Silver Tsunami Threatens Retirement Security: Gen X & Boomers Face Long-Term Care Challenges

By: James Kelly

The American population is aging quickly, led by Baby Boomers nearing retirement, which poses both opportunities and challenges in accessing quality long-term care without financial strain on families. With the “silver tsunami” approaching, as described by a 2021 Administration for Community Living (ACL) report, the number of adults 65 and older is expected to rise from 56 million in 2020 to 80 million by 2040.

This increase means more people will need assistance with daily activities, with nearly half of those reaching age 65 requiring some form of long-term care in their lifetimes, highlighting the importance of proactive planning for Generation X and Boomers.

Aging Leads to Decline in Health, Body, and Mind

Aging increases the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis, which can affect mobility, cognition, and daily function. According to a 2020 CDC report, 60% of U.S. adults have at least one chronic condition, a trend expected to strain healthcare and long-term care resources as Generation X and Boomers grow older.

High Cost of Long-Term Care Services

Traditional health insurance and Medicare will only pay for short-term skilled care, leaving most of the cost of long-term care on American families unless they have Long-Term Care Insurance or qualify for Medicaid which requires someone to have little income and assets to qualify.

The financial burden of long-term care can be substantial. The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator illustrates the current and future cost of long-term care services nationwide.  

The national median average cost of home care services, based on a 44-hour week, is $4,926 per month. Assisted living facilities, a less institutional alternative to nursing homes, come with a hefty price tag, with the median average base cost of $4,376 per month plus surcharges based on their needs. Memory care will be more expensive, and the national median annual cost of a private nursing home room is a staggering $9,338 per month or $111,121 per year.

Due to increasing demand for care, labor shortages, and other inflationary pressures, these costs will be much higher in the next 20+ years. The cost of long-term care can also vary due to location. Even within a state, the cost can vary dramatically. 

Sandwich Generation: Caught in the Middle

The burden of caring for aging parents often falls on adult children, creating a phenomenon known as the “sandwich generation.” These individuals are squeezed between caring for their children and aging parents. A 2020 AARP study found that 41.5 million adults in the United States care for an adult age 50 or older.

Long-Term Care Insurance: A Safety Net for Uncertainties

Long-Term Care Insurance provides crucial protection against the costs of long-term care, covering expenses for a range of care services, including in-home care. Despite premiums varying by age, health, and policy details, an LTC policy ensures financial security and peace of mind, helping to protect retirement savings.

Some may believe they can care for their spouse or assume children will take over when needed. Cassandra Watson, an expert in Long-Term Care Insurance and President of Platinum LTC Solutions notes that she has encountered such assumptions periodically throughout her career.

“Throughout my time as a Long-Term Care specialist, people have occasionally expressed that a child or a spouse will care for them. In turn, spouses and children agree, saying they want to take care of their parents/partners. So why consider insurance? Because the two aren’t mutually exclusive—we can have coverage, and our families can (and likely will) be involved no matter what.”

Watson says having an LTC policy protects the family. 

Long-Term Care Insurance Can Be Affordable

The LTC NEWS Survey of Long-Term Care Insurance Premiums outlines how affordable Long-Term Care Insurance can be, especially when younger and healthier. Most people obtain coverage in their 40s or 50s, but affordable options are available for those in their 60s and older, depending on their health.

However, premiums vary for the same benefits. For example, a 50-year-old couple in good health can see premiums for a plan with a $3,000 monthly benefit, a $108,000 benefit account, and a 90-day elimination period, growing 3% compounded every year range from $184.20 a month to as much as $359.73 a month. 

There are several types of LTC Insurance options, including traditional LTC policies and hybrid policies, which combine life insurance or annuities with a qualified rider for long-term care. A qualified specialist will review all these options and provide accurate quotes from all the top companies

Experts suggest speaking with an experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist who represents the top-rated insurance companies to help match age, health, and other factors with the best coverage at the lowest cost.

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