BUSINESS JOURNAL: Planning For The Future

Experts Look At How To Prepare For Retirement

Posted: July 31, 2013

Daily News-Record

Jefferson Burgess (left), director of community sales at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, shows an apartment to Pres and Carolyn Nowlin at the Harrisonburg facility on July 24. Photo by Jeremy Hunt / DN-R.
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Pres Nowlin, his son, also named Pres, and his wife, Carolyn, discuss the layout of apartments at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community in Harrisonburg on July 24 with Jefferson Burgess, director of community sales for VMRC. Photo by Jeremy Hunt / DN-R.
HARRISONBURG — Retirement planning is a topic that many people think of almost exclusively in terms of dollars and cents.

“Find your number,” financial giant ING advises in its ad campaign encouraging folks to have a specific monetary target tied to their goals for retirement.

But there’s a whole lot more that goes into planning for retirement, including some things you don’t want to think about and things people don’t even consider until it’s staring them in the face.

What are you going to do with that box full of your daughter’s old sports trophies, or that hobby you picked up two decades ago but haven’t touched in years?

Say you want to continue living in the house that was home for the last 30 years, but do you really want to do the maintenance or pay someone else to do it? How about in 10 years?

What will your spouse do if a medical condition forces you into assisted living younger than either of you imagined, but he or she is still perfectly healthy?

Valley professionals who work with the retired say the biggest problem many people have in making the transition is that they simply aren’t prepared.

“What is remarkable to me is really often how little planning people do for when they’re going to be older,” said Jeanne Russell, director of marketing and community relations for Home Instead Senior Care’s regional office in Verona. “Everybody thinks it’s not going to happen to them, and if you live long enough, of course it will.”

Omaha-based Home Instead provides services to seniors to help them to be able to stay in their home as long as possible, including help with day-to-day tasks as well as medical assistance.

Some people may want to move in with their children or other family members, which can result in good or bad situations.

What’s important, though, experts say, is that you think about where and how you will live later in life. It’s better to start that process earlier rather than later, when you may not have a choice, they say.

Karen McNeal, vice president of marketing at Bridgewater Retirement Community, said many people plan somewhat to move into a continuing-care facility but then continuously delay making a decision to go forward because they don’t feel it’s necessary.

“It’s a change,” she said. “It’s moving from something that you know really, really well and are comfortable with into something that is different and a change. So, that can be a bit intimidating and a bit scary.”

BRC and Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community are continuing-care facilities, meaning they’re set up so people move in while they can still live independently and then transition to assisted living and nursing care if needed.

Both facilities seek to transition tenants into living on campus by getting them involved in the community long before they ever move in.
VMRC, for example, has a golf club and does community events that are open to the public.

When someone files an application, it’s often years before they actually move in, said Jefferson Burgess, director of community sales at VMRC’s facility on Virginia Avenue in Harrisonburg.

“They’re slowly building a relationship of trust and understanding …  so by the time they finally move here, they know the community,” he said. “It’s a lot less threatening that way.”

An oft-overlooked issue that can complicate any decision — whether it’s to stay at home or transition to a retirement community — is what to do with all the possessions that have accumulated over the years?

Kathryn McMillan, owner of Staunton-based Clutter Conversions, said planning ahead can help people avoid feelings of guilt and stress associated with disposing of heirlooms, their children’s old possessions and other items that have built up over the years.

McMillan says there are two times in life when people should assess their estate and plan for the future: once when their children, if they have any, empty the nest, and once at retirement.

In other words, what do you really need once the kids are gone, and what do you really need for retirement?

McMillan advises to start a list of items and ask relatives and others which they would want to have. Lollygags may need a timeline to work with if they say they want something yet never actually come and take it away.

Planning ahead makes it much easier to consolidate when the time comes to do so, but too often, “it’s an afterthought,” McMillan said.

What frequently happens, then, is people are forced to make decisions in a compressed timeframe of 30 to 60 days after they’re already gearing up to move into a retirement community or other living situation, she said.

“They think it’s going to be a simple process — ‘You know, I’m going to call aunt Mary and she’s going to be able to come down next weekend and get the hutch,’” she explained. “Well, she may not be available for a month.”

Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or

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