More COVID-19 “Flipped Switches”

In late March, I described my new book called, Flipping a Switch, which will be now be out in June due to COVID-19 delays. The book describes 35 “flipped switches (i.e., transitions) that people experience in later life. At the end of each chapter is a section called “How to Flip This Switch” with suggested action steps for each transition. I wrote in my earlier postthat some of the “switches” that older adults face are the same issues Americans are facing right now with the pandemic.

I noted seven weeks ago that it is almost like socially distancing workers have been forced into “retirement.” I then provided six examples of flipped switches: creating a paycheck, adjusting to a changed (often reduced) income, becoming “fraud bait” with new COVID-19 scams, too much “togetherness” at home, keeping busy, and staying socially connected. Blogger Gary Weiner @Super Saving Tips, had the same idea and recently asked“Is the Pandemic a Retirement Dress Rehearsal?”

Below are five more “flipped switches” that older adults leaving long careers and quarantined Americans have in common:

¨       Tax Adjustments– Retirees often have to make withholding adjustments for new streams of income instead of a paycheck. For example, taxable pensions and required minimum distributions (RMDs) from tax-deferred retirement savings accounts. Similarly, laid off or furloughed workers, or workers with a change in income, should make tax withholding adjustments. Also, arrange for withholding or estimated taxes for unemployment benefits. Workers with a reduced income may also qualify for the earned income tax credit (EITC) for 2020 income taxes due in 2021.
¨       Prioritizing Estate Planning– According to a 2017 surveyless than half (42%) of 1,003 adults had wills. People are more likely to do estate planning at an olderage closer to their life expectancy. Older adults also realize more viscerally that “you can’t take it with you.” COVID-19 had shown us that people of any age can be sickened by the virus and over 85,000 Americans to date have died. COVID-19 is a wake-up call to contact an attorney and prepare a will, living will, and durable power of attorney. If 58% of the 85,000 victims lacked wills, that is almost 50,000 people that died intestate.
¨       Financial Organization and Simplification– My book urges readers to list key financial data in one document including bank and brokerage accounts, insurance policies, credit card numbers, loans, names of financial advisors, and the location of key documents. A good template financial inventory form was developed by the Vanguard investment company. COVID-19 has provided the gift of more free time to many people. Take the time to get your financial affairs in order.
¨       Answering the “What Do You Do? Question– Older adults often need a new answer to this question, whether it is an encore career, hobby, volunteer work, or even something humorous like “whatever I want” or “as little as possible.” Many laid off workers will also need a new answer for a new act. Make a list of your top work-related skills and create an action plan to become re-employed (e.g., networking, LinkedIn profile, and training or certification programs).
¨       Getting Help When Needed– In Flipping a Switch, I discuss how older adults may need help with household activities. Examples include complex financial decisions, asset management, house cleaning and maintenance, yard work, bill-paying, and transportation services when someone is unwilling (e.g., night driving) or unable to drive. Similarly, many people today need help, often with basic needs like food and paying essential household expenses. A good resource for local government and non-profit human services is the phone number 211 or www.211.org.

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