How to Budget for Senior Living
You don’t have to be rich to find enrichment in a senior living community. You just have to be prepared.
A senior living community is an expense. But it is also an investment.
YOUR BEST INVESTMENT IS YOURSELF.
Financially speaking, adulthood is all about saving for the future. Wherever you put your money—stocks and bonds, a high-interest savings account, a tax-advantaged retirement vehicle, real estate or an ill-advised shoebox under your bed—you probably put it there for a singular purpose: so that you’d have it someday when you needed it. What you might not realize, however, is that “someday” is today.
Not tomorrow. Not eventually. Not sooner or later. But now. Because if not now, when?
If you or a loved one is approaching retirement age, or have reached it already, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. It’s time to decide what you want your golden years to look like, and to set in motion the well-laid plans that will help you make your dreams and goals a reality. Not tomorrow. Not eventually. Not sooner or later. But now. Because if not now, when?
That’s not to say that cashing in your chips is easy. It isn’t. If you’re like most seniors, you probably feel like you don’t have enough. Saving your money makes you feel secure. Spending it makes you feel anxious. If your retirement goals involve moving to a senior living community, however, you should know that what initially looks like spending your money is actually re-investing it. Like a bank that’s loaning capital to a small business, you’re funding your future in exchange for a promising return.
Only your return isn’t principal and interest; it’s health and happiness.
Aging in place can be deceptively expensive whereas senior living communities can be surprisingly affordable.
There can be financial returns, too. Although the costs often are incremental and therefore less obvious, aging in place can be deceptively expensive whereas senior living communities can be surprisingly affordable.
Especially today. Thanks to a “retirement renaissance,” senior housing has proliferated. Forget the nursing home of decades past. Today, there’s an unprecedented array of choices for seniors who want to live their best lives, regardless of their age, health status, retirement income or budget.
To find a senior living community that meets your needs without exceeding your means, you’ll need to understand the costs involved, then investigate what assets and options you have available. Here’s the good news: There are more assets and options available than you probably realize. Once you have a sense for them, what once felt extremely daunting might suddenly feel entirely doable.
First, make a budget. Step one is determining what you have and what you need.
No matter what kind of senior living community you want to live in—a retirement community with independent living, an assisted living community or a memory care community that offers Alzheimer’s and dementia care—the first thing you need to do is determine what it will cost you to live there.
The sales counselors at prospective communities can help you estimate your costs. Depending on the community, for example, you’ll have to pay either monthly rent or a larger entry fee that’s akin to the down payment on a house. You’ll also have to consider ongoing expenses like meals, utilities, home maintenance, housekeeping, transportation and entertainment, which communities may or may not offer in exchange for a monthly service fee. And don’t forget health care, including medical needs you have now and those you might have in the future.
It’s a good idea to take inventory of what resources you have to help you cover the costs.
Once you have a grip on how much money you’ll need to live in a senior living community, it’s a good idea to take inventory of what resources you have to help you cover the costs. This includes not only savings and income—Social Security and pensions, for example—but also assets like your home, vehicle, investments and even valuables like art, antiques, jewelry and collectibles. Some of your assets might be liquid while others might take more time and effort to convert into cash. Talking to a financial advisor can help you understand what money you have and how to best access it for purposes of funding senior housing.
Your timeline should figure prominently. Do you want to move immediately or a few years down the line? Understanding when you will need money is just as important to your calculations as understanding how much you’ll need.
Although you should discuss things with your financial advisor and with the sales counselors at communities you’re considering, view our list of ways to make senior living affordable and frequently asked questions in our guide: “Because You’re Worth It: Your Guide to Financing Senior Living.”