Women's Retirement Radio

Ronnie Genser, Founder of Bereavement Navigators - Assisting Widows & Widowers After The Death of a Spouse - Episode 36

October 18, 2021 Russ Thornton Season 2 Episode 20
Women's Retirement Radio
Ronnie Genser, Founder of Bereavement Navigators - Assisting Widows & Widowers After The Death of a Spouse - Episode 36
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Women's Retirement Radio, I'm joined by Ronnie Genser.

Ronnie is the founder of Bereavement Navigators.

Since 2012, Bereavement Navigators has assisted widows and widowers with the myriad of non-legal, non-financial advisory, and non-accounting/tax tasks they are faced with after the death of their loved one. Bereavement Navigators' #1 objective is to provide services to make this sometimes painful process of navigating these tasks and the journey ahead easier for them.

In addition, Bereavement Navigators helps people organize their affairs while they are healthy or before a death is expected, in order to make the tasks their spouse/partner, other relative, or friend may face after their death much easier and less stressful.

For more on Ronnie and Bereavement Navigators, please check out these resources:

And here are a couple of links that were mentioned during our conversation:

Get in touch and let me know what you think or if you have any questions.

And thank you for listening.

Visit my website to learn more.

Disclosures

Russ Thornton:
Hey, everyone. It's Russ. Welcome to another episode of Women's Retirement Radio. Today, I'm really happy to be joined by a friend of a few years, as well as a fellow professional that happens to work with a lot of women, like I do, Ronnie Genser, who created and runs an interesting company called Bereavement Navigators. Ronnie, welcome.

Ronnie Genser:
Thanks so much, Russ. Let me tell you a little bit about myself. What I want to talk about first prior to founding Bereavement Navigators in 2012, my professional background included over 20 years in international and domestic sales marketing training and consulting. In addition to my sales and marketing career, during the period of 2006 to 2018, I served on the board of directors of the Lewy Body Dementia Association, which my mother had, that disease, for approximately 12 years.

Ronnie Genser:
As a board member and subsequent volunteer, over a five-year period from 2006 to 2011, I created the Lewy Body Dementia Support Group Network of almost 100 support groups, which span 36 states in the province of Ontario, Canada. This support group network continues to provide families and caregivers the resources to cope with the life changes brought by Lewy body dementia, an incurable progressive disease that currently ravages 1.3 million Americans.

Ronnie Genser:
However, big point here, my international and domestic sales and marketing career path took an unexpected turn after the sudden death of my husband, Dr. Sandy Weinberg, an associate professor of health care management at Clayton State University here in metro Atlanta, as well as an internationally renowned FDA regulatory affairs consultant to the pharmaceutical medical device and biologics industry. He died unexpectedly on October 8, 2011, so it'll be 10 years this year, at age 61 after complications from a heart attack having spent two days in the ICU at Northside Hospital here in Atlanta and seven days in the cardiovascular ICU at St. Joseph's Hospital.

Ronnie Genser:
A little more information about myself, with hopefully a little humor here is we married in our early fifties. It was my husband's second marriage, my first. I called myself a first time, here's the humor, hopefully, albeit menopausal bride. We were married for 10 and a quarter years.

Russ Thornton:
Well, thanks for sharing that Ronnie. I think that paints a pretty colorful picture of both your background professionally but also gives our listeners a little bit of an insight into your personal background. I know it's no accident that you mention your husband's unexpected death, as that has, I think ... I don't want to take words out of your mouth, but I think that's really informed and led to a lot of what you do today. Why don't you tell us a little bit about what Bereavement Navigators is, and the work that you do, and the people that you serve.

Ronnie Genser:
Perfect. You're correct. That absolutely has impacted my life completely. My business was not planned before this event. And it was even a couple of years after the death of my husband that I was encouraged to do this type of work.

Ronnie Genser:
The things I learned about what I needed to do after Sandy's death, including how to organize the numerous and unexpected tasks, the resources I found, and the tips I learned I now share in my work as what I call a Bereavement Navigators with widows, widowers, adult children, and other relatives or friends who have lost a loved one in hopes that my knowledge will make the myriad of tasks and the journey ahead easier for them, since for me it was ... I did not have any friends who were widowed or widows or widowers when my husband died.

Ronnie Genser:
This work is similar to what a sherpa does, someone who guides and helps people navigate in places and situations they have never been in before. However, because my experience also taught me that being well prepared before death is one of the greatest gifts you can give a loved one or a friend if a friend is taking over for you, I also work with healthy couples, partners, and individuals to help them prepare or in some cases better prepare their affairs long before they experience a short-term or long-term incapacitation, such as a broken ... It could be a broken arm where in the short term they can't pay bills on their computer or a long-term such as a dementia diagnosis, or even their own death.

Ronnie Genser:
I refer to this work sometimes as succession planning of a different kind because in many ways it's similar to a lifeboat drill because for many people it not only becomes a wake-up call but it also affords their loved ones an opportunity to practice what they'll face in the future while realizing there is no perfect preparation. There's always something that we forget to tell our loved one about what we own, or where something is, or a password, or whatever. There's no perfect preparation, but at least if they do the work beforehand that things will go such much easier than they did for me. As a result, my goal is to offer my clients and their loved ones the priceless gift of peace of mind, knowing the potentially myriad of tasks their loved ones will face will be much easier, less time-consuming, and mostly importantly less stressful.

Russ Thornton:
You covered a lot there. Some of the main things I took away is it sounds like kind of being thoughtful, thinking ahead, planning and thinking through maybe the steps that need to be taken or maybe planned for in the event of a death or, as you mentioned, even maybe a short-term disability depending on the people's circumstances. But from your perspective, Ronnie, what would you say is the biggest challenge that you help people address or solve through your work at Bereavement Navigators?

Ronnie Genser:
Russ, before I address that, I want to say both ... I should've mentioned it before, but both short-term and long-term incapacitation. Long-term incapacitation would be something like a dementia disease or something like that.

Russ Thornton:
Got it.

Ronnie Genser:
I guess I mentioned short term before because I think it's one of the things people don't ... especially if you're healthy, never think about, you know?

Russ Thornton:
Right, right.

Ronnie Genser:
That that could happen. And it isn't a death, and the person's probably going to get well, but it does happen. I'll go on and say what's the big ... To answer your question about the biggest challenge that I help people address or solve, so what I'd like to do is to talk about the two major service offerings that my business offers, because it really is ... There are two different, in marketing terms, two different target markets.

Ronnie Genser:
The first part of my business when I first started was I was only thinking about after-death services. This involves helping clients after a death figure out what to do, when to do, including are there any deadlines, and how to solve the tasks ahead of them, especially since they may not have encountered any or many of these tasks. For each person, these tasks typically are very different. The combination of losing a spouse, partner, or parent, as well as serving as the executor of that person's estate with its myriad of complex tasks and deadlines, can be overwhelming for many people.

Ronnie Genser:
Several years later, people came to me and when they heard that message kind of got what I called sort of frightened a little and said, "Oh, my gosh." There would be two cases. One would be I ... "We've put together some documents for the person who will take over. We think we're okay, but there might be holes. Can you work with us and see where our holes are and tell us what we need to do to fill in the holes?" The other one was, "Oh, my gosh. We've done nothing, and what you're telling us has really frightened us. We really need to get on board here and start putting together this kind of information for the one who needs to take over, whether it's due to incapacitation, short term or long term, or death."

Ronnie Genser:
I call the second service that evolved major service offering. I was marketeer, so I talk in terms of service offerings. It's called before-death service. This service offering involves working with each client so they develop their own customized set of documents specific to their situation with all the information their loved one, other family, or in some cases a friend ... Because if someone's single and they don't have close relatives nearby or there aren't any living relatives because they have a small family that, I use the term friend sometimes, will need, should they either become incapacitated or die, and that most people don't realize, and in many cases haven't even thought about, and hence don't include in their end-of-life planning. I have one example I'd like to share with your audience, just a quick one.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah, that'd be great.

Ronnie Genser:
One of many [inaudible 00:09:34], if that's okay.

Russ Thornton:
Absolutely. That'd be great.

Ronnie Genser:
Okay. I'll call it the doctor/drug list. I'll tell you this, that mine is ... And I don't even take drugs, I mean, basically other than over-the-counter stuff. There's lots more detail that I'm not even going to ... We don't have time to talk about. But, it's a list that I carry with me in my wallet. It's a list that I have five other places, including the glove compartment of my car for EMS, car forbid I have a car wreck, and several other places, as well as my sister and brother, who each live on ... one lives on the East Coast, one lives on the West Coast have copies of.

Ronnie Genser:
What's really important in that doctor or drug list is, obviously, a list of your doctors, a list of your drugs, but it's also the level of detail that needs to be included in this document to be useful. It also includes the fact that this document needs to be continuously updated immediately after each piece of the data changes. So if you go to the doctor, you can't wait a week to just say, "They changed the prescription or they increased the dosage of something. I'll get to it next week." And next week doesn't come, and you forget about it. Then you have to make sure that you distribute it wherever you want it distributed to, including, as I say, your wallet. I'll tell you why that's important somewhere either ... If not in here, remind me and I'll tell you why at the end.

Ronnie Genser:
As I talk about, the number of places a printout of this document needs to reside and not on a phone or in a computer for a loved one, reside one for a loved one, two for family or a friend, as well as for EMS. EMS doesn't have a lot of time. I will tell you this. I listen to a zillion now EMS people on various Zoom calls. When they talk about coming to someone's home or an accident, they don't have time to go looking on phones or figuring out if you filled in your emergency contacts and things like that.

Ronnie Genser:
So, to make sure that you do have your emergency contacts filled in. And that if you do have, let's say, a note that says, "Go look in my glove compartment," or you have signed up for what's called smart911.com, which is a national free service paid for by each city or geographic area that subscribes to it. I live in Sandy Springs, Georgia. They've subscribed to it. Several other places in metro Atlanta have, but not all places have. But, that's a great way to keep all of that information.

Ronnie Genser:
It has to be immediately accessible, especially in a crisis when it's needed and whatever. There's really a lot to learn here. It's just not like, "Make a list of your doctors and your drugs or your vaccination." And people don't even think of your vaccinations, your allergies, all this kind of stuff. That's what I talk about in terms of the level of detail.

Russ Thornton:
I appreciate that example. I assume that's just one small example of the broad scope of everything that you would cover in an engagement with a person or a family you're working with, correct?

Ronnie Genser:
Minuscule. However, I do put it close to the ... Of all the things that we talk about, it's not at the very top. Things like advanced directives and stuff like that, the real legal documents, are all at the top of my list of things I want to talk to people about. But, it's not far down from there because I think it's so vital because we never know what can happen to us.

Ronnie Genser:
I guess let me interject now. Let me talk about my husband's wallet and things like that because this is really vital. When he had his heart attack, it was not expected. I was about to call EMS because he said to me ... One of the last words he actually spoke to me was, "I think I'm having a heart attack." Then, he did say, "Get a piece of paper and a pencil. I'm going to tell you what drugs I had today. They're going to ask you that at the hospital. And get my wallet." So, I did. He quickly told me the drugs he had taken. Obviously, this is way before I had my business, so that's why I insist upon people thinking about creating this kind of list. I never force people to do stuff, but I tell them why. When I got to the hospital, I gave them the ... They did ask me. First thing, "What has he had today? Because we don't want any conflicts here in terms of medication or allergies or whatever."

Ronnie Genser:
Then, the other reason I finally did learn why I took his wallet, and the reason that he told me that was because he knew that the next thing they ask you is, "What's your insurance?" And rather than tell me what it was, he knew the card was in his wallet." So, yeah.

Russ Thornton:
Oh.

Ronnie Genser:
People have no idea the volume of information they really need to give their loved one. It's just incredible. It is incredible. And if you start now before retirement, you don't have to spend your retirement doing it.

Russ Thornton:
Well, I'm just floored by your husband's presence of mind in a situation like that to tell you to, "Hey, grab a pen or pencil. Write this down and grab my wallet."

Ronnie Genser:
That was amazing, for which I feel very blessed. But, I think in my introduction, I did say he was an international FDA and regulatory affairs consultant, so he was heavily involved in the ethical drug industry and teaching people how to get their drugs through the FDA. The good news is everything I read now about COVID vaccines and how they're getting FDA approval and all this is all vocabulary I know and I don't have to look up. So, it's kind of a blessing.

Russ Thornton:
I think you've begun to give us a good foundational idea of the work you do, the people you work with, the scope of services, as well as the level of detail you get into, but from a more ... To give our listeners maybe a more practical example or to draw maybe a clearer picture, could you maybe share a favorite client success story from your work over the last several years?

Ronnie Genser:
Yeah, absolutely. I made some notes about this because I wanted to give you something I think to the audience will seem unusual, but I want to tell you that almost every client has their own issues, very different. Would I have ever expected somebody to call me for this kind of services? No, but I knew how to do it. I'm going to talk about that and what happened. I want people to understand that every client is unique and every consulting assignment is very different.

Ronnie Genser:
I've chosen after-death consulting assignment just because I had a good example. I could've chosen a before-death consulting assignment, but I chose an after-death one. One of my clients was ... I was going to say because things were so successful she hasn't needed to call me back, but I'll say is the mother of on my neighbors here in Atlanta. She lived in South Africa most of her life, married, and had two sons. One of her sons lives next door to me.

Ronnie Genser:
After her husband died ... And if I remember correctly, she and her husband were both in their late fifties or sixties when he died, so reasonably young. Also, she later met one of her late husband's business associates who lived in South Florida. After a whirlwind romance, they married. However, he was much older than she was and later suffered from ill health.

Ronnie Genser:
After she die, she called me to say she want to become a client, but I couldn't imagine why she wanted my help because she was now twice widowed, and I thought she had "been there, done that" referring to all the after-death tasks. I initially had no idea what I could share with her that she didn't already know. She then told me what she needed my help with was to know what the difference between what she needed to do here in the United States after death was what one needed to do in South Africa.

Ronnie Genser:
At first, I had no idea how I would learn what one needed to do in South Africa in a timely and cost-effective manner. However, after pondering her request for a few minutes, I realized I did not need to know what one needs to do in South Africa. I only needed to tell her what she needed to do here.

Ronnie Genser:
I also told her that at our in-person meeting, if I started to mention something she already knew, she should just tell me to skip this task and for me to move on, which I did. As a result, my preparation for our meeting consisted of putting together a customized list of initial things she might need to do.

Ronnie Genser:
I then met with her after I'd done all of this preparation work. I then met with her for a few hours, number one, going over the tasks I felt based on her own specific situation she needed to do, number two, asking her questions along the way, and three, adding a few more things she needed to do based on our discussions to her list. She was thrilled with this consulting session. She not only told me my prep time and our meeting time was well spent, but also that the topics, the detail, and the direction of what she wanted to know as well as what she needed to do to move forward after the death of her second husband in terms of tasks was exactly what she wanted to learn. Who would've expected I would've had something as unique as this?

Russ Thornton:
Yeah that's-

Ronnie Genser:
[crosstalk 00:19:20] consulting engagement. But, it was fun. I mean, it was fun. It was interesting for both of us. I was really happy that she was happy.

Russ Thornton:
Well, yeah. Of course. Happy clients are kind of what makes our work all worthwhile. But another couple of ideas or questions that came to mind hearing you describe that, Ronnie, how do your clients typically find you? Is it just word of mouth? I mean, I know you mentioned in that one example that it was the mother of one of your neighbors, but-

Ronnie Genser:
Oh, yeah. Good question. One, I never know until I ask them, and I don't have ... I can't say that, one, I'm going to give you some ways, but that one way works better than another. But, coming from a sales and marketing background, I try and go broad and deep in terms of networking within professionals within the senior industry who work in the senior industry networking in terms of speaking engagements in a variety of places, and organizations including faith communities, general organizations, social, non-social organizations within various communities doing speaking engagements now over Zoom, as well used to be in person. Just a variety of people.

Ronnie Genser:
I mean, because this is a kind of business where almost anybody is a prospect. I used to be able to narrow the prospects down. And yes, in a sense I can because it's ... After-death consulting, it's usually a relative or a friend of somebody who's died, but before-death consulting is really anybody. So, there's no one good way. I just feel like I just keep building a huge contact database of people that I've met along the way who seem to be interested in either one or both aspects of my business. And even if they don't give me business, as my late husband used to say when he was well when we would talk about sales and marketing, everybody has a cousin, friend, brother, sister, colleague, and so you just never know.

Ronnie Genser:
So when the phone rings, I have sometimes no idea how they found me. Sometimes I do. But, I just kind of keep putting stuff out there and getting my name out there. And especially not only the name of business, because the name isn't probably the best, but it was the best we could do at the time. Some friends and I worked on it for a long time so that people know what I do. I'm also really appreciative that you asked me to do this today.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. Well, I'm happy to be able to share our conversation with our listeners. You and I've known each other for a few years now and have always been fascinated by the work that you do. So, I'm happy to give you a small platform to share a little bit more detail about what it is you do and who you do it for.

Ronnie Genser:
Thanks. I also want to say that I really feel that Zoom has also been a great vehicle. There's sometimes I now go to industry meetings or other types of meetings. Because we're on Zoom, there are people there from all over. I've met a ton of people that way that I would never have met otherwise. I mean, and formed relationships because we've continued talking or getting to know each other after that one particular Zoom call.

Ronnie Genser:
I also think it's giving back. I mean, that's the other thing, volunteering. I didn't talk about that. But, I'm a real believer in volunteering and giving back but doing it with things that one really supports so that it's an enjoyable situation. As well as sometimes I just come across something and I think it's really interesting for somebody I know, a business colleague. I just send them a quick email and say, "You might be interested in this," to further cement the relationship, because this is all about relationships.

Russ Thornton:
And mentioning Zoom, I'm curious. I know you're based here in the Atlanta area as MI, but do you work just with people here locally or-

Ronnie Genser:
No.

Russ Thornton:
... can you work with people remotely as well?

Ronnie Genser:
Yeah, I work with people remotely all the time. I said to myself, "I have to learn how to be a host." So, I do that. I work with people remotely. What makes it nice is because you can actually see the person you're working with. Because before Zoom, I would work with people remotely, but it was all by straight telephone. Now I can see their face, and we have more relationship. I love it.

Russ Thornton:
That's nice. Well, as you know, and our listeners know, this is Women's Retirement Radio. Much of what we cover we want to tie into retirement and retirement planning, especially as it relates to women. So Ronnie, I'm curious, when you think of the word retirement, what comes to mind for you personally?

Ronnie Genser:
In preparing for today, I thought of two words that come to me. Then, I want to detail out what they mean to me. The first of the two things is financially and the importance of financial planning. And secondarily, on a personal level, retirement means having a plan for what you want to do with your life during retirement, as well as ... What did I write here? Yeah, should a spouse, partner die, be incapacitated, or there be a divorce. Those were sort of the two topics. So if you give me a couple minutes, let me tell you some other notes that I wrote down to flesh out what I mean by this.

Russ Thornton:
Sure.

Ronnie Genser:
Financially, and the importance of financial planning, that means to me not only for how one will have a comfortable retirement and be able to do the things one wants to do but also to plan for the rising cost of long-term care, which can be huge.

Ronnie Genser:
As an example, my mother, who I mentioned, lived in Rhode Island and had Lewy body dementia for 12 years. At that time, 12 years was considered incredibly long time, not so much now. I can't say it's as common, but it's more common. She was able to stay at home for the first three and a half years with my father. Later, it was determined they both needed assisted living, so they moved there and lived in assisted living facility for two years. But during that time during, I guess, the last six months, my father had a heart attack, three strokes, and another heart attack in a six-month period. To be honest, each time we thought he was going to die.

Ronnie Genser:
Because they now both needed a higher level of care, they moved to a nursing home called Steere House, S-T-E-E-R-E House in Rhode Island where my father lived for three and a half more years and my mother lived for six and a half years all due to what I call great care. It was also a nonprofit nursing home, but just a phenomenal place. This experience reminds me to periodic of their long-term care and the cost involved and things like that. My mother died second, which was in 2007. My father died in 2003, so long time ago.

Ronnie Genser:
This experience reminds me to periodically run Genworth's cost of care. So for our listeners, if they want to go to this website, if you just put in Genworth cost of care, you'll get to it. You'll see their survey to not only learn what the cost of care will be in, let's say, 20 or 25 years, as long ... You can set it up to roll out in five years, 10 years, 15 years, whatever you want. I tend to run it every few years just to see where things are, but I ran it just a few months ago and I learned that the cost of long-term care from today until I think I did 25 years out would actually double. It also reminded me to continually plan for my long-term care premiums, to pay them and to know that they're going to probably rise continuously.

Ronnie Genser:
So when I talk about financial, I really think that this concept of planning for four years of long-term care, which was sort of the mantra way back when I think my parents were ill is not enough, and I knew that. I've planned for quite a bit longer through a variety of vehicles, some long-term care insurance and some my own finances. Those are the two parts of financing.

Ronnie Genser:
Secondly, on a personal level, where retirement means having a plan for what you want to do with your life during retirement as well as should a, god forbid, a spouse, partner be incapacitated, die, or there be a divorce. I want to tell another story because I also think stories are important, which came about when after grieving the death of my husband. I began to focus on finding things in people. And when I talk about people in this example, I mean communities of people that make me happy.

Ronnie Genser:
It was about a year and a half after my husband died, and I stopped crying every day. Doesn't happen to everybody, but it did to me. And I didn't cry all day every day, but it seemed every once in a while I'd cry because I truly loved him. I suddenly realized I was feeling better and wondered why. When I examined my life, I realized I had created a new life based on what I now call a three-legged stool or a foundation based on three communities of people. I viewed one leg of my stool as my work, meaning my Bereavement Navigator business. Another leg was my involvement in my faith community. Pretty active member of my synagogue.

Ronnie Genser:
And the third leg was my volunteer work with an organization here in Atlanta called Assistance League-Atlanta, meaning the Atlanta chapter. It's a community of approximately 250 women and some men, sometimes spouses, sometimes not spouses. The mission of Assistance League is to help women and children in need. Funds to do this work come through their thrift store called Attic Treasures, if you live here in metro Atlanta, on Broad Street in a town called Chamblee, Georgia, just north of metro Atlanta, where we all are involved in some capacity either working in the warehouse, kind of like at Goodwill when you drop stuff off, managing a department, meaning could be children's clothes or the men's department, working in the store at the register or on the floor in some project that brings in revenue. For example, I sell all the real gold and sterling silver that comes to this store to private companies who buy their gold and silver because we get more money than if we just sold a 14-karat gold ring because we could never sell it in the thrift store for what it's really worth.

Ronnie Genser:
Hence, I then viewed my life as what I call a balanced three-legged stool with three very different purposes and communities, each of which enriches my life and contributes to building my personal, and in parenthesis, non-financial legacy. That's what I call the personal part of retirement.

Russ Thornton:
Thanks for sharing that. Before I forget, by the way, I know you've mentioned a couple of resources in our conversation so far, like Smart 911, the Genworth cost of care survey, which is actually a tool that I often use with my clients. Then, you most recently mentioned this ... Tell me again, it's Assist League?

Ronnie Genser:
Assistance.

Russ Thornton:
Assistance.

Ronnie Genser:
Assistance League-Atlanta. You can just google that, too, and up will come the website. If you click on the menu tab at the top, click on thrift store, you'll see all the information.

Russ Thornton:
I appreciate that. The reason I mention those is we'll be sure to include links to each of those resources in the-

Ronnie Genser:
Oh, okay.

Russ Thornton:
... show notes for this episode as well so anyone that's listening can get to them pretty quickly and easily.

Ronnie Genser:
And if after this if you want to call me, remind me. I'll just send you the direct links. I'm happy to do that.

Russ Thornton:
Perfect.

Ronnie Genser:
[inaudible 00:32:15].

Russ Thornton:
Yeah, yeah. Perfect. From your perspective, Ronnie, both as a woman but also in the work that you do through Bereavement Navigators, what do you consider one of the biggest challenges that women face or that's specific to women when they're planning for retirement?

Ronnie Genser:
A couple things. Not realizing there are two components related to a successful retirement, the financial component and the emotional or personal component that I just talked about, I don't think people think of that. Sometimes people just think of, "Oh, what trips are we taking?" or, "What are we doing?" but there's really planning for this retirement in terms of financially and even if we have the money, what are we going to do for all these years, because we're living longer.

Ronnie Genser:
The emotional component also refers to ... Like what I said, we'll do it with their time for X years into the future that will make them happy. I feel when planning this part of retirement should consist of several activities the person enjoys, so not as to rely on one activity or one person to make them happy.

Ronnie Genser:
Also, if the woman is married or in a relationship, what will retirement look like, not only financially but emotionally if the husband, spouse, partner dies before retirement? Meaning, will these activities carry you forward? Will you have community? We have to build new community, things like that.

Ronnie Genser:
Also, will there be more or less money available? If more money, when will it, one, be available, and two, financially the best time to access it, now or later? For example, because my husband and I were in our early sixties, I could collect social security, because you could start collecting. I guess when you're a widow I think it's sixty. But, was it financially feasible to do that or should I just take the money that I had and live off of that for a number of years and let the social security money just keep increasing? Because I knew that cost increase, etc., and that maybe sacrifice a little now for more comfort later. That's one thought.

Ronnie Genser:
Number two, for example, I found that there's still a significant number of women who don't realize if there husband dies, there won't be two social security incomes each month.

Ronnie Genser:
Thirdly, while some women may have more money after the death of a spouse or partner due to, say, an inheritance, the question they should immediately investigate is based on their own new needs, how long will this new money to them last? And if it isn't enough, then what happens? And to plan for that also. I think those are what I consider some of the things that really come to top of mind that women face when planning for retirement.

Russ Thornton:
I appreciate that perspective. It's interesting. A word that I keep hearing come up throughout our conversation, and I'm not surprised by this, is this idea of planning. It seems to permeate a lot of what you do in your work, Ronnie. It certainly is a key element of the work that I do with my clients. We were talking before we started recording about how there's a difference between have a plan versus ongoing planning.

Ronnie Genser:
Planning, yeah.

Russ Thornton:
We were, I think, kind of joking about the fact that a plan is only as good as what you know today. But clearly, as life happens and evolves and things change, some of those changes you can anticipate and see coming. Many of them you cannot. I think that just emphasizes the need to have a degree of vigilance and to regularly look at all this stuff, whether it's your doctor and drug list that you keep in your wallet, your car, and the other places you mentioned, or your financial plan or the other elements of planning for your post-death items that need to be addressed. I just wanted to highlight that because I think that's a really key takeaway from our conversation today, among many others.

Ronnie Genser:
Yeah. And Russ, I really like your work vigilance because I think people, when they think of planning, they do it in terms of a task or series of tasks. But they say, "Well, the task is done. I'm done," and then they never keep revisiting it. It's nothing for me to just ... I go to the doctor. I come home. I know if there's any pill changes or even ... Not, because I do a lot of non-prescription stuff, but even vitamins or whatever. Maybe they up the milligrams or something. Just do that right then and there. Just do it. Update the list and distribute them or whatever, and just be done because people don't think about what happens if somebody has to take over for you or a doctor has ... you go to the hospital, god forbid, and somebody looks at your list and it's not updated. They can only go with what they see. I really think that high percentage of people don't realize that concept, you know?

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. I think whether someone hires me for financial and retirement planning or hires you for consulting around-

Ronnie Genser:
Absolutely.

Russ Thornton:
... pre- or post-death or other short- or long-term disability or other similar situations, I think there's a ... Taking that first step is a huge benefit and a huge accomplishment, but none of this is set it and forget it. It does require some-

Ronnie Genser:
Set it and forget it. Exactly. Exactly. That's why we're friends. We're on the same page here. But, yeah.

Russ Thornton:
Ronnie, how would you say that your work and the things you do through Bereavement Navigators, how does that impact women and their families as they plan for or make the transition into retirement?

Ronnie Genser:
I think that my before-death service offering part of my business is really designed to help people document, as I've tried to allude to, all the things their spouse, partner, family member or friend will need should they become incapacitated or, god forbid, die. My hope is by doing this work they will be at peace. That's, I think, what I hopefully will give them if they will do this work. Not only them, but their spouse, partner, family member, or friend, and that they can truly enjoy their retirement without the need to do this end-of-life planning work hanging over their head during retirement. Do it as you're planning for retirement. Just think of this as series of tasks, and we take it one at a time, kind of in the order of importance. Just go do it because it's not something you can do in 20 minutes, unfortunately, if you do it well.

Ronnie Genser:
The other thing is I always think to people, "Don't you want to be remembered ..." How do I want to word it? Don't you want to have good memories of the one who was left behind as opposed to, oh, why didn't they do this or that to have made my life easier? That's the consequences, really, a lot of times. People are really upset or angry with their loved one after death, and they shouldn't. They should just have good memories. That's what I want to give them.

Russ Thornton:
You could probably correct me if I'm wrong here, but I would also anticipate there's some kind of cognitive dissonance around the fact that people need to think about plan, address these things, hopefully well ahead of the time that they actually need to be acted upon. I'm thinking specifically around pre-death planning. But, of course, I think that's pretty common knowledge. No one likes to think about their immortality or that of their partner, spouse, family, and friends. I would imagine it's often difficult for people to take that first step to say, "I realize I need to work on this. I'm going to reach out to Ronnie," for example, "to get some help with it."

Ronnie Genser:
And it is. What I try and tell people ... I like to reframe it a little. I say, "We're working on tasks. We're not working on death. We're working on tasks." Because when you think of your doctor-drug list, what is it? It's a doctor-drug list. We're not talking about why we're doing it. We're talking about we're just doing it, you know?

Russ Thornton:
Yeah.

Ronnie Genser:
My doctor always likes to say when she has to deal with ... Or was talking about death. She says, "We're all biological beings, just like the fly in the room today. We're all biological beings. Don't people realize this?" I feel, yes, we don't always realize this. And no, we don't want to think about it all the time. But, we can think about lists and gifts that we're giving and feel good about giving this gift to our loved ones.

Russ Thornton:
I think that's a great way to kind of start wrapping up the conversation, but I'd like to share with our listeners a little bit more about you personally, Ronnie. I know you're busy, both with your company and the communities that you share with us. But when you've got a little time to yourself, let's say an hour or two, how do you most enjoy spending your time?

Ronnie Genser:
Pricing all the pins and rings that are donated to Assistance League-Atlanta's thrift store, Attic Treasures, which I previously mentioned, and selling the gold and the silver. I love doing that kind of stuff. I come from a jewelry family. It was custom jewelry in Rhode Island in the 1950s and early '60s. My grandfather owned a jewelry store. My father was in jewelry for a good part of his working life. He did some other things, too, but he did that. Jewelry for me, especially pins and rings, have always been my passion.

Russ Thornton:
Interesting. Just out of curiosity, since that's an ongoing project that you're involved with, I mean, how many hours does that typically take a week for you?

Ronnie Genser:
It could be forever because we get ... Assistance League is a great place to donate stuff, and so we get a lot. Sometimes it ebbs and wanes, but I tend to do it sometimes while watching TV. Like everybody on the jewelry team who prices necklaces or bracelets, we do it in sort of odd hours. It's not like I devote time. In fact, I have tons of pins and rings to price right now because I've been really busy with work and other things in my life. But, we'll call it my hobby.

Russ Thornton:
Got it. That's interesting. I'm glad you shared that. Ronnie, we've covered a lot today. I've thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, as I always do when you and I get a chance to catch up. If there were one thing our listeners could take away from our conversation today, what would you want that one thing or one idea to be?

Ronnie Genser:
I think while planning for retirement to include time during retirement, or even before retirement, to gather the information your spouse, partner, other family member or friend will need after your death. I just can't stress that enough. It can be the greatest gift you can give yourself. Because when completed, as well as when you continuously update the information as needed, it will not only bring you peace, but also after your death it will hopefully do likewise for whomever takes over for you, be it your spouse, partner, family member, or friend. If you do this, then truly know that after your death, if they could, they would thank you.

Russ Thornton:
What a great and important note to kind of wrap things up on. Before we wrap it up for good today, Ronnie, is there anything else you want to cover or address? Anything I didn't ask you that you wish I would have today?

Ronnie Genser:
Yeah, just a couple of things. Over the past six months, the number of requests I've received for my speaking engagements has increased significantly. In fact, recently, I've been invited by four, I think today five, organizations to speak to their members. The title of my most popular and requested presentation is called Making Advance Care Planning Easier with the Georgia POLST. That's spelled P-O-L-S-T. It stands for physician order for life-sustaining treatment.

Ronnie Genser:
Over the years, I've also presented state-specific versions of the speech in Colorado, Florida, and Tennessee. I just think, especially people who are on Medicare, the POLST, the physician ordered life-sustaining treatment document, gives you many more options than section two, the treatment preference section, of the advanced directive in terms of your health wishes at end of life. I talk about the differences between the two documents, why you need both documents, and how to get not just all A, all B, or all C, as it is written in the advanced directive, but to have as many combinations and permutations as you would like. That's, as I said, my most popular and requested speaking engagement. So if anybody's interested, they can contact me.

Ronnie Genser:
I'd also like your audience to know that I'm always happy to speak to any organization, family group, or group of friends who will provide a Zoom host and have ... I sometimes like to say guarantee, but have 10 or more people in attendance. And that my 23-page electronic handout, sometimes called a workbook on this topic, I send to the Zoom host for further dissemination to all registered attendees a few days before the presentation so everybody can print it out and so they can easily follow along while I'm speaking and they can take notes on it because it's just totally packed with information, more than they could actually read on a screen, but therefore they don't have to take notes of what's on the screen. They can just write notes on the document. So if anybody's interested in getting a group together or know of a group, I'm happy to do that.

Russ Thornton:
Thanks for sharing that. Just to clarify for folks that aren't familiar with the term advanced directive, that's more commonly referred to as a living will. But to Ronnie's point, the POLST document can be a great addition or actually serve in place of the advanced directive or living will in many cases. So, definitely encourage our listeners to look further into that.

Ronnie Genser:
One caveat is it really only replaces section ... Not replaces, but is complementary to, that's the word we like to use, complementary to section two of the treatment preference section of the Georgia advanced directive. So, you still need the other sections because, as you know, there's the naming a health care agent, disposition of body, several other ... three other sections beside the treatment preference section, so you need both.

Russ Thornton:
Got it. Thanks for clarifying that. Ronnie, I'm sure people listening to this are probably going to be interested in learning more. I know you mentioned that you do speaking for groups on Zoom or to community or other organizations. What would be the best way for someone to reach out to you to learn more or to perhaps schedule a time to speak with you or learn about your speaking services, things like that?

Ronnie Genser:
My website is www.bereavementnavigators.com, spelt B-E-A-R-E-A-V-E-M-E-N-T-N-A-V-I-G-A-T-O-R-S, bereavementnavigators.com. If anyone has a question, I really prefer people to call me, and I'll tell you why in a minute, at (404) 843-9460. Again, (404) 843-9460 so I can quickly answer any questions they may have either about me or my business and because I found that one question typically leads to another. So rather than engaging in numerous, numerous rounds of long, explanatory emails, which I really don't have time to do, it is easier and faster for both the caller and me to have a brief telephone conversation, which I'm happy to do. And I'm many cases, what someone might think is just a quick question really is not, does not have a shortened ... I don't want to say it this way. Is a quick question but maybe not have a short and quick answer.

Ronnie Genser:
In addition, if interested, I'm also happy to provide anyone who calls me with my extensive one-page bio document. It's a more extensive description of my background and my business offerings than what's currently on my website and also another document, what I call my value-added document titled Suggested Gifts for a Widow, Widower, or an Adult Child When You Want to Help and Don't Know What Meaningful Things You Can Do for Someone After the Death of a Loved One. It was all the things that people creatively did for me, and I just decided I'd document them in sort of a time order, meaning at death, a few days after death, a month later, etc., things that you could do that ... Most of them are free. I think the most expensive thing on there is a box of manila file folders, because you're going to need that for all the paperwork that you have lying around your desk. That cost under $25, probably the most expensive thing on the list.

Russ Thornton:
Well, as I mentioned earlier, we'll be sure to share a link to your website as well as some of the resources that you mentioned during our conversation. I just want to say thanks, Ronnie. This has been great. Always enjoy speaking with you. Happy to be able to share our conversation today with our listeners.

Ronnie Genser:
Thanks ever so much for having me. I always love talking with you. It's just great and easy. You ask very creative questions, so thank you.

Russ Thornton:
Well, thanks. Thanks to all of you out there listening. Again, this has been another episode of Women's Retirement Radio. I'll look forward to catching up with you on our next episode.