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Dollars & Sense: Independent Living

By Roberta L. Nestor

Living in our own homes involves many things like grocery shopping, preparing meals, cleaning, caring for our yards, paying the bills, maintaining our vehicles and, of course, having family visit to celebrate birthdays and holidays. Maintaining your own home either by yourself or with a spouse is the ultimate in independent living. But what happens when those day-to-day activities become a burden? Physically, emotionally or even financially? Today there are so many alternatives it can be confusing.

If you are like the majority of Americans over age 55, you want to continue to live in a familiar environment throughout your retirement years. According to AARP, older home owners would prefer to “age in place”. That means creating a home environment that will allow you to stay at home safely, comfortably and independently regardless of age. The National Association of Home Builders (www.nahb.org) has certified “Aging-in-Place” specialists that can help you make your home a home for a lifetime. They can help you with the remodeling from the bathroom to the basement all with an eye to making your home age-friendly.

The largest growth for independent living has been with Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs), a trend that is expected to continue with aging baby boomers. Cost for ALFs vary greatly from state to state, CT, of course, being one of the highest. For our state, the average median cost is $5,000 a month, the more retirement friendly states of Florida, Georgia and the Carolina’s range from $2880 to $3,000 a month. Careful consideration of being able to afford the assisted living facility over time is crucial. If you are married, you must also consider the consequences if one spouse needed long term care in a nursing facility. Most often the healthy spouse would not be able to continue staying at the assisted living facility as the unwell spouse’s income would have to be used to pay the cost of long term nursing care.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) are part independent living, part assisted living and part skilled nursing home. It is a tiered system that is designed to accommodate your changing needs. You must be healthy to enter a CCRC and most offer options of single family homes, condos or apartments. Think of it as having the option to live in one community for the duration of your life. CCRC would be considered the most costly of all long term care options. There are entrance fees that can range anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million to say nothing of the monthly fees that can range from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on the community. Generally there are 3 types of contracts: Extended Care or Life Contracts, Modified Contracts or a Fee for Service Contract. Again, careful consideration of affordability over time is crucial.

Regardless of where you chose to age-in place, the most important factor is to get it right the first time. Relocating at any age is stressful, relocating more than once as we age becomes emotionally overwhelming. Visit the location multiple times; don’t be afraid to go on a wait-list especially if it is a location you think you like; get referrals from other families and have an attorney look at any contracts. Lastly, make sure the location is based on your preferences, not your children. The idea of independent living is that you are in an environment where your children should not have to worry about you or be there every day. Certainly a trusted advisor can help you with costs and projections once you have gathered all of your information, costs and contracts. Once you have committed to remaining independent and aging-in place, you will be surprised at how much uncertainty is removed and you really can start to enjoy those golden years.

Roberta L. Nestor is a financial advisor practicing at 491 New Haven Avenue in Milford, CT offering retirement, long term care, investment and tax planning services. She also offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network – a member FINRA/SIPC and a Registered Investment Adviser. Fixed insurance products offered through Nestor Financial Network are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth. Commonwealth Financial Network or Nestor Financial Network does not provide legal or tax advice. You should consult a legal or tax professional regarding your individual situation. Roberta can be reached at Nestor Financial Network, 203-876-8066 or roberta@nestorfinancial.com.

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