Setting goals and making choices later in life

By Karen Cifala

Last month I wrote about how to pay for the great privilege of longevity when you don’t have much to start with as part of what we all face as we age. In the “if I die” category of life what matters is figuring out how you want to live out your older years and being real about what you have to work with.

“Setting living and spending priorities”, says my old friend Jesse Meeks, who is now 89 years old, is very helpful to ensure your own happiness. For example: Jesse figured out that allocating money for a funeral and an after funeral party really didn’t appeal to him much, and even if it did he most certainly wasn’t going to miss his own end of life party. So 10 years ago he took that pot of money and threw a Pre-Wake party for himself. Yes, you heard me right. He invited all the people in his life that he loved, had a wonderful party complete with eulogies, sermons, toasts and lots of humor alongside the seriousness of getting older. It was a memorable event, especially for him. I recently visited him this past summer, and we saw the video that was made that night; it was even more special because we were sitting watching it together. Well-spent money my friend!!!

When you get older, you need less. Without being too nosy, I asked Jesse what made it possible to still live in his own home and live how he wanted to. He didn’t tell me everything, but he did say what was important to him now is “using and wasting less of everything”. How so? I asked. He replied, “I can’t take my money with me, and I want to leave something to my sons as well as to the next generation”. Sound familiar? I was curious, though, about the second part of this statement and asked him what that meant. He said, “when you get older, you need less”; less food and less waste, less gasoline for your car, less electricity for your home – I guess because he gets up at dawn and goes to bed a dark? He felt a huge responsibility to leave more for future generations by using and wasting less himself.

It helps to create a bucket list and review it often to see if there are any items you might want to add to it. What achievements or experiences do you still want to have in the different areas of your life: Social, Love, Family, Career, Financial, Health or Spiritual? How can you make these happen in your life so you feel blessed, complete and happy?

I’ve heard it said that, “a Will cannot be different from what you are living.” A Will essentially is designed to carry out what you would have done if you were living, right? It tries to ensure that all of your “material possessions” are “properly distributed,” as per your will. If your one of your financial choices you want to make involves continuing your “vision”, establish an organization or a system while you are alive to function as per your “vision” after you are gone. It’s rare that you can depend on someone else to establish your vision, because they will also have their own “wills” to live by.

Planning your exit strategy involves mindfulness, time and energy, and, of course, money. Considering all this and knowing that the cost of growing older in general is increasing, the need to use less is important to be able to make it last. If you spend a lifetime building retirement vehicles, such as real estate investments, funding insurance and retirement funds and chasing the stock market, invest the energy and money to decide what you will need at what time of your life in a meaningful way.

According to Tricia James, a local Berryville Financial Advisor with Edward Jones, member SIPC, “Any key life decision deserves careful and thoughtful discussion. When you transition from one stage of life to another, it is very important to be clear about what your goals are. You need to evaluate these goals to make sure they are attainable and realistic in your time frame. Are your goals sustainable? Sometimes this involves tradeoffs. Sometimes it is merely a matter of re-positioning your assets. You need to know what the best strategies for “you” are. There is no “one size fits all”, there are just too many variables. The more information you have, the better you can prepare. And the sooner you evaluate your situation, the more choices you have on how to attain your goals. I am here to help, please call Jani Layne at 540-955-9015 to make an appointment”.

To help with some of this decision making, Tricia James is hosting an educational seminar at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester on Thursday, September 24 from 5:30-7:30. They will be covering topics such as real estate considerations, wills and other legal issues, taxes, nutritional needs and funeral planning. Again, you can call Jani Layne at 540-955-9015 to reserve space.

Karen Cifala is a SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist) Realtor for REMAX Roots in Berryville, VA. She welcomes receiving feedback and enjoys helping people facilitate transitions in life. You can call her anytime at 303-817-9374 or email her at