Long-Term Care Planning Protects You and Your Family

More likely than not, you’ll need some form of long-term care in retirement. Figuring out now how to handle the costs would be like building a fence around your retirement home.

A couple sit in the office of financial advisers to get advice.
Tim Schultz and Laura Schultz, right, in their office, where they provide their clients with info on long-term care planning and other retirement issues.
(Image credit: Preservation Retirement Services)

From high-quality security cameras to elaborate alarm systems, people spare no expense to keep their home safe. But what are you doing to protect your retirement home?

You worked hard to build a solid foundation with good saving and spending habits, and years of investing have helped the walls of your retirement home take shape. Protecting that home is critical. While you may have a strategy to lower your taxable income or a portfolio that protects against market risk, have you thought about your long-term care (LTC) plan?

Planning for the worst matters

Everyone hopes to pass away peacefully after a long, healthy retirement. Unfortunately, life rarely plays out that way. My family could never have predicted the impact LTC would have on our finances.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

When my father stopped to help someone with a flat tire on the side of a road, he was tragically sideswiped by a passing car. He spent the rest of his life recovering from the accident and never left the nursing home. Paying for 27 years of LTC cost my parents everything they had, including their 401(k) plans and the home they raised their family in.

We never saw this tragedy coming, and the same could be true for you. We don’t know what life has in store for us, but you’ll be thankful for the security LTC protection can provide.

The cost of LTC adds up quickly. On average, a semiprivate nursing home room costs over $80,000 per year, according to LongTermCare.gov. Keep in mind, the need for LTC is typically a progression: You may need in-home care to start, eventually transition into assisted living and then a nursing home. Those phases can stretch out over many years, even decades.

While traditional health care coverage and Medicare may cover some short-term services, most long-term assistance is not covered, such as an extended nursing home stay or in-home assistance. Paying for these services on your own may hinder your ability to meet day-to-day expenses in retirement, and you run the risk of depleting any legacy you were hoping to leave to your loved ones.

Long-term care plan options

The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) estimates that 70% of today’s 65-year-olds will need some type of LTC in retirement. Since traditional health care coverage and Medicare do not cover any ongoing assistance, those who need LTC are left with four options:

Self-funding. You can pay for LTC out of pocket, dollar-for-dollar. If you end up being a part of the 30% who won’t need LTC in retirement, this option could work in your favor. But that’s a major gamble! There’s no way to know if you’ll need LTC or not, and being forced to self-fund your LTC needs can quickly deplete your retirement savings that were earmarked for other retirement expenditures.

Long-term care insurance. In exchange for a monthly premium, long-term care insurance policyholders can receive coverage for their LTC needs. Depending on the terms of your policy, you may pay a premium for 10, 15 or 20 years. No matter how much money you pay in premiums, most policies do not offer a payout if the policy goes unused, and there is no death benefit to your beneficiaries. Many people are uncomfortable with that risk.

Life insurance. Most people know about term and whole, but there are other types of life insurance with features designed to protect you from LTC risk. Some indexed universal life insurance (UIL) and universal life (UL) insurance policies allow you to tap into the death benefit during your lifetime to cover any LTC costs. Unlike an LTC insurance policy, if the LTC features of a IUL or UL insurance policy go unused, your beneficiaries will receive the full tax-free death benefit when you pass away.

Talk to a retirement planner during your lifetime about the insurance options available to you. Life insurance coverage is dependent on a medical exam, so if you have certain health issues, it may not be a viable solution for you.

Fixed indexed annuities. A fixed indexed annuity (FIA) with an income rider can include LTC benefits. If you purchase an FIA, you’ll pay an insurance company a lump sum of money, and after a certain number of years, you’ll receive an income stream that pays out monthly for the rest of your life. If you add LTC benefits to your contract, you can receive a double payout when an LTC need arises. Let’s say your FIA pays out $2,000 every month. If you need to pay for any LTC, that monthly payout will increase to $4,000.

An accelerated benefit stream can usually only kick in once you’ve held the policy for five years, and the benefit is typically capped at five years, although some policies are only three years. However, the normal income stream from an FIA will continue throughout the lifetime of the policyholder.

Finding the right fit

Deciding what kind of fence to build around your retirement home is a personal decision. There are benefits and drawbacks to every LTC option, and what’s right for one person may not work for another.

While it’s important to be proactive, buying LTC insurance or life insurance at a young age could get very expensive after years of paying premiums. On the other hand, waiting to purchase a policy could put you at risk of paying high premiums because of any health problems you may have developed in your 50s and 60s.

It’s important to meet with a trusted financial adviser who can help you determine the right time to buy and what type of protection your family needs. No two situations are alike, but an adviser can help you weigh the pros and cons specific to your assets, family history, medical history, tax plan and beneficiary needs. I recommend working with a professional who has the experience and industry knowledge needed to keep you and your loved ones safe from the potential burden of LTC.

related content


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Tim Schultz, NSSA®
Founder and President, Preservation Retirement Services

After losing both his mother to breast cancer and a significant amount of money that she left him, Tim became a Licensed Financial Professional to help people never feel as helpless as he did. As the Founder of Preservation Retirement Services, one of his joys in life is spending one-on-one time with clients to help them create safe retirement income strategies and preserve the money they worked so hard to earn.