If you occasionally glance at the covers of personal-finance magazines, you sometimes get the idea that retirees - at least those who aren't plunging back into the workforce - are living the good life near the beach or by a golf course.
But for those who haven't fared as well financially, the course is much different. And it's certainly not pretty watching Mom and Dad head into their 80s with little left except their Social Security.
In my case, Mom has moved into an assisted-living home, which eats up two-thirds of my folks' Social Security check. My dad, who can't care for mom alone, still lives by himself in the home where I was raised.
Meanwhile, my sister hunts for a retirement community Dad could afford - if the house were sold. The next chapter has yet to be played out. But the message is clear: Start planning now.
My parents' situation isn't unusual. In fact, Americans wait 10 years too long to begin planning for long-term health care, according to a recent survey of 250 financial advisers by the International Association for Financial Planning, in Atlanta.
Most of those surveyed said people should start planning in their 50s, but most wait until their 60s.
"By not planning, individuals risk becoming a financial burden on the family" and depleting hard-earned nest eggs, says Roy Diliberto, president of the Financial Planning Association in Atlanta.
Readers of this section sometimes suggest we focus too much on investing. But after reading our lead story about elder care, you might understand our persistence.
Putting a little more away now can lead to greener pastures for the golden years.
* Reach us at email@example.com
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society