The retirement expense you may not be thinking about

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Although not everyone will need professional long-term care in their lifetimes, a significant portion will, and few people are thinking about it. According to Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, 58 percent of women and 44 percent of men will need nursing home care sometime in their lives. The average duration of such care is estimated at 0.88 years for men and 1.37 years for women.

The average cost for a nursing home in 2012 was $81,030 per year, and the average cost for home health care was $21 per hour. But only 13 percent of people buy long-term care insurance.

Long-term care includes the necessities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, showering, and taking medications. Therefore it is not covered under most medical insurance policies or Medicare. However some health insurance policies cover minimal assistance, and Medicare Part A covers full or partial costs for up to 100 days in a skilled nursing facility following a hospital stay.

One reason cited for why many don’t buy long-term care insurance, is that Medicaid programs cover long-term care for indigent residents. Medicaid’s programs are operated by the states and require that most of a person’s financial assets first be exhausted.

The CRR estimates show that, although only 13 percent of people actually buy long-term care insurance, 19 percent of men and 31 percent would be willing to pay for it. Considering the relatively large percentage of people who will actually need long-term care, it’s prudent for everyone to consider how they would defray the costs should they need them. Some options are:

  1. Purchase long-term care insurance
  2. Reserve a portion of personal savings or home equity to pay the costs
  3. Live close to relatives or grown children who could take care of you
  4. Hope you stay healthy and never need it

Regarding option #3, you also have to consider whether your relatives are able and willing to do this. Many grown children become personally and financially burdened by the cost and stress of taking care of elderly parents.

Option #4 seems to be favored by many people. But it’s wise to make plans for contingencies, even if they’re never needed.

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