Alzheimer’s Link Leads to More Financial Planning – By Simon Constable

Researchers look at how growing awareness of genetics and disease can affect financial plans.

People whose families have a history of Alzheimer’s disease are much more likely to seek expert financial advice and are more likely to delay retirement, compared with people for whom Alzheimer’s isn’t an issue, says a forthcoming study from professors at the University of Utah.

Cost concerns arising from Alzheimer’s disease, which can require years of institutionalized care, are pushing individuals to plan more, according to the study, which was sponsored by the National Institute on Aging.

People in the study whose families had a history of Alzheimer’s were 86% more likely to have seen a financial professional, and 40% less likely to plan to retire before 65 years of age, compared with people whose families had no history of Alzheimer’s.

The study, which has been submitted to American Journal of Alzheimer’s disease & Other Dementias, states that care for Alzheimer’s patients is costing the patients or their families’ on average $56,290 a year, based on data from 2010. The number of Alzheimer’s patients, meanwhile, is expected to triple to 13.8 million by 2050 compared with five years ago.

Cathleen Zick, a professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah and one of three authors of the study, says everyone needs a realistic estimate of what they will need for retirement and a plan to help them meet those needs—especially people with potentially serious health concerns.

“People with low confidence about their financial situation in retirement,” she says, “should be proactive and that would be a sea change in our culture.”

Additional reports by Prof. Zick and her Utah colleagues, Robert Mayer and Ken Smith, look at the links between financial concerns and growing public awareness about genetic links and disease.

A report by the authors that was published in July in the Journal of Aging and Health found that people whose parents have a history of cancer or cardiovascular disease are less optimistic about their own financial prospects in retirement. “It is likely that the link between family health histories and retirement confidence will intensify,” that report says.

The same authors also found that there was at least some level of denial regarding financial planning among women with a family history of breast cancer.

In a study published earlier this year by the online journal Psycho-Oncology, Prof. Zick says focus-group interviews found that such women exhibited a “live-for-today attitude” that doesn’t lend itself to long-term goals like financial planning.


Mr. Constable is a New York-based writer. He can be reached at

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