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How much should you spend on long-term care insurance? What experts say

Doctor soothing senior patient
Long-term care insurance can be a vital part of retirement, but it's important to understand how much you should spend on this coverage. Westend61/Getty Images

The high cost of long-term care can significantly impact seniors' finances at a time when many older Americans can least afford it. According to Genworth's 2023 Cost of Care Survey, the average cost for a private room in a nursing home is $116,800, representing a 4.9% increase over 2022 costs. While getting assistance from a home health aid is substantially lower, its $75.500 average annual cost still represents an outlay of nearly $6,300 per month.

These expenses can wreak havoc on your finances if you're a senior living on a fixed income from Social Security or a pension. And, long-term care costs are only getting more expensive due to greater demand and increased labor costs.

While Medicare generally won't cover these expenses, the right long-term care insurance plan will. Of course, the same factors that drive up long-term care also impact the price of the insurance to cover it. As such, it's important to understand the costs of long-term care (LTC) insurance and how much you should spend on a policy.

Find out how much a long-term care insurance policy could cost you here.

How much should you spend on long-term care insurance? What experts say

We asked several experts to weigh in on long-term care insurance costs for seniors. Here's what they had to say:

The cost of long-term care insurance varies by your situation

One idea the experts agree on is that the appropriate amount you might pay for long-term care insurance depends on your personal circumstances. The type of insurance you get, age, coverage options and other factors also weigh heavily in your premium amount.

"The amount seniors should spend on long-term care insurance should align with their personal financial situation, health status, coverage needs and age," says Skip Skolnik, founder and senior estate planner at Skolnik Retirement Solutions. "Seniors should also be aware that many policies are 'use it or lose it,' meaning you could easily pay on a policy for 10 or 20 years, pass in your sleep and have no benefit from the long-term insurance coverage."

Todd Wolfe, a senior insurance associate at Telemus, agrees that your long-term care insurance premium amount depends on your financial situation, goals and needs. 

"It's all about finding a balance that they can afford and be comfortable with. Traditional long-term care costs really does vary because there are so many different design options in addition to the increasing cost with age. The top three that drive the cost are daily or monthly benefit amount, length of coverage and if there is an inflation option selection," Wolfe says.

One of the downsides of long-term care is that its cost can strain your finances, especially if you don't have coverage for it. Insurance can help you protect yourself financially, but determining what and how you should pay for it is challenging.

"There is no perfect formula," says Kevin Patrick Peters, a certified life underwriter and wealth advisor at XML Financial Group. "Typically, a senior considering LTC insurance should own their own home and have assets of $100,000 or more to protect," says Peters, who adds that seniors should also want to protect those assets and remain independent in their home for as long as possible. "Many seniors may consider using a portion of the interest of those assets to pay for LTC insurance if that interest is not required for their day-to-day living expenses."

Explore your long-term care options and compare policies here.

Costs could be lower with employer-provided insurance

As with other types of insurance, it's wise to compare rates from multiple insurers to find the best combination of coverage and costs for your situation. While policy choices play a significant role in the amount of your long-term care insurance premiums, who provides your policy is equally important.

Chris Orestis, president of Retirement Genius, recommends getting coverage through your employer if you have that opsion. 

"People can also obtain coverage through a hybrid life and LTC insurance policy, or they can purchase an annuity that offers LTC coverage. Each option offers unique benefits that will impact what they cost, but the overall average cost of a standard long-term care insurance policy for someone age 60 is about $1,200 and by age 65 increases to $1,700," Orestis says.

How to secure cost-effective long-term care insurance

Premiums for long-term care insurance tend to be lower for younger applicants, so it often pays to take out a policy early if you anticipate needing care later in life. Another way to keep your insurance costs in check is to avoid purchasing more coverage than necessary. Consider your financial means to make payments, how much family support you might expect and what coverage options are essential versus what you may do without.

One of the most significant factors to play a role in your long-term care insurance premiums is the amount of coverage you purchase. That's why, if your goal is to make long-term care insurance more affordable, you may want to take the time to consider how much coverage you'll need and what financial assets and resources will be available to you if you need long-term care.

Skolnik recommends looking into hybrid insurance products, which may address your needs better. 

"There are hybrid-joint policies that will pay out a multiple as high as three times the premium to cover the needs of care," he says. "Many of these are also 100% return of premium, which means if you or your spouse never need to go to a nursing home, the initial premium is returned with a guaranteed compounded interest rate to the insured estate."

The bottom line

While it's not something we like to think about or plan for, statistics show that we should prepare for our care in our later years. According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, roughly 80% of 65-year-olds will need some form of long-term care at some point. As such, it's wise to prepare for long-term care before age 65, although planning later is still beneficial.

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