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How to Pay for Senior Living

July 21, 2023
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Because You’re Worth It: Your Guide to Financing 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

At first glance, the cost of senior housing can feel overwhelming. Like every investment you’ve ever made, however—your first home when it was time to start a family, the new car you couldn’t wait to drive, the dream vacation you’ll always remember—the price tag on a senior living community tells only part of the story. Just as important as the cost is the benefit. Because you’re not just spending money. You’re getting something in return. And what you’re getting isn’t merely a place to live. It’s health and happiness. It’s independence and autonomy. It’s safety and security. It’s community and comfort. More than anything, though, it’s a future. And isn’t that what you’ve been saving for all along?

When you take a thorough look at the resources you have and the life you’ll be able to live, you might realize that a senior living community is more attractive, attainable and affordable than you imagined.

Making Aging Affordable

There are more ways than you think to fill the gaps.

Once you’ve established a budget (see Building Your Budget), you may discover a shortfall between what you have and what you need. Don’t fret! There are myriad ways to finance your move to a senior living community.

REAL ESTATE:  If you own your home, it’s probably your biggest asset. That means it might also be your easiest ticket to a senior living community.

Proceeds from a home sale may cover all or most of the entry fee at a senior living community that charges one.

If you have enough equity, you might consider selling your home outright, in which case you’ll basically be exchanging one home for another. In fact, proceeds from a home sale may cover all or most of the entry fee at a senior living community that charges one. And the money you’ll save on real estate taxes and future home repairs can be directed instead toward monthly service fees and various other daily living expenses.

Of course, home sales can take a while. If time is of the essence, a bridge loan might be helpful by giving you short-term capital with which to finance your move to a senior living while you wait for your home to sell; when it does, you can use the proceeds to repay the loan.

Of course, all of this assumes that you can sell your home quickly and for a fair price. If you can’t, there are other options. You might look into a reverse mortgage, for example, wherein you sell your home a little bit at a time back to the bank, which cuts you a monthly check in exchange for your returned equity. Or, if your home is in good shape and your local rental market is strong, you might consider renting your home until you’re ready to sell it. Although being a landlord can be quite onerous, a good property manager typically can do everything for you.

INSURANCE: If you have a life insurance policy that you no longer need, you may be able to sell it to a life settlement company in return for a lump sum that you can apply toward your entry fee at a senior living community or other senior housing costs. Although the company won’t purchase it for the policy’s full value, you typically can get more money than you otherwise would if you were to simply surrender the policy or allow it to lapse. Before you go this route, however, you should be certain that you want to give up your life insurance—you may not be able to qualify for a new policy if you decide later that you want one—and should be prepared to shop your policy around to different companies to ensure you’re getting a fair price.

Before you sell your life insurance, there are other options to consider. You should check with your insurer, for example, to find out whether you can borrow against your policy. If you’re ill, you might also be eligible for accelerated death benefits that cover the costs of a long- term, catastrophic or terminal illness while you’re still alive.

If you have long-term care insurance, that might also come into play. Depending on both the policy and your health status, you may be able to access benefits to help you pay for the cost of an assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing community.

VETERANS BENEFITS: If you or your spouse is a veteran who served in active duty during wartime, you may be able to receive a federal benefit known as the Veterans Aid & Attendance benefit. Provided above and beyond a veteran’s regular pension, it can be used to cover your care in an assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing community.

If you or your spouse is a veteran who served in active duty during wartime, you may be able to receive the Veterans Aid & Attendance benefit.

You may be eligible for this benefit if you receive a VA pension and meet at least one of these requirements:

  • You need another person to help you perform daily activities like bathing, feeding and dressing, or
  • You have to stay in bed or spend a large portion of the day in bed due to illness, or
  • You’re a patient in a nursing home due to the loss of mental or physical abilities related to a disability, or
  • Your eyesight is limited, even with glasses or contact lenses

If you are a veteran or the surviving spouse of a vet, it’s well worth your time to explore this option as a potential supplement to your other benefits and resources.

By now you can see that there are numerous financial paths one can follow to put life in a senior living community within reach. But you and your bank account probably still have some questions. That’s normal. Discuss any lingering concerns with your financial advisor and with the sales counselors at communities you’re considering and view more frequently asked questions in “Because You’re Worth It: Your Guide to Financing Senior Living.”