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Avoid Long Term Care Expense Surprises

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

An important component of a wealth building strategy is protecting the nest egg you have created. For individuals who are in their early 50’s, it is a good idea to review your projected wealth level and budget to determine whether you want to self-insure or purchase long term care insurance.

Long term care encompasses services designed to meet a person’s health or personal care needs over a period of time. It may include helping with everyday activities like dressing, bathing, housekeeping, and taking medications. Long term care services may be provided by family or friends out of your own home so you may maintain your overall independence as long as safely possible. And when it is no longer safe to live independently, long term care may be provided through assisted living and nursing facilities.

Many folks believe Medicare covers long term care and it does not. Medicare is a federal program and Medicaid a state run program. Medicaid will cover long term care, but Medicaid requires you to spend down your nest egg before paying for long term care. Many folks are not comfortable spending down their nest egg to almost nothing to pay for long term care.

In this article, I'm going to explain how a long term care plan may protect your wealth. I will explain what a long term care plan is, what it covers, and payment options. Plus, I will help you identify if a long term care plan is a good investment vehicle for your wealth building journey.

Happy elderly woman with granddaughter.
The best surprises during your golden years are gaining smiles and memories with your grandchildren.

Addressing the potential risks of extended or long term care expenses may be one of the biggest financial challenges for individuals who are developing a retirement strategy.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that 70% of people over age 65 can expect to need extended or long term care services at some point in their lives. So understanding the various types of extended care services – and what those services may cost – is critical as you consider your retirement approach.

What Is Long Term Care?

Long term care is not a single activity. It refers to a variety of medical and non–medical services needed by those who have a chronic illness or disability – most commonly associated with aging.

Long term care can include everything from assistance with activities of daily living – help dressing, bathing, using the bathroom, or even driving to the store – to more intensive therapeutic and medical care requiring the services of skilled medical personnel.

Long term care may be provided at home, at a community center, in an assisted living facility, or in a skilled nursing home. And long term care is not exclusively for the elderly; it is possible to need long term care at any age.

How Much Does Long Term Care Cost?

Long term care costs vary state by state and region by region. The 2020 national average for care in a skilled care facility (single occupancy in a nursing home) was $105,850 a year. The national average for care in an assisted living center (single occupancy) was $51,600 a year. Home health aides cost a median $24 per hour or around $40,000 a year (30 hours a week), but that rate may increase when a licensed nurse is required.

What Are the Payment Choices?

Often, long term or extended care is provided by family and friends. Providing care can be a burden, however, and the need for assistance tends to increase with age.

Individuals who would rather not burden their family and friends have two main choices for covering the cost of long term care: they can choose to self-insure or they can purchase long term care insurance.

Many self-insure by default – simply because they haven’t made other arrangements. Those who self-insure may depend on personal savings and investments to fund any extended care needs. Estimates of self insurance for long term care range from $250,000 to $500,000 for an individual depending on the type and length of care needed. The other approach is to consider purchasing extended or long term care insurance, which can cover all levels of care, from skilled care to custodial care to in-home assistance.

When it comes to addressing your extended or long term care needs, many look to select a strategy that may help them protect assets, preserve dignity, and maintain independence. If those concepts are important to you, create a plan for long term or extended care expenses.

Long Term Care Insurance

Long term care insurance is something folks in their late 40’s to 50’s should begin investigating. Long term care policies can be designed with many different features and coverages. For example, some policies cover a minimal amount of care for a couple years, while others cover multi-year stays in a facility or pay for in-home care. There are plans that only reimburse for out-of-pocket expenses you have incurred, or that will pay you cash directly each month. The latter provide you with flexibility to determine whether you want formal or informal care in your home, or formal care in a facility.

Long term care premiums are costly – they can vary from a few thousand dollars a year to almost ten thousand dollars a year. The premiums can be paid in one large lump sum, paid over 10 years, or paid until age 65, or across your lifetime. Some plans will provide coverage for spouses, while many require a separate policy for each individual. It is important to work with your financial advisor to determine the type of coverage most suitable for your family’s needs, as well as coverage that fits your financial situation.

Final thought.

Are your investments prepared to support your long term care needs? Do you wonder if you will have enough money for retirement spending and your long term care needs?

If you have a net worth over $2 million and need help from a wealth manager, the Peak Wealth Planning team can assist you.

Peak Wealth Planning specializes in helping high-net worth individuals and families plan for the future.

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About the Author

Peter Newman is a Chartered Financial Advisor (CFA) and president of Peak Wealth Planning. He works with individuals nationwide that have accumulated wealth through company stock, ESOP shares, real estate, or running a business. Peter applies his unique background to help clients achieve their specific goals and enjoy peace of mind.

Peak Wealth Planning provides concierge services to meet your wealth management needs. Services include: financial planning, investment management, esop diversification, retirement income, insurance, and estate planning advice. Peak Wealth Planning is a fee-based financial advisor based in Champaign, Illinois, and Fraser, Colorado.


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