Why 7 out of 10 Couples Don’t Know How to Access Their Joint Accounts

authorstalkDrs. Rob + Janelle Alex, Ph.D. interviewed me to understand why 7 out of 10 couples would benefit by getting their finances and their household on the same page on their program Author’s Talk About It. Five years ago I would have had no idea how disconnected most couples are when it comes to their joint assets.

When I launched MemoryBanc, I did it believing I would be helping other caregivers. However, when the first year of sales ended up being mostly couples between 40 and 60, I realized there was a larger market need for our products and services. We do help quite a few caregivers, but they are dwarfed by the number of couples that use MemoryBanc as a tool to coordinate their shared lives.

Consumer Reports shared that only 3 out of 10 couples could cite and knew how to access the three largest financial accounts of their household–that means 7 out of 10 don’t! Consumer Reports.org went on to share that only 28 percent of couples are completely confident that their partner is prepared to assume responsibility of their joint retirement finances.

Do you know your financial plan if something were to happen to your partner? The last thing you want to deal with is how to access finances, pay bills, or access online accounts if something were to happen to your loved one. This summer when my son broke his phone, the only way to get a replacement mobile phone without a major penalty fee when my husband was traveling was to use his online access to the AT&T account. Not only did I need his passcodes, but I also needed to answer a security question. Thankfully, I had these close at hand.

The reason 7 out of 10 couples don’t have this information is because many of us divide-and-conquer. Our lives are much more complicated and we have to manage a lot more information than we did even twenty years ago. It’s one of the reasons $58 billion is sitting with state and federal treasurers in unclaimed money.

To get a handle on your joint finances and household assets, you can get a copy of MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life from Amazon for $15.33 (plus shipping if you don’t have Prime). That’s a 23 percent discount.

If you aren’t ready to make this leap, but want to get started, you can download a free chapter “Taming the Internet” now. I hope you will at least begin this important conversation. Contributed.

49% of Americans Retiring Earlier Than Planned

The latest U.S. Census reports that there are 44.7 million over the age of 65 in the United States. According to the Department of Health & Human Services, seven out of ten of them will need three or more years of long-term care before they die. Unfortunately, most families are not prepared when they need to step in and help mom, dad in the face of a crisis or medical issue, and the consequences of being unprepared can be severe amongst families – causing chaos, confusion, and loss of money.

What’s more, a 2014 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that 49 percent of retirees surveyed had retired earlier than they had planned. The survey found that many Americans find themselves retiring unexpectedly, and many retirees cited negative reasons for leaving the workforce, including 61 percent who cited health problems or disability.

Conversation Starters

The earlier you start talking about this the better. If you are having the discussion with a parent, always go in respecting the parent/child dynamic even through you may be 60. Consider this a conversation where you are trying to understand how a good friend, and someone you love is planning on spending the rest of their life. Some ways to do this include:

  • Ask mom and dad how they plan on spending their 60s, 70s, and 80s. Where do they want to live and how do they want to spend their time?
  • Request recommendations on how to approach estate planning. When did they do theirs and how did they decide who should be their advocate if one of them is unable to speak for the other?
  • Share a story of a friend or colleague who faced a difficult family health issue and talk about how your family might have handled the situation differently.

Unfortunately, you may have to wait for a pivotal event to happen before mom or dad are ready to have this discussion with you. Let me know if you have some additional suggestions on how to get this conversation started and I hope you will share which ideas helped your family.

For a free guide on how to organize your documents, accounts, and assets so that you can easily find them, or share them with a loved one should they ever need to help you, visit MemoryBanc.com/save.

Aging is like traveling to a foreign country

topofmayanruinsI just returned from a mission trip to Belize. It dawned on me while I was there that planning for aging is a lot like planning for trip to a foreign country. You can read books and learn about what to expect, pack for a variety of experiences, but when you arrive, you depend on the help of those around you to make the most of your journey.

I packed rain boots but didn’t realize that the duct tape wasn’t going to hold so I needed to buy a new pair. My new boots were only $8 and are a unique memento of my trip.

The flies swarm in the rain and I wasn’t even that phased by the fly in the bottom of my cup of coffee on the 6th day.

The warmth of the people and their suggestions on how to cure heat rash (rub a lime on your skin), avoid the killer bees, and even the tasty chew on the leaves of the all-spice tree enhanced our journey.

As American’s we are fiercely independent but need to learn how to trust and depend on others. The fact that 7 out of 10 Americans turning 65 today will need 3 or more years of long-term care requires that we share life plans, our weaknesses (not just our strengths), and accept help when we might need it most. Discovered.

Life is a journey, and I hope to make the best of it even up to the end, when most likely, I will need the help from others to manage even my day-to-day activities.

7 out of 10 people will need long-term care support – Are you ready?

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:

  • Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their remaining years
  • Women need care longer (3.7 years) than men (2.2 years)
  • One-third of today’s 65 year-olds may never need long-term care support, but 20 percent will need it for longer than 5 years

Having a will and medical directives or even long-term care insurance won’t guarantee that the individual(s) who would step in to advocate for you will know about your medical history, your bills, your home improvements, your tax preparer or even your pets care needs. You want someone to be your advocate should you be facing a medical crisis or long-term care needs.

To get started, download a free check list of the documents you need or order a copy of the MemoryBanc Register that will guide you through the process of organizing your documents, accounts, and assets so that you can easily find them, and share them with a loved one when needed. Organized. 

Managing End-of-Life Wishes and Caregiver Suggestions

carveouttimeWe hired extra assistance (personal daily assistants or PDAs) for my Mom so she has someone with her and working toward her comfort daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. even though she is in an Assisted Living community. She has also been moved into “hospice” care so there is a second doctor, social worker and nurse monitoring my Mom. I have found that having more people and organizations involved in her care has created more complexities to my family caregiver role. I spend a lot of time on the phone and meeting with her caregivers.

What’s become both a blessing and a challenge is that I’m getting advice and recommendations from a variety of caregivers. The three women who are with her the most continue to suggest we add vitamins to her diet. She eats very little and I understand their concern, but then feel guilty when I explain to them that my Mom doesn’t like vitamins and we feel like it would be the choice she would make if she could.

My Mom made it clear she would not want to extend a life of low-quality. I shared my angst over the idea of even having her drink Ensure. After speaking with the Social Worker from hospice and the head nurse in her Assisted Living community, I moved past my concern when I watched her enjoy the shakes and they helped sate her hunger. My bench-mark is to know that what we give her brings her pleasure. I know the vitamins would not bring her pleasure.

My siblings and I continue to struggle to know what things keep her comfortable and what things may just extend her life. It’s not such an easy black and white choice. I’m thankful that I have involved siblings that come to help, call to ask how they can help and bring varied perspectives to our journey to care for our Mom in this last phase of her life. I was lucky my parents told me how they wanted to live, as well as how they didn’t want to live. Because they started this conversation so early in their lives, it never felt uncomfortable.

This Thanksgiving, I hope you will carve out some time to start the conversation with your loved ones on how you plan to live the rest of your life. I’ve included two great resources below, and hope you might start by sharing with friends and family your ideas about how you will spend your time in your 60s and 70s; where you plan to be living and how you will be spending your time.

I am lucky my parents shared their thoughts with me. It has made a difficult journey a little easier knowing that we did or are doing what we can to honor their individual wishes. Thankful. 


AARP Roadmap for the Rest of Your Life: Smart Choices About Money, Health, Work, Lifestyle … and Pursuing Your Dreams by Bart Astor
Life after 50 isn’t what it used to be. The rules have changed. No more guaranteed pensions, retiree health plans, or extensive leisure and travel. It’s time to forge new paths and create innovative models. That’s where the AARP Roadmap for the Rest of Your Life comes in. Bart Astor, author of more than a dozen books, offers a comprehensive guide for making lifestyle decisions, growing your nest egg, and realizing your goals. It’s a positive read I highly recommend.

The Conversation Starter Kit
If you want to be the expert on your wishes and those of your loved ones, not the doctors, nurses, or end-of-life experts, check out this free resource (donations accepted) that includes easy discussion starters for the coming holiday. This doesn’t have to be a gloomy conversation. I was lucky my parents shared their wishes with me.

What are you going to be doing in your 60s and 70s?

questionsignUSA Today just reported that life expectancy in the U.S. hits record high. Ladies who are 65 are expected to live to 81 and the gentlemen to 76 years. What are you going to do with your time?

I’m obsessed with ensuring that I continue to exercise, contribute to my community in meaningful ways and stay engaged socially. Many studies report that these are the three most important elements to aging well. The tough part is making sure that I have the wealth and health to afford these luxuries.

Have you begun to envision your future? A great book I recently found is Roadmap for the Rest of Your Life: Smart Choices About Money, Health, Work, Lifestyle … and Pursuing Your Dreams. There are many life stories interspersed and you quickly understand how many people find that the typical american dream of retirement doesn’t suit their abilities or their interests.

The time to start planning is best done in your 40s and 50s … when it feels far away. I hope you will hit your local library and check it out. Recommended. 


The financial costs of aging in place … are you sure?

retirementfundsAs I face the reality of the high costs of my Mom’s care, I’m working on creating my ideal aging story line. What I realized as I have watched my parents was that while most of us bought into the traditional concept of “retirement” with open schedules and the pursuit of hobbies, that model undermines healthy aging. We all want to live a life with purpose and that doesn’t stop in retirement. The idea of free days conflicts with staying engaged, accountable and productive. I decided I needed to change my life so that my pursuit of purpose didn’t feel like work. I found it when I launched MemoryBanc.

To help me plan better for the rest of my life, I’ve been reading up on as well as attended an event recently hosted by AARP on what to consider if you want to “age in place.” The real number is much more complex than just adding up the changes you may need to make your home more livable. As I recently mentioned, my Mom is living in a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) that involved a very large sum of money that was used as a down payment and considered “pre-payment” toward needed services. Even with that she’s paying a base fee of around $7,500 a month to be in Assisted Living. As I recently shared, some months have been closer to $12,500 as we have had to hire extra assistance since typically Assisted Living is not designed for individuals with cognitive loss.

If you want to stay in your home, you should consider how it might suit you should you develop mobility issues. However, my parents only temporarily faced that issue when my Dad broke his hip and needed a place to rehabilitate. Thankfully, one of the benefits of the CCRC agreement was that my Dad could move into their skilled nursing until he was able to manage on his own. My Dad was able to recuperate and as soon as he could manage stairs, they were back in their 3-level town home.

I believe there are other factors more important to consider than the cost of adapting your home for your aging lifestyle. In our case, both my parents developed memory issues (Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer’s). They were unable to recognize their inability to manage. Had they not been in a CCRC, my siblings and I would have had to petition the court for conservator and guardianship of my parents. If you know someone with dementia, you know that while they might not remember if they just ate dinner, they will know that their child has taken them to a public court proceeding and is charging that they are unable to manage their own affairs. None of us could have foreseen this scenario, but we were days from filing the petition when their CCRC acted and helped us manage a move into Assisted Living. Even with estate plans in place, we were faced with this difficult choice.

I haven’t gotten very far but do know that now, there are no perfect answers. What I hold true is that having your family members involved and having these discussions early are the key to making the most of the rest of your life.Studied. 


Related stories.

The Financial Costs of Aging in Place

Living a Life with a Purpose as We Age

Young Couple In Walking Clothes Resting On Tree In ParkI was raised believing that retirement is what you work toward—the free time to play golf, travel, enjoy a leisurely day—things earned by those who saved well and thus were rewarded with the ability to “retire.”

More than a decade ago, we started hearing news stories about seniors who went back into the work place. Typically, it was a horror story about how they lost all their money in the stock market, or they had a medical condition that wasn’t covered by insurance and drained their resources. But there are positive stories too: I see many seniors working because they want to work; they’re pursuing meaningful endeavors for the joy, meaning and purpose of it—not for the income.

As I watched my parents age, I recognized that the classic concept of total retirement isn’t going to suit my husband and me. We have talked about how we will continue to work, although it’s not so clear what shape that “work” will take in our lives.

My current path has me more focused on giving back to my community and helping other families than on the bottom line. After my experience with my parents, I feel driven to find a solution that fills the gaps left between the legal focus of estate planning, the money focus of financial planning and the personal desire to age with dignity.

Revenues will follow as I pursue my mission to help families avoid the headaches my family faced when my parents could no longer manage their own lives, and we needed to step in to assist them. Thank you, to the hundreds of clients who have supported me on my personal mission. I fully intend to reward your belief in my product by helping you implement and update the MemoryBanc Register and communicate your wishes to those people around you, who will step in to help you when you might need it most. Focused. 

This was the feature story on the May edition of the MemoryBanc Newsletter. To see the complete newsletter, click here.