Ask yourself the hard questions to determine if long-term care insurance is the answer.
The thought alone may be uncomfortable. The need for someone to step in and help you while you’re at your most vulnerable. But statistics show the majority of us – some 70% – will need long-term support in our later years. We may need someone to make sure we take our medicine properly and help us get ready for the day – brush our hair and get us dressed. One-fifth of us will need this type of care for five years or more. And, yet, very few of us plan for this eventuality.
While there are multiple ways to pay for long-term care, some feel a sense of comfort having a long-term care insurance policy. Just like any policy, you’re hoping for the best as you hand over your money. Another option, which might make sense for some, is to have a cash reserve or line of credit available should the need arise. You and your family will take on the risk and responsibility instead of an insurance company. The idea has potential, but you should talk to your advisor first, so you fully understand what to expect and prepare for.
Long-term care insurance is purchased privately, so it will require shopping around. Your advisor has specialized tools that can help you narrow down the field based on what you think you want. Know that your health history will play a big part in what kind of coverage you can obtain and how much you’ll pay for the benefit. The healthier you are, the better, of course. Your coverage will be less expensive, but you might also need care longer if you’re likely to live longer.
The majority of individuals express the desire to remain in the comfort of their own homes. Having 24-hour care can cost as much as $200,000 per year.
Just like the insurance company is determining their risk, you should weigh the cost of the long-term care policy premium with the benefits of having a policy. These might include getting a quality of long-term care that you couldn’t otherwise afford or having peace of mind that you’ll be cared for a certain way.
Before purchasing long-term care insurance, here are some questions to ask.
What lifestyle do you want?
To determine the cost of care and help you weigh the benefits and considerations of an insurance policy, decide what your expectations are for long-term care. Would you prefer around-the-clock care at home because it gives you comfort knowing you won’t have to uproot, or do you like the idea of a private room in an assisted living facility so you have your space but you’re surrounded by companions and activities to keep you busy? Costs vary greatly for different types of care and even across facilities and locations. So, knowing what you want will go a long way in determining what resources you will need.
What’s the right amount?
If you have family members who are willing to be caretakers or you’re able to pay for some long-term care services out of pocket, you’ll want to consider this when looking at policies. Typically, you can decrease coverage once you’ve been accepted, but it is more difficult to increase coverage if additional health issues arise. Talk to a professional who has helped other clients with long-term care planning and will be able to run hypothetical scenarios to make sure you have the coverage you need – not more or less.
Which policy is best?
Every policy has its nuances. What’s best will surely be a matter of determining what’s best for your specific needs. If you’re comparing policies, be sure you understand the differences. Some may pay only for room and board in a facility, but you’ll be expected to come out-of-pocket for medications, linens and other supplies, for example. Others cover more. According to AARP, traditional long-term care insurance policies have become less attractive than permanent life insurance and/or annuity policies that provide long-term care benefits that you can withdraw from for your care needs. Take a look at all of your options and think about the type of care you may need.
When should you buy?
The average age of those buying a policy is 60. Typically, it costs less to buy when you’re younger, although factors like your health history also determine price and should help guide your decision about what timing is right.
Talk to a professional
Before you decide to buy a long-term care insurance policy, sit down with your advisor and review your entire financial picture. It’s important to determine how much care you may be able to afford out-of-pocket and how your lifestyle expectations will affect that. And if you decide to buy a policy, you’ll want to make sure you can afford it over time, as your income and life expenses change.
The bottom line is that you should make a long-term care plan that puts you at ease – and this may or may not include a long-term care insurance policy. Whether you decide to purchase long-term care insurance or not, you should have a plan for your care and have communicated it to your family. This is key to achieving the quality of life you expect and deserve as you age.
Sources: raymondjames.com; Raymond James research; longtermcare.acl.gov/; thebalance.com; aarp.org; morningstar.com
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