Sandra Reed: Life care planning for your 20s

Life Care Planning Begins at 20

Want a happy, healthy, financially secure old age? The path to that goal begins at 20, is implemented through the 20s, upgraded in the 30s and 40s to adapt to life changes and kicked into high gear in the 50s and 60s.

Attorney Sandra W. Reed answers your life planning questions.

Attorney Sandra W. Reed answers your life planning questions.

In looking backwards over the past four-and-a-half decades of adulthood for me and my peers, it seems the crucial choices made to lead to “the good life” were staying in school — not only through high school and college, but through post-graduate study; following a career path even if that meant changing careers mid-stream; going into debt only to purchase a house and a car or to pay for additional education; understanding the power of compounding interest; and maintaining strong family relationships and friendship.

The value of maintaining physical health and retaining intellectual curiosity can’t be ignored. Along with that, placing a priority on good citizenship, participating as an informed voter and as an active contributor to the community substantially supports satisfactory senior status. And, finally, studies indicate most contented seniors have cultivated a spiritual path, though not necessarily through organized religion.

A Life Coach for a Life Plan

With the advent of the Life Coach has come the recommendation to make a “Life Plan.” There is nothing wrong with consultation with an expert in the field. The Life Coach advisory, focusing on understanding your needs and strengths, considering your hopes and dreams and applying these to outline specific goals to construct that life plan, is all well and good. And some need that outside nudging to get them started.

But if the Life Plan composed on paper is not carried out within the context of concrete behaviors and actions that allow the plan to succeed, the benefit of construction will be lost.

The realization that most happiness and security in the final decades of life stem from having made certain specific choices in the preceding decades has led me to draft a series of columns containing checklists for each decade of adult life. Post this list as a pin-up reminder of the path to insure that the years of seventies, eighties, nineties and, for the lucky few, even past one hundred are relaxed and as carefree as possible.

Life Care Planning Checklist for 20-Somethings

  • Get the best education and training your abilities and pocketbook can handle.
  • Work at jobs or internships as much as your schedule, physical and emotional stamina can handle, without jeopardizing your success at education and training.
  • Choose jobs that will enhance the skills you will need for the full-time you want when your education or training is completed.
  • Devise an efficient, organized record-keeping system for financial records and important papers.
  • Open a savings account and deposit a minimum of 5 percent of your earnings into it religiously.
  • Start an IRA and contribute to it monthly.
  • Set up a budget that allows for the 5 percent savings and map out a course to live within your means from this day forward
  • Use a credit card only for its convenience. Pay off credits cards monthly.
  • Buy a health insurance policy with a deductible set at the point you can handle if you incur medical bills — no higher, no lower.
  • Upon working full-time, immediately add a disability policy, in addition to health insurance, that will provide income for months you are out of work due to injury or illness.
  • Singles: Purchase a term life insurance policy that is sufficient to cover burial expenses and pay off any debts.
  • Marrieds without children: Purchase a term life insurance policy that will cover burial expenses, pay off debts and cover living expenses for your spouse for at least six months to allow for grief, living adjustment and potential relocation.
  • Marrieds with children: Purchase a term life insurance policy sufficient to pay for burial, debts, and as much of the anticipated living expenses for the family for the next 18 years.
  • When establishing bank accounts – checking and savings –complete proper paperwork to create rights of survivorship or establish pay on death provisions  to a spouse if married, to parents if not.
  • Complete forms naming a spouse as beneficiary of life insurance policy and IRA or any other type existing retirement plan, if married; name parents or sibling(s) if not married.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a daily exercise program.
  • In everything purchased, make quality, durability and value a priority.
  • Execute these legal documents: (1) Medical Power of Attorney; (2) Statutory Durable Power of Attorney; (3) Medical Directive; and (4) will at such point as any assets are acquired that will not be transferred by non-testamentary transfer, such as rights of survivorship, pay on death or beneficiary designation.
  • Make a five-year plan with specific personal and professional goals; review and revise, if necessary, annually.

My list is admittedly not exhaustive. It merely presents an honest attempt on my part to review what has worked in my own life and in the lives of others I’ve observed.

I would love to hear the suggestions from readers arising from their own experiences.Please send your thoughts by email to

Sandra W. Reed is an attorney practicing in Glen Rose. She is of counsel with the elder law firm of Katten & Benson in Fort Worth.


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