As we age, we never know what might happen. The future is unknown, and we might be gone tomorrow, or we might be here a long time. It’s good to plan for any possibility. For many of us, the best possibility is that we enjoy a long life and grow old with our spouse. We want to remain in our own home together for as long as we can possibly manage it.
Here are a few steps to take now to plan for long-term care:
Discuss Your Options with Each Other
As we get older, it sometimes seems that the years just fly by. Throughout our working years, it’s all too easy to set aside our planning for the future because we are so busy with everything going on in the present. There are children to put through college, anniversaries to celebrate, vacations to take and mortgages to pay off.
Despite these distractions, it’s important to discuss together what your goals and wishes are. For many people, the primary goal is to remain in your own home together for as long as you possibly can. There are things we can do now to work toward that, such as paying off your mortgage and updating the house so that it is structurally sound before we are unable to physically work on it anymore.
For other people, the idea of keeping up a house in retirement is unappealing. If this is you, talk over your options with your spouse. Could you move into a condominium for less upkeep? Would you like to live closer to your children? Does a retirement community appeal to you where you live alongside others in your age group?
Write down the best scenario and then share it with your family so that everyone is on board with your goals.
Make a Plan Now
Now that you know your goals, start implementing things that will get you there incrementally. Think about this from all aspects: physical, emotional and of course, financial. Are there home improvements you can make now to get around easier later? When might you be able to downsize to one vehicle instead of two? Will you be close enough to your grandkids or loved ones so that your later years are emotionally fulfilling?
Make an appointment with your financial planner to estimate your costs if you were to reach your full life expectancy. There may be savings or equity that you can use toward the cost of your future care. If you decide there isn’t enough, then you can supplement that with long-term care insurance.
Decide whether you will insure just one spouse or both spouses be sure to consider the cost of inflation. Some insurance companies now even offer shared care options where if one spouse’s benefits run out, that spouse can dip into the other spouse’s available long-term care funds. Meeting with a long-term care insurance expert may be helpful as state laws will come into play.
Lastly, don’t forget to factor in your Medicare costs, as these will be based on your adjusted gross income during your retirement. Medicare Parts B and D cost significantly more for high-income earners, and you want to make sure your estimated monthly health spending is on target.
Protect Your Assets
Depending on your situation, sometimes protecting your assets is a primary goal. Consult with an elder law attorney so that you can use both state and federal laws to protect your assets the best that you can. Structuring your assets in a certain way can sometimes lower the amount of your income and help you become eligible for government assistance.
An elder law attorney can also help you plan for various events. For example, if one person goes into a long-term care facility, your attorney can help you plan for protecting the spouse who is still living at home. In some events, you might be able to use assets to pay off debts or expenses now so that you can qualify for Medicaid sooner.
There are also retirement vehicles, trusts, gifting laws and life insurance that can come into play depending on where you live.
While we all hope for a bright future, you can make that future a reality with proper planning and sound advice. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll be able to sleep well at night knowing you’ve got a solid plan in place.
Danielle Kunkle Roberts is a co-founder at Boomer Benefits, where her team teaches Baby Boomers how to navigate Medicare.