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Give yourself plenty of time to make retirement, end-of-life plans

Give yourself plenty of time to make retirement, end-of-life plans

After his father died, Dan J. Kubit didn’t know what questions to ask to make sure his mother would be able to live safely on her own in the family home.


“Had I known what I know today 12 years ago we might have been in a better place,” said Kubit, community development director for the home care agency Angels in Your Home and Hilton East, an assisted living facility. “I would have asked better questions.”

Kubit, who was a vice president with M&T Bank at the time, said he would have gone to the professionals in his network.

“My mother probably wouldn’t be in a nursing home suffering from dementia and not knowing who I am, had I known what I know today,” he said. “Just being able to educate myself, I probably would have gotten her in assisted living within 24 months of my father dying. She’d probably be much healthier today.”

Kubit can’t go back, but he doesn’t want others to learn the hard way. He turned his experience into a second career with Angels in Your Home and Hilton East. He is also among five speakers in the Pathways Forward Group, which provides free seminars on the legal, financial and health aspects of retirement.

“How much of this stuff falls apart in somebody’s life just because they didn’t know?” he said. “I’m not saying they’re ignorant. Nobody told them.”

Educating yourself on how to prepare for retirement and enjoy a fulfilling life can take some time because of the many factors to take into consideration such as:

  • Finances: When can I take Social Security benefits and how do I draw my 401k assets?
  • Health: What do I need to know about Medicare? What happens if I need long term care? Do I have my will, health care proxy and living will in order? What do I want in terms of a funeral?
  • Housing: Do I want to continue to live where I am or go to a senior community? Do I want to stay here or move away?
  • Lifestyle: What will I do with all that free time?

“We don’t usually ask those questions until it’s too late,” Kubit said.

The avoidance may come from discomfort, particularly around the discussion of death but the disposition of your remains is part of overall retirement planning.


“It’s inevitable,” said Marjorie Focarazzo, president of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Greater Rochester, a nonprofit that educates the public on funeral practices.

“It’s a matter of when,” she said. “If you say I planned for my whole life, my jobs, changing jobs, where to live, when to have children, when to get married, where to go to school, this is another one of those things I need to plan because I want what I want.”

Focarazzo has told her children about her final wishes to donate her body to the University of Buffalo for research and she has given them instructions on what to do.

“The time to talk and to think about it is when you’re able to,” she said.  “Do it when emotions are in check. If you can put it as part of the checklist of all the things you have to do when planning retirement, it makes it that much easier for your family.”

Paying for the funeral can be part of financial planning, for example, such as setting aside funds or starting an account for that purpose. “Think about what you want and look at what you can afford,” she said. “Let the family know the fund is set aside for burial expenses.”

Marty O’Toole, a trusts and estate lawyer with Harter Secrest and Emery, says clients who’ve had successful retirements started soul-searching in their 50s and 60.


“They asked some honest questions of themselves in terms of how they wanted to spend the balance of their life,” he said. “They asked some honest questions about themselves with respect to investments in terms of risk tolerance. They asked some honest questions of themselves in terms of how they wanted to spend both time and money. With that, they were able to do some detailed thinking because they had settled the larger questions first.”

O’Toole suggested thinking of your remaining years in blocks of time. “Is a 15-year time horizon if you’re age 65 meaningful, or is it better to be thinking of five-year blocks? Once you’ve defined the time period you want to be thinking about, ask the question: do I want to travel, do I want to volunteer, do I want to be close to the grandkids?”

The answers today may not be the solution later.

“The biggest lesson that I’ve drawn is that the world is basically constructed to frustrate your intentions,” O’Toole said. “If things will be different or they won’t be quite the same as you imaged, having some flexibility in the plan and also in your attitude – basically come hell or high water I’m going to do this, I’m not sure is a real healthy attitude.”

Zach Armstrong is 33. The certified financial planner with Sage Rutty is already practicing what he’s preaching to older clients.


“Whether you think retirement is five years away or 30 years away; focus on now because time will be here before you know it.”

He acknowledged that learning about all the aspects of a successful retirement can seem overwhelming. His advice is to find professionals to help with the financial, tax, legal and health care implications. Start by breaking down tasks into manageable pieces, starting with a financial plan.

“You can’t focus on what you’re going to accomplish without knowing if you can get there,” he said. “You don’t want to show up a day late and dollar short for retirement.”

Patti Singer is a freelance writer in Rochester. Contact her at [email protected]