It's no secret that retirement can be an expensive period of life. With housing, healthcare, and keeping busy, you might find that you spend more money during your senior years than anticipated. And for that reason, it's important to come into retirement with a healthy amount of savings.
But there's another major senior living expense that could catch you completely off guard. And if you're not careful, it can potentially deplete your retirement savings and leave you miserably cash-strapped.
Gear up for long-term care
American men who turn 65 over the next few years will require an average of 2.3 years of long-term care, reports Medicareguide.com. For American women, that estimate rises to 3.2 years.
Meanwhile, American men who turn 65 in the next few years will spend an average of $142,000 on long-term care, while women will spend $176,000. But unfortunately, Medicare won't cover long-term care. And unless you come into retirement with a very robust nest egg, you might easily run down your savings balance in an effort to keep up with that expense.
So what's the solution? It could boil down to long-term care insurance.
Long-term care insurance can substantially defray costs like nursing home care, assisted living, and home health aides. And while that insurance itself might not be cheap, it can, in many situations, pay for itself and then some.
The ideal age to apply for long-term care insurance is during your mid-50s. At that age, you're more likely to secure a reasonable premium rate based on your age and health. At the same time, you're not signing up to pay those premiums for too many years.
The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance reports that the average 55-year-old man will spend $1,700 a year on premiums, while the average woman of that age will spend $2,675 per year. Meanwhile, the average cost for an opposite-gender couple age 55 is $3,050.
That said, long-term care insurance rates can vary, and they hinge on factors such as location and health. If you're a 55-year-old man who's overweight and smokes, you're apt to pay more than a man that age who's fit with no known health issues or risks. Either way, it pays to shop around with different insurance providers before settling on coverage.
Another thing you should know is that if you have funds in a health savings account (HSA), you can use that money to cover the premiums for long-term care insurance. That could, in turn, ease that burden.
While the idea of paying for long-term care insurance might seem daunting, your premium costs might pale in comparison to what you spend on actual care. Say you and your spouse wind up, as a couple, spending $3,050 a year on long-term care premiums for 30 years. That's $91,500 — a lot of money. But if you both wind up needing the level of care estimated above, your total comes to $318,000 — more than three times as much. When you compare those numbers, long-term care insurance does read like a no-brainer.
Of course, such insurance might not cover all of your costs on an annual basis. But it could cover the bulk of them. And if you're worried that an extended period of long-term care might result in financial ruin, then having insurance is a great way to buy yourself some peace of mind.
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