The fact that, at some point, our lives are going to draw to a close is not a prospect many of us like to dwell on. Even when we accept our mortality, the idea that the final decades of our lives could see us less physically or mentally capable of facing the day-to-day challenges is an uncomfortable one. Particularly when we’re younger, our financial focus can be on growing our current wealth, rather than the preparations we may need to make for the future.
The good news is, our digital landscape continues to offer tools that can make end-of-life planning simpler and more effective. It might not be the most engaging topic, but it’s a good time to examine how you can incorporate these into your current lifestyle, and in preparation for the years ahead.
Preparing for the Unknown
While we can speculate about how we expect to spend our retirement, the truth is we have no idea what awaits us around that corner. Which is why starting to build a reliable financial preparation strategy can help to provide us with a cushion should we face difficulties. Particularly in the U.S., this strategy must include robust insurance and health savings.
Developers in healthcare and financial technology (fintech) have begun to recognize that today’s consumers need online tools that can help them to take control of their healthcare costs. This has led to the emergence of startups such as Lively, which created an online platform that allows consumers to treat their Health Savings Accounts (HSA) not just as a short-term solution for health expenses, but a long-term investment to prepare for out of pocket treatment costs. Their investment feature means that users can log into their online account, and connect to a brokerage platform that gives access to stock, bond, and mutual fund options. As tax-free HSAs are explicitly for health costs, such digital portals to investment can be a route into consumers having more control over their ability to alleviate the financial burden of illness.
But when it comes to the ultimate use of these funds, it’s also important to make certain that, as patients, we have a detailed record and strategy of planned treatment, so we can make arrangements accordingly. This can often be a difficult conversation to have, but it’s important to ensure that when you, a member of your family, a care provider, or a family nurse practitioner are having these conversations, you use accessible digital devices to record planning sessions. These can then be uploaded to cloud platforms along with clear summaries, so that we can not only take time to fully understand the care needed, but also take steps to allocate finances.
Communicating Our Needs
An important part of planning for the future — financially and otherwise — is making certain that our wishes are communicated to those who take responsibility for our estate when we’re unable to. Our world is filled with technologies that can help put our minds at ease, and digital methods to take care of our end-of-life and estate planning are starting to appear among them.
As more digital natives come of age, it’s important to approach the will-making process in a way that reflects how they navigate the world. An electronic will, created personally and stored on a cloud platform or emailed to an executor is a perfectly viable option. States have begun to make adjustments to their statutes to accommodate this, including authorizing use of electronic notarization practices. Additional security can also be applied by limiting access via a password manager such as 1password or LastPass and emailing instructions to executors.
The emergence of digital end-of-life planning platforms is perhaps a more relevant route for current and rising generations. One of the most prominent of these, Cake, functions in a way that mimics certain aspects of social media by building a profile. The platform guides users through each aspect of the planning process, providing access to legal documents, and prompts them to address specific important aspects of their will. End-of-life planning is an uncomfortable process at the best of times, and developing more user-friendly platforms could be key to ensuring widespread adoption of this crucial if unpleasant task.
For the most part, we view end-of-life planning through the lens of preparing for a decline in our faculties or arranging a funeral. However, it is just as important to embrace the tools that can make navigating the final years of our lives a little bit easier. While we may not be able to predict what these platforms may look like in our own distant future, we can help introduce the current digital applications to our friends and family in the twilight of their years.
Mobile financial transactions have become the norm, and gaining a deeper understanding of just how versatile this can be — and helping others to do so — can help build confidence in their use. Most of us, including around 53% of seniors, have smartphones that are capable of operating banking and investment apps that give us control of our finances wherever we are. If part of the retirement plan includes a lot of travel, it can also be useful to adopt fintech tools that support safe global transactions, such as mobile virtual private networks (VPN), and cryptocurrency wallets rather than a regular checking account.
Beyond the financial practicalities, there are increasing types of tech that are geared toward improving safety — which of course can also reduce the prospect for out of pocket medical expenses. Vehicles which have some degree of Level 1 autonomy are entering the market, and features such as driver assistance or lane change warning systems can not only help older drivers avoid accidents, but provide greater peace of mind.
Often we are so focused on living our lives to the fullest that we overlook the necessity to plan for the end. This isn’t always a pleasant prospect, but utilizing tools such as HSA fintech and online will creation services can make the process simpler. Alongside embracing tech that assists us to navigate the world more safely, we can do our best to ensure that our final years are stable and comfortable.