How to Plan and Pay for the Golden Years
Updated: May 22, 2019
Guest blog by June Duncan
No one looks forward to the day when they can no longer take care of themselves, and that’s the primary reason many choose not to think about it. However, 70 percent of people end up needing some level of long-term care as they get older, and it’s best to get ahead of the curve on making decisions. If it’s decided that you or a loved one needs services to help meet your daily needs, it’s important that you prepare and know how to pay for long-term care
The first part of planning for the costs associated with long-term care is assessing the likelihood that you or a loved one will need the care.
A lot of it comes down to how you’ve lived up to this point, as well as your current lifestyle. If you smoke, drink heavily or eat poorly, there’s a greater chance you’ll need care sooner than later. Regular checkups at the doctor’s office can keep you up-to-date on your overall health, and making health-conscious changes to your lifestyle can prolong your life and decrease the amount of care needed.
Knowing of any hereditary illnesses or conditions also can play a role in planning for long-term care. In recent years, genetic testing has become more common and accessible to those who wish to know of any potential health issues down the road. While there’s no way to know for certain whether you will be struck with a disease, being knowledgeable of any risks can help you plan for future care and/or long-term health insurance.
How close you are to retirement is also a factor in planning for long-term care costs. In America today, 65-year-olds incur $138,000 in long-term care costs over the course of their life, and two-thirds of people age 40 and above claim to have prepared little or not at all for their long-term care needs. This is largely because many people underestimate the costs and wrongly assume that their health insurance policy will cover them.
Some people have family members who help them with long-term care needs as they age, but a growing number of elderly people must rely on professional care like home assistance and nursing homes.
Look For Available Insurance and Savings Programs
Fortunately, there are insurance and savings programs available to help you prepare for the costs of long-term care. You should first see if there’s a long-term care insurance policy available. If you don’t qualify, you may be able to add a rider to an existing life insurance policy. This would allow you to apply a portion of your death benefits to your long-term care needs.
Another option is to open a health savings account, which allows you to deposit funds that roll over each year; an HSA typically has attractive tax and insurance benefits as well. Using personal savings is another way to pay for long-term care costs, though this usually works best when you start putting aside money at a younger age.
Reducing the Risks
Making necessary changes at home or in your lifestyle that can reduce the risks of injury or illness is one way to keep long-term care costs lower. Avoiding tobacco, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and limiting alcohol consumption are among the choices that can reduce the risks for deadly illnesses. Things such as wearing a seatbelt and avoiding the abuse of prescription and illegal drugs can help prevent unintentional injuries.
Knowing Your Options with Insurance
If you need help paying for long-term care, it’s important to know your options. While Medicaid will cover ongoing long-term care needs, it usually requires you to first deplete all of your financial resources. Another option is to sell your life insurance. You can make good money from life settlements to put toward daily living expenses and medical care.
The possibility of needing long-term care is something that many people either overlook or choose not to think about. However, being prepared if the day comes will be well worth the planning and costs. Examining your lifestyle, hereditary conditions, and retirement status will help you plan for the costs of long-term care. Looking into insurance and savings programs, reducing risks, and learning your insurance options will help you pay for the golden years.
June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.
Photo Credit: Unsplash