Will you and Your Spouse Need Long Term Care as you Age?

The shaken 8 ball says…………………”probably”
According to government statistics if you live to age 65 there is a 70% chance that you will need Long Term Care of some kind after that point.  According to research by the Office of Health and Human Services, the average person turning 65 will incur $138,000 in future LTC services. This could be anything from a family member helping you day to day at home, a nurse professional at home, all the way to full time care needed at a long term care facility.

This is not an easy topic to think about or discuss but with tens of millions of people who will find themselves in that position in the upcoming years it is mandatory to get over the uncomfortable nature of the topic and discuss options.  You basically have 3 options at your disposal:

  1. Do nothing and hope you are in the 30% that needs nothing of the sort or pray that if you are one of the 70% you won’t need “much” care and maybe a family member could help when the time comes
  2. Plan ahead and purchase a long term care insurance policy for you and your spouse and pay monthly premiums that would cover you both (to what degree is very much individual company and policy driven)
  3. Structure your existing assets to create a “hedge” or “cushion” that could pay for long term care or home health care expenses and possibly without any monthly premiums payable. Typically referred to as “Asset based long term care”

The first option is what most people choose and it’s hard to blame them because it’s without a doubt the easiest (currently) decision to make.  Most people decide by not deciding or being properly educated about the other two options that are available.  Surely, you and your spouse will fall into the minority group of 30% or into the “Not too expensive or long” group of people in the 70% majority that will need some type of care; right?

If you are correct with your hope and wish, and both you and your spouse don’t need long term care help in your later years, than you have dodged the proverbial bullet.  If, however, your bet is a loser then you run the real possibility of not receiving the care you need or receiving the care you need but at cost of draining all the assets you have worked so hard to accumulate during your lifetime.  You run the risk of leaving behind little to no estate for your family or cherished causes.

Many people who find themselves needing long term care, but haven’t planned for the possibility, end up attempting to transfer assets out of their names into family member’s names or trusts to appear poor so they can have their care paid for by the government.  This strategy is wrong on many levels.  First there are very specific time tables when those transfers will have had to occur BEFORE you knew you needed long term care (usually years before) and most people fall well short of meeting these time tables.  This will mean you will have to exhaust almost all your assets before any help from Uncle Sam kicks in to help.

If the government is involved and paying for your care, do you think you will get the best care available allowing you to extend your life; in time and in terms of quality of life?  Just look at the VA health system and realize you will likely be getting the same sub-standard care.

Also, I have always wondered why the government should have to pay for someone’s long term care? I am not talking about the truly poor and needy as I think we have enough wealth to provide needed safety nets to that group of people.  I am talking about people who have worked their entire lives and built up assets.  Those assets are meant to be used to make your life better and if you leave money behind to your family that is an added bonus.  We are not supposed to fleece the system because we refused to plan accordingly when we had the means and ability to do so just so we can leave our family behind a chunk of money.  If you want to pay for your care and leave money behind to your family then this will require knowledge and planning.

The second option is to take out long term care insurance policies for you and your spouse.  This can be a great way to plan ahead for the possibility of needing long term care in the future.  These premiums will not be inexpensive but neither is long term care or eventual poverty.  There are many variables to these plans based on the kind of coverage you’re looking to obtain.  The upside is you will have an insurance policy that will pay out monthly to help you and your spouse pay for long term care expenses (make sure you can use the policy for home health care as well as actual long term care facilities) should they occur.  Terms and amounts will vary widely so if this is the way you decide to plan for these expenses find an agent who has much experience and knowledge about these kinds of policies and has access to several of the top carriers in this arena.

The downside of this option is that many people can’t afford the premiums and even if they can afford them, if they never use the policy they don’t get the money back (in almost all cases) just like your car insurance.  If you don’t file a claim on a car they don’t send you back all your premiums because if they did the entire system would become insolvent.  It is very possible that you could pay tens and even hundreds of thousands in premiums and yet never need the coverage.  This is a thought that drives many crazy and causes some not to decide to use this option.

(If you would like more information on this topic visit www.perpetualltc.com for a short video presentation.)

The third option is called “Asset based long term care” and it has several variations.  Let’s talk about the most common use of this strategy.  A person might opt to take a sum of money and open up a specifically designed life insurance policy.  Most of these policies are opened up with a very specific goal of generating a death benefit but that “death benefit” can be accessed during the applicant’s lifetime to pay for long term care expenses.  The applicant put in a certain amount of money (could range from $50,000 to $200,000 per applicant) and buys a life insurance policy on themselves.  Let’s use $50,000 one time single premium into the policy that buys a $200,000 death benefit and that death benefit is guaranteed not to go away after that single premium.

This is not done to have the $50,000 premium actually perform and do anything except generate the bigger death benefit.  However, there will also be cash value generated that can be accessed should the policy owner choose to in the future.  Any loans taken from the policy will reduce the eventual long term care payout.   There is a rider built into this type of policy that allows you to access your death benefit early should you need long term care. (Make sure the policy will allow you to use the benefit for home health care as well as going to a facility)  So in this case you could draw up to $200,000 to pay for long term care expenses.  If you went into a facility this would be enough to pay for about 3 years of care (depending upon where you live and what kind of facility you enter) and if you can stay at home your money would typically last longer assuming it is part time nursing or family members coming in to help you live.

What happens if I live longer than the benefit?  You will then start using other assets or consider putting in more money up front to generate a bigger death benefit.  Maybe $100,000 would generate $350,000 worth of death benefit that could be drawn on later for long term care.  There are also certain policies that might have a “lifetime long term care benefit” after that initial period of coverage is spent you might be able to pay some nominal annual premium on top of the upfront premium already paid years beforehand.  There are many options depending on the company and product chosen.

What happens if I die and never need the long term care benefit?  Simple, this is a life insurance policy so the $200,000 death benefit is paid out tax free to your heirs.  So with that up front premium you either get a higher multiple to use for your eventual long term care or you leave that amount behind for your family.

We hope this article helps shine some light and makes you aware of the options for you and your family. If you would like more information on asset based long term care please visit www.perpetualltc.com for a short video presentation.

9 Reasons You Should Take a Look at Whole Life Insurance

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Just a few short years ago, I was staunchly opposed to whole life insurance, because that’s what I was taught by national “gurus” 25 years ago. I wholeheartedly believed (as many people still do) that if you need life insurance, you should buy a term policy, then take the difference in premiums between whole life and term and invest it in mutual funds.

So when a good friend of mine sat me down and tried to show me a whole life insurance plan, I nearly refused to listen. Many of you reading this will feel the same way, and nothing I say will change your minds. That’s fine — you’re entitled to your opinion just as I was entitled to mine.

Thankfully, my friend showed me how a properly designed whole life insurance policy works. I soon realized that the gurus in my early years and the gurus of today were correct — based on the information they’d been given. The problem was their information was incomplete.

Whenever I hear a financial consultant (or anyone, for that matter) talk about less expensive premiums for term, I know they really don’t understand how this animal of properly designed whole life insurance really works.

With a properly designed whole life insurance policy, you get:

1. Principal protection guarantees of your money.Your cash value isn’t subject to market losses, as it is with mutual funds and other programs. When the stock market tanks again (and it’s never a question of if but when), you won’t lose a dime.

2. Guaranteed growth of your money every year. This will be interest-rate-driven based on the economy, but your account will move forward every year regardless of what the market does. This is compound tax-free growth and not the “average rate of return” you get with mutual funds. To be fair, in our current low-interest-rate environment, the growth rates are only in the 2 percent to 4 percent range but as you study further you start to realize the real wealth is not in the growth rate even when rates go higher.

Many financial advisers will tell you that your money would do better in a good mutual fund. But remember: When someone shows you an “average rate of return,” they can start taking that average from any time that benefits their example. This is not compounded growth but rather a factor of timing as to when you enter and exit the market. The stock market has wild swings; if that is acceptable to you, you should have much of your money in stocks. If not, maybe it’s time to consider a different way to think about investing. (Remember the period from March 2000 to October 2002, when the Nasdaq lost 78 percent of its value? It’s been 14 years since the dot-com bubble started to pop, and the tech-heavy index still hasn’t quite recovered to that level. If you like guarantees and stability then you have no business putting most of your money in the stock market.)

3. Dividends paid to policy owners are not taxable. Dividends aren’t guaranteed, but many reputable life insurance companies have been in business for more than 100 years and they’ve paid out dividends every year. The amount of that dividend will depend on several factors, but it boils down to how much profit the insurance carrier made. When properly paid to the policy owner, those dividends are not taxable.

4. A high starting cash value amount, based on what you contribute to the policy. Whole life policies that aren’t properly designed will have very little cash value in the early years.

But a properly structured life insurance policy will have high cash value percentages, even in its first year, and they increase every year. This becomes an important fact when you realize that access to your cash will help you grow wealth systematically regardless of market conditions

5. Access to your cash value at any age, at any time, for any reason — without taxes or penalty. This is a huge benefit of whole life policies compared to 401(k)s and IRAs, which impose multiple obstacles if you want to access your cash before retirement, and penalize you if the funds you borrow from them are not paid back by a certain time and at a certain interest rate. No such obstacles exist with a whole-life policy. So leave your cash in the policy if you wish, or borrow it back out and use it, the choice is yours.

6. The ability to use your account’s cash value to recapture lost depreciation on major purchases and interest and fees paid to banks. If you treat this pool of money inside the life policy like your own personal bank, you can loan it out to yourself and others to create wealth. (More on this in future articles, but suffice it to say for now that banking has been around in some fashion for thousands of years. Any business model that lasts that long is worth understanding and using to your advantage.)

7. Guaranteed insurance. Once the policy is in place, your insurance is guaranteed for the rest of your life. Many people assume they’ll be able to buy new insurance at any point in their life. But nothing is further from the truth — especially for those who’ve been diagnosed with chronic or terminal diseases. If you become seriously ill, don’t expect to be able to buy a new policy.

With many whole-life policies, you can add an “accelerated death benefit rider” for little to no cost, which will give you access to a large portion of your death benefit during your lifetime if you have a terminal or chronic illness. I just had a colleague with a client who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS, and was sent a check from his insurer for more than 70 percent of the eventual death benefit. He’ll be able to enjoy his remaining time without worrying how he will pay his bills.

8. The ability to combine your life policy with the worlds of real estate, private lending and auto financing to accelerate your wealth, both inside and outside of the policy. Just remember that any funds inside the policy are tax-free for life.

9. Death benefits. In addition to all the benefits you can make use of while you’re still here, at heart, this investment is still a life insurance policy, so when you eventually die, there will be a sum of money left behind to your beneficiaries — tax-free.

There’s a reason family dynasties have been using life insurance for generations to grow and protect their wealth. Even when subject to estate limits, these death payouts go a long way toward promoting the tax-free, inter-generational transfer of wealth.

Of course, insurance company policies and riders will vary by state due to state regulations and depending on the actual insurance carrier. But you won’t find another type of account or investment that has all these benefits in one investment — not 401(k)s, IRAs, mutual funds, stocks, bonds, precious metals, real estate, nor any other account.

Is it too Late to Leave a Nice Estate For Your Family

When my mother entered her 70s, she began focusing more on what she would leave for her kids than her own financial well-being. She was more than fine; she had assets and steady income from two pensions, Social Security and an annuity. If you’re in that phase of life, you may have similar priorities. The question is: Do you know the best ways to increase your estate?

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Most people mistakenly believe that once they stop working, their net worth will shrink as they draw on assets for living expenses. Many people who are still working into their 60s and 70s also believe that it’s too late to add any significant wealth to their estate. Neither of those has to be true — if you have a well-designed plan.

Whole Life Policy

Let’s consider a client who is 64 and plans on working another 10 years. He is reallocating some existing assets and putting some extra cash into life insurance. We are not talking about an end-of-life policy sold by the truckloads by TV personalities with a $10,000 payout to cover funeral expenses. This might be a good call if you have very little in assets and worry about your kids paying for your funeral. This client has some resources, so we could do something a little more creative.

He elected to fund a whole life policy with $25,000 a year for eight years for a total of $200,000. His starting death benefit is $310,000. If he dies in the next eight years, his family would receive $310,000 to $508,000, depending on when that happens. If he reaches 72, he will have the entire $200,000 that he put into the policy over those eight years back in the form of cash value in the policy. He is free to take loans and disbursements, or just let the money sit and grow during the rest of his lifetime.

Should he reach 85, he would have more than $376,000 of cash value in the policy — even though he has only paid in $200,000 into it. Upon his death, his family will receive more than $470,000 of tax-free cash. He will more than double his estate by simply reallocating assets and letting tax-free compounding and guarantees go to work. Meanwhile, he can access the cash he is funding the policy with. If he does, he will lower the death benefit, but he has no need in the foreseeable future.

Fixed Indexed Annuity

Another client, who is 70, had concerns about leaving money behind to benefit a child with a mental handicap. The first step was finding a rock-solid trustee to make sure any money benefits the child after the death. Since the client was 70, the cost of life insurance was prohibitive.

The client had put away $300,000 for the child. The last market downturn had cost $130,000, but most of those losses have been recouped.

The client was very clear on wanting no market risk and elected to go with a fixed indexed annuity with a death benefit rider. This rider guarantees that the $300,000 will never decrease in value and will increase at a minimum of 4 percent — plus any indexed market gains. The least average growth rate combined with the 4 percent percent guarantee means that if the client dies in 10 years, the client will leave behind more than $650,000 in cash. If the client lives only five more years, annuity will leave behind $488,000.

A fixed indexed annuity can also have a lifetime income rider that guarantees you income no matter how long you live and even if the underlying cash goes to zero from income withdrawals. The National Association of Fixed Annuities has more information about how these products work.

 

Image Credit iStockPhoto -by nanita

WILL END OF LIFE EXPENSES DEVOUR YOUR ESTATE?

For aging baby boomers, long-term care and home health care are huge concerns, and these concerns form the last part in a series of articles covering what I call the “six circles of wealth.” These six circles break down your personal finance and wealth creation efforts. The goal is to have all of the circles spin at the same time, creating synergy and powerful momentum for your money.

Very few of my clients have all the circles covered, which means your wealth will take longer to grow and be open to much more risk than is necessary. So far, I have covered the first four: income and cash flow, investments, guaranteed income and cash and liquidity. This article discusses the last two: long-term care and your estate.

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The only circle that can cannibalize the others is long-term care. It is also the circle that is most neglected, and most people’s plan for dealing with it is hope and prayer. Most people say “I won’t get that bad where I need a facility or a nurse to come in and help me” or “my family will help me with all of my needs” and even “if I get that bad, just pull the plug or shoot me and put me out of my misery.” Do any of these sound familiar?

Long-term care facilities average $7,200 a month, and according to Genworth Financial, costs are increasing more than 4 percent a year. How long could your nest egg last paying out more than $80,000 per year in today’s dollars? Many people might consider buying a long-term care insurance policy. The American Association of Long-Term Care Insurance says a policy for a 55-year-old costs $723 to $1,590 a year, depending upon benefits — and these figures are from 2009. As with most insurance, if you never need it, your family will not get your premiums back after you pass away.

Asset Reduction Via Estate Planning

One alternative is estate planning, which needs to be done with a quality legal firm that specializes in estate planning and elder law. There are ways to structure your estate that will lessen any blow that you might incur from the cost of long-term care. These usually involve getting rid of assets via gifts and trusts — years before you need long-term care — so when you have to sell off assets before Medicare kicks in its contribution for long-term care, you don’t have many assets left to sell.

This type of planning is controversial because it is seen as pushing the tab on the government even if you have the ability to pay for yourself. So unless you were smart enough to have a quality life insurance product that you bought many years ago, you could be leave nothing behind for your family. Since the traditional financial world tells us to buy term insurance and not whole life, most people will stop paying for expensive term policies as they age because the cost becomes prohibitive. Thus when they are faced with long-term care issues, they must cannibalize their estate or reduce the estate before they have need long-term care. My job isn’t to pass judgment but to pass along the information and let your conscience be your guide.

Asset-Based Long-Term Care

Another alternative is to allocate some of your funds into products that are built to help you with the cost of long-term care. Asset-based long-term care might be as simple as putting some of your money inside of a properly structured annuity. Let’s say you spend $150,000 on a long-term care annuity where you were credited with a 3-1 benefit ratio. Your $150,000 buys you $450,000 of long-term care protection if and when you need the coverage.

What if you never need the coverage and pass away at home in your bed? Then the $150,000 in that account will be part of your estate and given to your family, plus a small rate of growth. Maybe only 3 percent growth, but remember you are not doing this for growth. You have other circles of wealth that are concerned with growth and returns. This is a long-term care and estate planning strategy. You sleep well at night and maintain control of your cash, and if you never need the benefit, your family receives the money plus growth.

Whole Life Insurance

Many of our clients in their 40s, 50s and even into their 60s also set up a high-quality whole life insurance policy. This provides the estate guarantee they want for their kids and grand-kids so if they need to sell off assets to pay for care, they still leave behind their legacy for their family.

One of my favorite books is by Harvey Mackay is called “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.” These words are even truer when dealing with long term care and your legacy.

Check out The Perpetual Wealth System to learn more!