Woman Decision Maker

Sonia Edwards- Pharma Management

Case Facts:

  • Sonia is 53, divorced for 8 years
  • She has (2) children: Justine (24, grad school, self-sufficient) and Josh (21, rising college senior)
  • She is mid-upper level management in a large drug-industry company. She has a bachelor’s in business and an M.B.A.
  • She’s one of (3) children. Her parents live the next state over. She has a younger sister and an older brother. The sister lives in California, her brother nearby. Both siblings are married with kids and doing well. Her parents are probably financially OK, but they’re hitting their mid to later 70’s and slowing down.
  • She feels she’s in a good place- happy with life. The kids are doing well, she likes her work, and she’s rebuilt an active social life following the divorce.
  • Career-wise, she likes what she’s doing, figures there’s another promotion coming in the next couple of years. BUT, at some point she wants to switch gears. Maybe a less stressful position. Maybe consulting in her area (should be high demand for her expertise). Maybe something else.

Goals and concerns:

  • Her primary goal is to get all her ducks in a row so that as she ages she won’t be a financial burden to her children and that things will be in order to make it as easy as possible for them if/when she needs help. That means
    • Saving enough money to support her lifestyle
    • Having enough and the right types of insurance (i.e. Long-term care) to help when needed
    • Having current estate planning documents (Will, Powers of Attorney (financial and medical))
    • Having discussions with her children about her feelings regarding end-of-life care, etc.
  • She wants to plot out a plan to move towards some form of retirement. She’s single now, may or may not remain so (no immediate changes anticipated), and wants to know where she is now and what remains to be done to reach her goals.
  • She wants to work with her siblings (and parents) to develop a plan for their later-in-life care. How to handle things remotely, or their parents moving closer to the children.
  • Over the past few years she’s reconnected with some old college friends and as a group they would like to start traveling some now, and maybe more later. She wants to be able to do this.
  • She doesn’t believe her children should have to wait until she passes to benefit financially. She’d rather help them as she goes but isn’t sure what’s fiscally prudent.

Sonia’s set of circumstances is one that we see more and more. Single (now or maybe always has been), maybe children (typically grown), and a successful, financially secure career. But she’s concerned about aging, independence and becoming a burden to others. While women often outlive their husbands, she’s looking at potentially doing it all on her own the whole way. That makes her a little uncomfortable. Then there’s needing to help her parents. For folks like Mary, even things as “simple” as whom to grant financial or medical Powers of Attorney can be nerve-wracking.

Sonia in many ways is in a fortunate situation. She likes what she does, it pays well, she has good benefits and while the divorce hurt financially she’s been aggressively saving and plans to continue to do so. She has two responsible children who will likely be there for her in some way. As we talked the two concerns that came to the forefront for her were: 1. what if something happened to her and she couldn’t work; 2. what if she needs help later in life? The first is particularly worrisome for single individuals. How will the bills get paid? Her employer provides short and long-term disability insurance, but it has limits. It doesn’t take into account her significant, but regular, bonuses. As an employer-paid group policy, the benefits are taxable as income. Supplementing this won’t be inexpensive, but we explored the options. The second issue is much more complex. There’s a money issue for health care. There’s having access to care. There’s the question of maintaining a home (or not), of living alone or in a group setting (loneliness vs. companionship), and comfort for her kids that she’s doing OK. We explored a number of things, from long-term care insurance (LTCi) to alternative living arrangements (i.e. Continuing Care Retirement Communities) to possible relocation to wherever the kids are. Other than the LTCi we couldn’t do anything specific but we could give Sonia a sense of the impact financially and otherwise of different options so she could ponder them, do some exploring, and know that she has options.

Her parents are another concern. While she and her siblings can afford to help them if needed financially, providing in-person assistance would be much more difficult. We explored options here too. Her parents could move closer to one of the children (though Mom and Dad have deep roots where they are). We researched Geriatric Care Managers who might provide local assistance and oversight. We checked government services available in their area. We even talked about a rotating schedule of visits by the kids- though that quickly proved likely unworkable.

It’s going to take time to work through everything with Sonia. But so far progress has been made on the two major concerns. She applied for, and got, enhanced disability insurance coverage. She knows it won’t be the same as being healthy and working, but it’s a whole lot better than the original situation. She’s had discussions with her brother and sister about the assistance options we discussed. They’ve located a Geriatric Care Manager near their parents. Sonia is leading the process and is going soon to visit them, meet the care manager in person, and introduce her to Sonia’s parents. The hope is that with a set of eyes on the ground there Mom and Dad will have a little extra security for now. This will give the kids- and parents- time to discuss future options if/when their health declines more.

We’re now working on the “happier” stuff in Sonia’s life. She’s feeling OK about her finances now (rightly so) so she just went on a cruise with her friends. Next year- a two week safari. We’ve reallocated her investments. She’s decided to save just a little more each month. She’s actually gone and visited a couple CCRCs and likes what she saw. It’s definitely not something for now- but she can see a day. In that vein she’s applied for a LTCi policy to help with expenses later, helping to preserve her assets. Are there other things to work on? Sure. Estate planning, gifting to her children, and exploring options for a glide-path out of the work-world. But things are looking good, Sonia feels better about knowing the options and pitfall- and strategies for addressing them. All in all, she’s in a good place. Oh, and an old work colleague just relocated to town and asked her out. We’ll see where all this goes.