Death is certain. How long it takes to get there is more of a guessing game and not a one-size-fits-all approach in financial planning.

"The goal is for someone to have money as long as they're alive," said Wes Kotys, president of The Kotys Group in Valparaiso.

Clients typically are planned to age 90 or 100. Sometimes they laugh and say, "There's no way I'm living that long," Kotys said.

Then he asks them to promise they won't, which helps them realize there is no guarantee for life expectancy.

"It's a crucial component (of financial planning), but it's something no one wants to think about," he said. "There's a lot of things we can plan for. Future health is unknown." 

Discussing health and life expectancy is a little easier for people who have cared for or witnessed an aging loved one deal with long-term health expenses. It is common for nursing homes to cost $8,000 to $10,000 a month, depending on the part of the country, Kotys said.

"Long-term and health care planning is much easier with a couple who understands the dynamic," he said.

Healthy people may be a little less open to the discussion.

"We kind of back into the health conversation," Kotys said. "We're already asking very personal information that people likely haven't shared with anyone other than their lawyer or accountant."

A person's current health is a key factor in planning for the long term, said John Amatulli, president and CEO of Amatulli and Associates in St. John.

With technology and medical advances, people are living longer. The number of people living to 100 is growing fast, he said.

Twenty years ago, he would have helped a client plan for 20 years of life after retirement, but now he plans for 30 years, he said.  

Amatulli said his philosophy is to plan as though the client will need some form of medical care in the future. 

Jason Topp, financial adviser and owner of an Ameriprise Financial Services practice in Merrillville, said health care is one of the biggest concerns from clients.

"I like to approach a client’s situation from a holistic view, which means we discuss the issues that relate to their health and longevity," he said. "For example, the average age a woman becomes a widow is 56 years old. That has a tremendous impact on the advice I give and the decisions clients need to make."

With rising health care costs, unplanned sickness can derail people's retirement, he said.

Topp said it is critical to consider a person's current health when planning for the long run. He has experienced varying degrees of openness about health issues.

"I’ve felt a real burden to have more conversations around this topic because of common misconceptions," Topp said. "For example, many people unfortunately assume that Medicare will cover long-term care expenses."

People need to understand their personal risks and research options to make informed decisions.

"Having these discussions sooner than later is key," he said. "The longer people wait, the more chance they have that something can go terribly wrong. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s so unfortunate."

Topp said he runs what he calls "Won't Happen to Me" scenarios for his clients to show the economic impact if their plans are derailed by health issues.

"It's amazing how many people say these things won’t happen to them, but statistics show that 70 percent of people age 65 or over will need some form of long-term care in their lifetime," he said.

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