BEING PREPARED: Who will take care of mom if she needs long-term assistance?

Women typically outlive men by an average of about five years. According to AARP, more than two-thirds of Americans 85 years or older are women. And about 79 % of 65-year-old women will need long term care in their lifetime, according to a recent study by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute. In my practice, I have often seen women often becoming long term caregivers for their husbands or other family members.

Statistics show they also are more likely to become widowed, or divorced, before needing long term care themselves. Yet, women are more prone to take care of their advance planning for themselves. Anecdotally history showed women were more likely to sacrifice their own careers or reduce their regular work hours to take care of others around them, usually for little or no pay. While the gender gap in the work place is changing in our present market and more men are taking time off work to help with childcare or elder needs, women still need to take time to prepare for their own long term needs. Suggestions to consider and discuss with your loved ones and a financial planner are the following:

  • Educate yourself, first. Financial planning is no longer a man’s job. With many households running on two incomes and women living longer than men, women need to plan for their financial future. It needs to be high on the priority list so that setting up future insurance costs, retirement planning and saving needs are in place.
  • Know your retirement benefits. Women need to take advantage of their employer’s retirement plan and not delay saving for the future. IT is particularly important in the event of divorce that could result in the loss of an ex-spouse’s pension or life insurance.
  • Learn what your Social security benefits are and whether you’re eligible for veteran’s benefits.
  • Investigate long term care insurance. A qualified insurance agent can discuss different plans and options as well as pre-qualify your eligibility for a wide spectrum of products and services.
  • Think long term about a budget. What is the age you want to retire and what is the assumed cost of living for today’s money on that date? You need to layout all monthly and annual spending needs then crunch the numbers to determine what you need cash wise for later years to maintain a familiar lifestyle.
  • Understand good versus bad debt. High interest credit cards are never a good idea to hold onto high balances, but subsidized student loans and a home mortgages are debt that helps build careers and credit. Life coaches and financial planners are helpful at looking over your present asset versus debt portfolio (i.e. what you own versus owe) to help you set goals for decreasing debt and saving a bigger nest egg for the future.
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