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Middle and Low Income Seniors Facing Affordable Housing Shortage

Middle and Low Income Seniors Facing Affordable Housing Shortage

There is a growing need for affordable senior housing that is only starting to be addressed by businesses that build for this market. If you have a lot of money you typically have a lot of options. At the other end of the spectrum if you have nothing you can qualify for government assistance though these programs, but most often include wait times, years of wait times, due to lack of available housing. The truth is many seniors, nearly 40%, have less than $50,000 in savings, not including the value of their homes, according to a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies and Harvard University. That doesn’t make them poor but it doesn’t make them rich either. Middle income seniors are stuck in the middle and the statistics are indicative of a looming senior housing crisis. By 2035 one in three households will be headed by someone aged sixty-five or more years and the population aged eighty or more years will have doubled to 24 million.

The truth is that thoughtfully designed housing for senior adults is not being created on a scale that reflects the growing need and the need is palpable. Many aging adults don’t even want to project that one day they will no longer be able to live in their current home. When asked about their forward living plans it usually consists of some variant of “the plan is to die in my home.” Sadly, it is impossible to script your passing and while you might hope it happens gently in your home it is more likely that an adverse event, such as a fall, will change everything and you will require some level of care. The Social Security Administration estimates that if you turn 65 today, you will live to 84.3 if you are a man, and to 86.6 for women. Added SSA: “And those are just averages. About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one out of ten will live past age 95.” (https://www.thestreet.com/story/13640644/1/inside-the-nation-s-looming-senior-housing-crisis.html) Those numbers of longevity represent staggering costs when you consider the likelihood that those oldest years will require the most significant care.

That “significant care” costs serious money. According to “A Place for Mom,” the average national cost for a private assisted living facility is almost $4,000 per month. If you want private nursing home care that cost increases to more than $6,000 per month, depending on where you live. If you compare these costs with the fact that nearly 50% of adults aged sixty-five or older have just enough income to afford basic expenses you can intuit it is a recipe for disaster. The only thing left is to spend assets pay for care. That is not a good option for several reasons. First, you will likely run out of assets quickly due to the current costs of care. Second, you would be unable to leave a legacy to children or continue to provide for a spouse after you are gone. 

That is why the understanding of aging is facing a paradigm shift – many companies that design and build for retirement communities want the word “senior” dropped altogether. Innovative technology companies and non-profits are sounding the alarm and changing the discussion from challenge to opportunity, from health care to health, wellness, and lifestyle, and bringing entrepreneurial ideas to create a positive change. It is a step in the right direction but it does not change the current reality – there is a shortage of affordable senior housing and there is a continuing increase in need for senior residency. 

What is your housing reality and future? Do you have a plan in place to handle the changes that most likely will affect you and your living environment? It is important to have this discussion with your family, and with a professional elder law attorney. Proactive planning is in your best interest. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

Do Not Plan or Save at Your Own Retirement Peril

A significant portion of Americans are saving nothing for retirement and very little in their day to day lives. While the unemployment rate is low and wages are seeing an increase the American worker is not saving enough of their income which will inevitably lead to short falls of operational cash during an unexpected crisis and in their retirement years further down the road. (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/15/bankrate-65-percent-of-americans-save-little-or-nothing.html

Bankrate maintains that half of all Americans will not be able to maintain their standard of living once they have stopped working. GoBankingRates corroborates these findings citing that over forty percent of Americans have less than $10,000 dollars saved for their retirement. These statistics point to a dismal retirement future for nearly half of all Americans. 

This doesn’t have to be your future. It doesn’t matter how little you currently save. You don’t have to become the horror story of retiring and meeting financial ruin like so many do. What matters is that you change the trajectory of your retirement life by proactively examining how you are spending and saving. The sooner you begin the better your chances of success. 

The first and most important strategy to implement is learning to live beneath your means. That translates into saving money: probably more than you currently do. Saving money is an underestimated survival skill. To save begin by tracking your spending habits for thirty days. Once you have the data create a realistic and doable budget. Fluid expenditures like groceries, eating out, clothing, gasoline and auto maintenance need to have a set monthly budget. Create a simple two columned sheet of paper with budgeted and actual expenditures to monitor your progress. Typical categories where you can reduce expenditures include; cable packages, phone plans, groceries, entertainment costs, gym memberships, clothing and dining out. Start asking yourself over and over “Is this a need or a want?” and if it is a need, how can you make the cost lower. The game is how much money you can save, not spend.

Consolidate your non essential debt and pay it off, completely. Make it a primary goal to get out of debt. Stop being a debt slave. In the credit card industry there is an insider term used for people who fully pay their credit cards off each month. Guess what it is? It is a deadbeat. Companies cannot make money off of you if you stop becoming a slave to debt. If you can’t afford it then find a way to live without it.

Double check your insurance rates on your car, homeowner, and health. Do not purchase flight insurance, extended warranties, and disease insurance. Check this site for fifteen insurance policies you don’t need. (https://www.investopedia.com/insurance/insurance-policies-you-dont-need/). Get rid of the policy all together or find wiggle room for reduced premiums or get a more competitive provider to save money. 

Get rid of automatic payments attached to your banking accounts. Most people can eliminate expenditures they forgot they are even locked into. This also forces you to take control of your bill/payment cycles. Being involved in the day to day of bill payment keeps you far more aware of your financial situation and keeps your mind active.

Consider downsizing your home. If you are in a two story house it is inevitable that one day you will not be able to climb those stairs. A one story home or a first floor condo or apartment can help you purge your life of ‘stuff’ you no longer need. Some of those things can be sold and the proceeds can be saved. Any profit left over from downsizing immediately goes into savings or a financial investment vehicle to provide and protect your senior years. 

These are some but not all of the ways it is possible to change your savings habits. Guidance from a trusted professional is key to the pathway of success because there will always be roadblocks and setbacks that you must make adjustments for. Structuring a legal plan in connection with a retirement plan can provide added protection and allow you to enjoy retirement more thoroughly.

Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

Creative Financial Approaches to Long Term Care Services

Creative Financial Approaches to Long Term Care Services

Long term care insurance was sold aggressively in the 1980s, 90s and thereafter to offset the costs of seniors needing to live in a nursing home, assisted living or needing at home health care. Now, however, the business of long term care insurance has dramatically changed. What was once over 100 insurers providing LTC policy for sale has shrunk to a pool of less than twenty insurers who continue to sell the health care product. The big financial problem was that the majority of insurers had badly underestimated the longevity of these long term care policy holders and how many claims would be filed during their lifetime. The model became unsustainable from a business perspective. 

As reported by the Wall Street Journal (https://www.wsj.com/articles/millions-bought-insurance-to-cover-retirement-health-costs-now-they-face-an-awful-choice-1516206708) the industry is now in financial turmoil and has turned to the old adage of privatize the gains and socialize the losses; the translation being that millions of people age sixty-five or older with long term care policies are facing steep rate increases. It is not uncommon for a policy holder to face a fifty percent increase in their premium while some of the worst cases are upwards of ninety percent. Because the industry itself used such poor benchmarks and miscalculated projections, policy holders are seemingly left with two choices: Pay the money or leave your coverage after paying into it for years, and sometimes decades.

What if you want a different choice? Everyone would agree that being priced gouged for premiums as you age is inherently unconscionable but if the policy is discontinued what then will happen to the peace of mind long term care brings? What was once the safety net of senior aging care (without becoming a burden to family members) is rapidly disappearing.

CNBC has recently reported about this very issue and suggests getting financially creative for long term care. (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/27/heres-a-surprise-source-you-can-tap-for-long-term-care-services.html) There is a surprising source that you can tap in order to maintain protection for yourself but it requires planning, professional help and time. Do not delay. 

The financially creative premise is to become asset poor, impoverished, and qualify for Medicaid which pays for nursing home care and services. This does not mean the legacy you built during your lifetime will not go to your selected inheritors. On the contrary the assets you own must move out of your name to qualify for Medicaid. The assets will then shift to your designated beneficiary since to qualify you as an individual cannot have over $2,000 in assets.

To begin you will need to retain the services of a qualified elder law attorney, who may also bring in an accountant and a financial advisor. Ideally, you will be able to wait five years before needing long term care and the help of Medicaid. If there are assets transferred during the “five year lookback” it may be subject to penalties or make the applicant ineligible for some period of time requiring them to pay out of pocket.

Now with time on your side it becomes critical to select the right vehicle for transfer. These can be annuities but more often tend to be irrevocable trusts. The assets in the irrevocable trust are no longer under the control of the older person and can provide protection from certain creditors. The vehicle chosen for transfer of assets is very important not only for the older individual but the recipient as well. In the case of an outright gift of appreciated assets (i.e. stocks or real property) there would be no stepped up cost basis which could lead to crushing capital gains taxes when it is time to sell. An elder law attorney with input from your accountant and financial planner can help you choose the right transfer of wealth plan.

Elder law attorneys are closely watching changes in Medicaid,, as Congress is often proposing legislation to change the program.. Be certain your elder law attorney is up to speed on the current requirements, as the eligibility requirements can change very quickly in each state, and sometimes each county.

Though you may never have thought you would find yourself creatively trying to qualify for Medicaid while protecting assets, the current long term care premium prices preclude a large portion of seniors from being able to pay the cost of the policy. Genworth Financial reports the national median cost of a private nursing home room to be $97,455 a year. It doesn’t take long to be wiped out at that cost without long term care. Medicaid may be your solution and time is of the essence for planning. 

Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

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NEIL R. COVERT, Attorney at Law

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