Long-term Care is an Expense Down the Road for Many Retirees

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2020 | Elder Law, Financial Planning, Retirement

According to a recent article from CNBC one of the great dilemmas facing most retirees is paying for the costs of long-term care. As the CNBC article, written by reporter Sarah O’Brien, points out, part of what makes this such a troubling issue for today’s seniors is that no one can say for certain who will have to pay for long-term care, or how much, or for how long.

Planning ahead is the key.
You don’t have to be a victim of ill health, bad planning, or economic setback, because with a well-crafted plan you and your loved ones should be able to navigate the road to retirement with your dignity and your well-earned resources.

The Burden of Paying for Long-Term Care Will Affect the Majority of Retirees

“There’s an expense lurking down the road for many retirees that is largely unpredictable but likely: long-term care,” says the CNBC article. “Someone turning 65 today faces a nearly 70 percent chance of needing LTC services during their remaining years.” But as premiums on long-term care insurance policies continue to rise, financial advisors are looking at other strategies to help their clients prepare for a day when they can no longer live independently. As one planner told CNBC, “We’re a country that excels at prolonging and extending life. The result is that the costs of care later in life, and the duration of the care, are lasting longer and longer.”

On average, once they start needing long-term care, women tend to need these services longer than men – 3.7 years for mom compared with just over 2 years for dad. But no matter how long the bills keep coming, the monthly costs can be “eye-popping,” according to CNBC. The nationwide median cost for care at an assisted-living facility is $4,000 per month, compared with $4,200 for a home health aide. If a senior needs care in a skilled nursing facility, the median cost for a shared room nationwide is $7,400 per month, or nearly $90,000 per year. Here in the Pacific Northwest, those costs are usually much higher, depending on the quality of the facility. That’s why one planner, in a remarkable example of understatement, told CNBC’s O’Brien, “Without planning, long-term-care costs can be a big financial hit.”

The Burden of Paying for Long-Term Care Can Occur at Varying Stages of Life

According to statistics from the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, fewer than 5 percent of LTC claims are initiated at age 70 or younger. About one-quarter of all claims begin when a senior is in their 70s, and by the time we enter our 80s the likelihood really climbs. Another one-quarter of all claims for long-term care start when a policyholder is between 81 and 85, and an even higher number when the individual is 86 or older – the age when about 45 percent of LTC claims are initiated. To financial advisers, that means their clients face an uncertain and unpredictable timeline for long-term care. Advisers are faced with the challenge of gauging “the probability of a particular client needing care eventually — genetics and lifestyle can factor in — and evaluating available resources to recommend an option,” says CNBC.

For most retirees, the choice comes down to two broad-brush alternatives: either they purchase some form of insurance, or else they self-insure, planning to rely on their own assets to fund long-term care costs. “Other options,” says CNBC, “include leaning on family members or spending down (or shielding) assets to qualify for Medicaid-sponsored nursing-home.” Advisers quoted in the article suggest that people in their 60s today who have roughly $3 million to $5 million in liquid assets are the best candidates to self-insure since income from those assets should cover LTC costs when and if required. As for buying coverage, the solution that CNBC calls “the most straightforward” – a traditional long-term care insurance policy – is too pricey for many middle-income retirees, “contributing to a 60 percent drop in sales since 2012.” As the article adds, “With claims exceeding expectations, many [LTC] insurers also have fled the space” and stopped selling policies altogether.

A Hybrid Life Insurance and LTC Policy May Be Right for You

Another option some advisors recommend is a relatively new hybrid policy that combines life insurance with LTC coverage. “While the particulars of each policy vary,” says the CNBC report, “the idea is that you can tap the death benefit during your lifetime if you need it to pay for long-term care,” although “doing so reduces the amount that your heirs would inherit.” The chief drawback, however, is up-front cost. “You typically need a pot of money to fund it. Some insurers ask for an upfront lump sum, while others allow you to spread the premium payments over a set number of years.” Even though some advisers quoted by CNBC expressed skepticism about the sustainability of the so-called hybrid model, these policies do seem to be gaining in popularity with consumers, with sales up 5 percent in 2018 compared with 2017.

For Today and Tomorrow, Planning is the Essential

Here at Tacoma Elder Care we partner with some great folks in the Puget Sound area who can help you navigate some of these financial concerns. Such as Banker’s Life in University Place, WA. We encourage you to begin the planning process by attending one of our FREE workshops, where you’ll learn about the documents you’ll need to have in place as the corner stone of your Plan. After that we can help you navigate what else you will need, depending on your personal situation and resources.

Remember, having no plan, is a plan – a bad one!

For more information on Long-term Care, contact Bob Michaels of Smith Alling in Tacoma, WA, today for a FREE consultation, or attend one of Tacoma Elder Care’s FREE Workshops where you can learn more about how to get Your Plan under way!

Sign up for a workshop HERE.