The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

Existential Economics

05/07/2019

I have been a financial planner since dinosaurs roamed the land.  Okay, maybe not that long, but I have watched the evolution of financial planning for a very long time.  In the early years, our focus was on rationalizing or making sense of a person’s financial assets and coordinating that with their estate plan.

With the death of pensions, our focus became retirement planning.  No matter how much a person had saved, they needed MORE.  This was motivated as much by fear of the unknown as by any analytical model but turned out correct after all.

Compounding this uncertainty has been the “problem” of longevity.  Our lifespans have been increasing faster than our ability to prepare for that longer life.  Being a financial planner dealing with this happy problem has made many a client and many a planner deeply unhappy.  Of course, as someone who pays the “assisted living” bill each month for a family member, it makes me deeply unhappy.

Today, I attended a lecture on “brain health” by some noted gerontologists, including two doctors.  As if the cost of getting old fast and getting dead slowly was not enough, they argued the additional cost due to brain disease, like Alzheimer’s and the many forms of dementia, cause the price of dying to skyrocket.  Dying from brain disease can easily add 50% to the cost of dying.

Long-term care insurance can help, but premium costs often increase at a time when the ability to pay those premiums decreases.

As a financial planner, it is simply not “right” to advise clients to deprive themselves and their families from everything that makes life fun.  No vacations, no dinners out, no holiday presents . . . no joy!  There is more to financial planning than just saying MORE savings.

As a planner,  I advise people to save as much as reasonably possible.  As an economist, I advise them to expect higher taxes in the future.  As an investment strategist, I advice them to invest aggressively.

As an existential economist, after discussing “assisted living” with the client  – I wish I could advise them to discuss “assisted suicide” with their family.

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