Is it love? Or is it exploitation?
Last fall, a 19-year-old employee of an assisted living center in Arkansas married her “boo,” an 89-year-old dementia patient. She married him for his money, then used her Twitter account to brag about what she was doing.
What would you say if I told you it’s not the 19-year-old’s fault?
Before you start firing off comments accusing me of victim-blaming, let me be clear. Yes, the 19-year-old is partly at fault. But what we’re really dealing with here is a case of retirement plan failure. If the man had done of better job of planning, this whole sorry scenario could have been prevented.
Let me explain. When you’re creating a plan for retirement, it’s important to anticipate your health, housing, financial, and legal needs as you age. It’s also important to think through in advance what kind of support you will need from your family. Most retirement plans don’t address these things.
In a case like this one, it’s natural to look for someone to blame. It’s part of our culture. And I admit that when a 19-year-old hooks up with an 89-year-old and then boasts about it on social media, we’ve crossed the line into elder abuse territory.
Someone was asleep at the wheel. Where was his family? Who was looking out for him? And if there was no family, did he have a network of people to support him? Where was his appointed surrogate? Where were his healthcare agents? Where was his case manager?
This is a great example of what can go wrong when you only plan for the financial part of retirement. Our 89-year-old obviously had created a financial plan—he was independently wealthy—but he missed the mark everywhere else.
If this man had created a plan for his personal well-being in retirement, he would have known that health is more than just your physical condition. His plan would have included provisions for social connection and companionship, needs that don’t diminish as we age. He probably thought nothing about this as he was funding his trusts and buying his IRAs. It had probably never occurred to him that there might come a day when his loneliness would make him vulnerable to exploitation.
America may be the greatest country in the world, but there will always be those who want to take advantage of others. It’s one of the unfortunate byproducts of our capitalistic system. He’s a man who’s well to do. She’s a woman who’s not doing too well. It’s just another transaction in the market economy, right?
This drama didn’t have to happen. If our 89-year-old had created a coordinated, comprehensive, and multi-disciplinary plan for retirement, he wouldn’t have ended up in the path of this predator. Who is the best professional to help you with this planning? It’s not your financial planner, not your doctor, not your real estate agent, and not your estate planning attorney. It’s a LifePlanner.
Rajiv Nagaich is an elder law attorney, author, adjunct law school professor, and retirement planning visionary who has achieved national recognition for his cutting-edge work with retirees and his contributions to the practice of elder law. He is the founder of two firms based in Federal Way: Life Point Law, an elder law and estate planning firm, and AgingOptions, a firm that provides retirement-related education to consumers and professionals. For more information, visit AgingOptions.com, LifePointLaw.com or call 877-762-4464.