A longer retirement increases the odds of needing long-term care. An AARP study found more than 70% of nursing home residents were women, says Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “A Woman’s Guide to Long-Term Care.”
Living longer also increases the chances of living it alone because living longer may mean outliving a spouse. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, “In 2018, women comprised 74% of solo households age 80 and over.”
The first step is to review your retirement projections. It’s wise to look at “what-if” scenarios: What-if, the husband, passes early? How does that impact their retirement? What if a female client lives to 100? Will she have enough to live? What if a single woman needs long-term dementia care? Alzheimer’s and dementia can last for years, eating up a retiree’s nest egg.
Medicare and Medicaid. Government programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, are complicated. For instance, Medicare may cover some long-term care expenses, but only for the first 100 days. Medicare doesn’t pay for custodial care (at-home long-term care). Medicaid pays for long-term care. However, you must qualify financially.
Planning for long-term care. If a woman has a high retirement success rate, she may want to self-insure her future long-term care expenses. This planning can mean setting up a designated long-term care investment account solely for future long-term care expenses. If a woman has a modest degree of retirement success, she may want to lower her current expenses to save more for the future. She may also want to look at long-term care insurance.
Social Security. Women can also think about waiting to claim Social Security until age 70. If women live longer, the extra benefits accrued by waiting can help with long-term care. If possible, women with a higher-earning husband may want to ask the higher-earning spouse to delay until age 70. When the higher-earning spouse dies, the widow can step into the higher benefit. The average break-even age is generally around 77-83 for Social Security; if an individual can live longer than 83, the more dollars and sense it makes to delay collecting until age 70.
Estate Planning. Having a comprehensive estate plan is a must. Women (and men) should have a power of attorney (POA). A POA gives a trusted agent the ability to write checks and send money to pay for long-term care.
Reference: Kiplinger (July 11, 2021) “A Woman’s Guide to Long-Term Care”