In 2006 Allianz “engaged Age Wave, the nation’s thought-leader on aging, to conduct a landmark national survey…to create an unprecedented understanding of the hopes, fears and motivations related to the passing of values, assets and wealth between generations” which process is commonly referred to as “legacy planning.” Sadly, one of the key findings was that less than a third of the “Elders” and “Boomers” had fully discussed what the founder of Age Wave, Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D, identified as the Four Pillars of Legacy: 1) Values & Life Lessons; 2) Instructions & Wishes to be Fulfilled; 3) Personal Possessions of Emotional Value and 4) Financial Assets or Real Estate. Discussions about death and inheritance were highlighted as emotional barriers to legacy planning.
Little has changed. A subsequent study by Age Wave for Genworth Financial in 2010 found that although interviewed families confirmed serious concerns about paying for long-term care, burdens of caregiving as well as outright fear of Alzheimer’s, most had not done effective legacy planning. Specifically, while 78% of the study participants said it would be helpful to obtain advice from a financial professional about long term care planning only 16% had done so.
We do not believe that this hesitation to do legacy planning is mainly a matter of money or education. According to the 2008 Phoenix Wealth Survey 90% of high net worth business owners agree exit planning is important yet over 50% had no succession plan. Denial about death and physical/mental decline, conflicted family dynamics and the intimidating complexities of the aging maze conspire against most of us. The consequences of this confusion and inertia are many and varied. For family run businesses the adverse impact of no or inadequate legacy planning (including business succession) has a ripple effect on employees, vendors and entire communities.
Savvy Aging was formed with the fundamental goal of helping families navigate the aging maze. This challenge is too difficult for most to do on their own. In fact, we do not claim to have all the answers nor try to be your sole resource. Instead, we choose to be your guide with a focus on facilitating constructive conversations within families, developing a customized action plan or Guided Plan for Seniors (GPS) and then offering screened referrals to select consultants and providers. These referrals are intended to include trust & estate and/or elder lawyers as well as complementary financial advisors with whom actual legacy planning will occur. Our critical role is to prepare and position seniors and their families for effective legacy planning since the first step in the journey is often the hardest.