To Insure or Not, That is the Question

Long-term care insure, that is. For anyone in the tween generation who is caring for both children and aging parents, the answer is a resounding “to” when it comes to having our parents own a long-term care policy. What a help it is! What a difference it makes! My mom came home from an extended stay caring for her father prior to his death and bought a policy without a thought as to cost – “I want one, right now” was her comment. She was mid-60’s, healthy, and could afford to get one. It was a no-brainer.

For those of us younger, or less financially able to swallow the costs of those premiums while we are paying mortgages and college tuition, it is more of a struggle. The guys tend to say something like, “just take me out and shoot me.” Well, I get your motivation there, and I feel the same way if I am incapable of taking care of myself, but those logistic are a bit complicated and more than a little illegal. Yes, if your spouse shoots you, neither of you have to worry about long-term care as the penal system will take care of that! However, for those looking for a more law-abiding (not to mention humane) solution, long-term care insurance is the way to go.

If only we knew exactly when we would die, this planning business would be so much easier! Will I live to 100 and be fit as a fiddle and sharp as a tack or will I be healthy and mentally mush? Which one of us will need care and for how long? Where is that crystal ball?

The reality of long-term care insurance is that it is better to have it than not. After age 76, you cannot get it. After a “bad” diagnosis, you cannot get it. If you have some bad family history, you really need to talk to an agent sooner rather than later if you want to get it at all. The other reality is that the younger you are when you buy it, the lower the initial premiums will be, but you will be paying them for a longer time (hopefully!)

Once you dip your toe into the 50’s, it’s time to start asking the questions and evaluating the answers. I’m 52 and the mere thought that I am old enough to be thinking about this is crazy – 50 is the new 40! I take care of myself! I feel great! I am way too young to talk about “old people” stuff! And yet, it is one of those things I really should do. Not that I need to buy today or a year from now, but I do need to start the conversation with an agent, get some quotes and understand the cost difference at 52 versus 55 versus 60 so that I can plan for when to pull the trigger (not that trigger; the long-term care insurance trigger!)

Now, a quote today for a 60 year-old is probably not going to be the quote when I am actually 60 so I need to keep that in mind in the planning but it is important to start thinking about those premiums and planning for the day that I need to pay them. I do not want my health care to derail my kids’ financial lives, and as much as I want to be a gazillionaire by the time I retire, it is looking like I might come up a little short so insurance is probably the way to go.

How about you? Do your parents have it? Are they still at a point where they can get it? Is it worthwhile for the kids to pitch in to help pay the premiums and make sure they have something? Take a few moments and look at yourself and your parents and really think about the impact a nursing home stay would have on the family assets. Now is the time to plan for that. Once it happens, you are on your own.

If you do take the plunge, the company you choose is one of the most important decisions you can make so do your homework and check the insurance ratings to get a solid company that you will be able to count on in the far away future when you need them.