Failing to plan, is planning to fail


As I sit here in my office, I glance at my bookcase and there are so many books that I have used in my coaching practice and in this stage of my life. Titles like:

Transitions and Managing Transitions; Retirement by Design, The Joy of Retirement, Smart Women Don’t Retire – They Break Free, Unretirement and My Time; Live Long-Die Short, Aging Well, Talking About Death and On Death and Dying; Radical Acceptance and Mindset.


I have also had wonderful guidance from my parents about planning for the future. I have a will, a power of attorney, a healthcare proxy and advanced directive. I have completed the Five Wishes, a program of Aging with Dignity, and I have discussed this with my children. I felt like I was pretty well prepared. And according to a recent survey, 68% of Americans do not have a will!

Even with all of this prior planning, I realized in my conversation with Dr. Sara Zeff Geber, there were still areas to think about. Her book, Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers, will be added to my bookshelf.

We talked about the 3 critical areas of planning for our elder years.

  • Financial planning
  • Legal planning
  • Social support network/community

I have been fairly pleased with how I have managed my life. I was able to help both of my children through college, although we all took loans that are now paid off. I was able to save a good bit in my 401-K, which is now in an IRA. I was able to purchase a few homes, all as a single parent. I have had an image of how I wanted to live my life in retirement, or after a full-time career, and that image does not include “getting old.” I have not made peace with the idea that one day I may not be able to care for myself. I have not made peace with the idea that one day I am going to have to live off my savings, and there may not be enough to last for the rest of my life.

So much of what may be our reality … one day … is not our reality today. That makes it easy to ignore. I suppose that is why people don’t make a will or prepare an advanced directive. The time to prepare is not when you need it. The time to prepare is before you need it.

It is time for me to imagine where I want to live (community) and how I plan to support myself (financial) into my 80’s and 90’s and to start making that plan now. In just a few years I will be 70! I still feel young, I suppose we all do in some ways. I am also aware that after I do some yard work, my back aches for several days. I may not be able to maintain this house that I love when I am 75 or 80 years old. And then again, I might be able to. I just don’t know. That is what makes this planning so hard.

Sara suggested that we visit alternative housing arrangements. Not knowing the options is part of what makes thinking about this uncomfortable. That will be my next step in planning for my future. There are many options that are listed in her book including Active Adult Communities, Cohousing Communities, Continuous Care Communities. She also mentioned living abroad and tiny houses. Lots to explore.

What have you done, and what are you going to do to prepare for aging, whether you are a solo ager or not?

2 thoughts on “Failing to plan, is planning to fail

  1. Sara Zeff Geber was very good in helping us realize, if we had not yet, how much needs to be planned. It is uncomfortable and even more so as a solo ager, not knowing a lot of who to speak to about it or name as well on forms. I have made a will but it was back in 2008 and it could use a revision. I have 2 siblings left since 2 have died before me and I am the oldest of 5. One of the 2 lives in CA. It is a daunting task for sure, one which I find to be stressful so procrastinating is easy. One thing that is easy to do though is create a list of contacts to provide to my sibling living in my state in the case of an emergency. So I am grateful to both you and Sara for helping us get started. Small steps can lead to bigger ones that are needed.

  2. Great insights, Wendy!

    We keep kicking the rock down the road. We are in denial for sure. We do have an OLD will and advanced directives but the “next step” planning is what we’re unsure of. We don’t want to depend on the kids but would like them to be nearby, not thousands of miles away.
    We should be financially okay but aides and assisted living can be terribly expensive, especially in NYC. I hate the winters but Florida is too far from our kids. It’s a conundrum!
    Ideally we’d be in a quasi assisted living situation in California but it’s even more expensive there than here! If you have any ideas, please let me know. You seem way ahead of us in this area and you are a decade younger. Your Mom and Don are great role models.

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