
I get closer to being 65?

What should I be thinking about as I get closer to being 65?
This question is something that some people do well with finding answers to, while many others don’t like to dwell on the question at all. There are many reasons why people aren’t comfortable planning for the aging process. They may choose to hope for the best, and may even think the government will take care of them in their “old age”. After all, getting older can be a challenging topic of conversation, especially when dealing with the major lifestyle changes that can accompany our older years.

But especially for people living with HIV, this question and how well you deal with all the details can go a long way to helping you move from one stage of your life to the next. Managing your HIV disease is one major task as you age, but there are others as you approach age 65: how and where you get your health care and how you plan for and manage your income and assets.


A little background
Aging and living with HIV is fast becoming an issue for tens of thousands of people. Today, many more people living with HIV are able to enjoy a more productive life, as well as continue to work and even retire at some point. Indeed, it’s estimated that by 2015 more than half of HIV-positive people in the US will be over the age of 50. Many are now in their 50s and 60s, and may have already retired or have certainly begun to think about it.

It is also true that, for many living with HIV, retirement is not something they planned for or expected to experience. Many never thought they would live to retirement age. They now find themselves happy to be healthy and productive but facing real fears about their lifestyles, incomes and health care as they grow older.

Age 65 is a significant milestone for most Americans. 65 is the age when people qualify for Medicare, the federal insurance program that serves people aged 65 and older as well as those who are disabled and have a previous work history. 65 is also the age when private long-term disability policies stop their payments, which are often a significant part of an HIV+ person’s monthly income.

It’s a good idea to start thinking about and planning for these changes as far in advance as possible. But it’s also important to remember that it’s never too late to start addressing the issues of aging and retirement.

About this article
This article focuses mostly on health care and income. Yet thinking about these issues can be emotionally difficult without the proper support to address your personal journey with aging. If you find yourself procrastinating, avoiding or unable to focus on planning, don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, a group or a professional.

What this article will do is help you begin to think ahead about the major changes that will take place so you have the chance to work out the details over time. In the next issue, we will continue this topic but go more in-depth about what to consider when retiring and changing your health care coverage.

Be prepared
The most productive thing you can do is to prepare as much ahead of time as possible for your 60s and 70s, and definitely a few or more years before you retire or before you turn 65. It’s wise to take as much time as possible to explore your options as well as to educate and advocate for yourself before these changes take place.

Each person’s situation is different, due to individual needs and concerns. Talking to friends and family or support groups can be very helpful, but it’s also worthwhile to explore your options on your own.

Consult a financial planner
One of the first and most important steps you can take is to consult a financial planner. He or she can help you identify your long-term needs, explore your lifestyle options, and identify how much income you will need. A planner can also create financial plans for filling in gaps or managing your life on what you know you will have. Planners can be expensive, so if you can’t afford them then there are other ways to get this type of help. Community colleges often offer courses in retirement planning. Planners sometimes donate time to nonprofits you may know, and some AIDS service organizations may have referrals to low-cost or free assistance. There are also books that can help guide your planning.

Change in income
Whether you’ve been working full-time or get SSDI payments or have been getting long-term disability (LTD) checks, your income at 65 or at retirement will change. For some, this means a small change, perhaps because of a decent pension plan or retirement account. For most, who rely on LTD from their former employers, this loss of income can be significant as monthly incomes could actually be cut by half or more. Many people underestimate how much that can affect their daily lives, and sometimes don’t realize the full impact until too late.

Those with long-term disability may also be offered a lump sum payout at some point close to age 65 when their payments would stop. These offers may be reasonable and allow you to invest on your own, but they can also be unreasonable offers. If you’re offered a lump sum payment, it’s important to see a professional to determine if it fits your needs.

Change in residency
A lot of people move either by choice or necessity after their retirement. They may be looking for a different lifestyle or they may
be unable to afford living in more costly urban areas. This could mean moving to another state like Florida or even to an assisted-living community in the next town over. There are several things to consider before you take that leap.

One is your doctor or medical provider. Even if you’re not moving out of your home or move just a town away, you may not be able to keep your current doctor because he or she is not in the Medicare plan you choose when you turn 65. Think about what hospitals and other types of services and facilities are available to you.

Another consideration is that while moving may be a necessity, it often means that you’re leaving friends and sometimes family and support networks that you’ve developed over your lifetime. Your support networks and environment are extremely important to maintaining your health.

Before you make any final decisions on a move, identify the factors that help you maintain your health and well-being. Then do as much research as possible, including visiting and even staying in the places you are considering.

The next issue of HIV Positive! magazine will offer tips and other details on how to plan for these major life changes.


 

 

Copyright 2013, Positive Health Publications, Inc.

This magazine is intended to enhance your relationship with your doctor - not replace it! Medical treatments and products should always be discussed with a licensed physician who has experience treating HIV and AIDS!