Category: Military Benefits

A Close Look at the Costs for End-of-Life Care

A recent study showed that people in the U.S. fear developing Alzheimer's disease more than any other major life-threatening disease—including cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes. It also found if diagnosed with the disease, most have deep concerns about their inability to care for themselves. Burdening others by losing memory of life and loved ones was the second greatest concern, according to the MarketWatch article, “What to know about Alzheimer’s and retirement planning.” 8-29-2016

A survey of about 1,000 adults by Harris Interactive showed that the percentage of people who fear getting Alzheimer's has risen much more since 2006 compared to other diseases. This means it’s critical to properly plan for your retirement years early in case you or a loved one becomes afflicted. Take a look at the breakdown in terms of dollars for care between three common diseases:

  • Cancer: $173,400
  • Heart disease: $175,100
  • Dementia: $278,000

These potential medical expenses must be considered in retirement and estate planning. Some of it can be paid for by insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. However, a large amount needs to be paid out of pocket by the family. In most instances, the total cost of care by family caregivers isn’t included in estimates because much of that time is just "helping out," and there’s no cost figure against this. Similarly, there’s no estimate on the amount of lost income family-care providers would have earned if they weren’t involved in the care giving.

Financial planning often gets delayed, but there are many tasks that should be done to make things easier and to avoid complications down the road. Identify family members who should be included in financial plans, like those who can help with routine financial responsibilities. You also should identify the projected costs of care when it comes to Alzheimer's and dementia because those costs are so high. Review any available government benefits, along with Medicare and long-term care policies.

Reference: MarketWatch (July 7, 2016) “What to know about Alzheimer’s and retirement planning”

Make Sure You Receive All of the Benefits for Serving Our Country

Members of the military have special estate planning needs, particularly when they're deployed. These families also have access to special benefits and resources, says Kiplinger's May 27, 2016 article, "Estate Planning for Military Families." Here's a rundown: 7-19-2016

Sign up for low-cost life insurance. This is critical if you have financial dependents—even more so if you're heading into combat. Active-duty members of the military can purchase low-cost term life insurance, called Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI). It costs just 7 cents per $1,000 of coverage per month—or $336 a year for the maximum $400,000—regardless of your age, health, or likelihood of being deployed. In addition, service members can also purchase $100,000 in coverage for their spouse for $60 a year if the spouse is under age 35. The coverage will cost more for older spouses.

Have your legal documents organized. You should create the legal documents such as a will (in which you'll designate a guardian for your minor children), a power of attorney, and a health-care proxy. The power of attorney can be used while you're deployed. It gives your spouse or another person you choose the authority to handle your affairs while you're on duty or out of the country.

Update beneficiary information. The beneficiary designations for your pension, life insurance, IRAs, and thrift savings plan take precedence over your will. Remember, if you designated a beneficiary when you first joined the service and haven't changed it since you got married, that original beneficiary could inherit your account. Update those designations with your spouse and review them when you have life changes like marriage, divorce, or the birth or adoption of a child.

Make survivor decisions for your military pension. If you qualify for a military pension, you'll need to think about whether to have your military retirement pay continue for your beneficiary after you pass away. You typically will pay 6.5% of the portion of the monthly pension payout you want your beneficiary to receive, which is deducted pretax from your retirement pay. If you're looking at this cost compared to the price of buying life insurance for your spouse, the policy would need to be permanent rather than term to be certain it would still be in effect when you die.

Utilize survivor benefits. One often overlooked benefit is the ability to roll over a military death gratuity or SGLI death benefit into an IRA even if it is greater than the $5,500 annual limit. While there are some restrictions, this and other rules can prove helpful to military families.

Reference: Kiplinger's (May 27, 2016) "Estate Planning for Military Families"