Here is the second installment of LifeHealthPro.com’s talk with Marion Somers, Ph.D., a geriatric care manager and author of the book, “Elder Care Made Easier: Doctor Marion’s 10 Steps to Help You Care for an Aging Loved One.”
Her mission is to get more people seniors, their families and even financial planners on the LTCI bandwagon. This summer, she crisscrossed the country in 1960s-era converted Greyhound bus on behalf of the 3in4 Need More Campaign to raise awareness of long-term care insurance, speaking to local media and even stopping by the GOP Straw Poll in Iowa to question Republican candidates for president about elder care issues.
In this part, she talks about reverse mortgages and the funding crisis in Washington.
SMA: You also mention reverse mortgages as a way to pay for LTC. Is that a good option for many people?
Somers: You have to do your homework. Not all reverse mortgage companies have been around for a long time and you want somebody with a track record, that has been around 10, 20 years. So understand what you are getting involved with. Some people think the bank owns my home or the mortgage company now owns the home. That’s not the case. You retain the title of that property until the day you die. The money you have withdrawn in the reverse mortgage is your equity in your home. That money is not taxed, which is a very important factor. It doesn’t interfere with your Social Security or Medicare.
Many people have built up substantial equity in their home and it can carry them through until the end of their lives. Again, they just don’t understand the product. It’s very simple and straightforward. And the government has an agency that before you get involved with the reverse mortgage will re-explain everything to you so you know what you are getting involved with. It’s impartial, so it has nothing to do with the reverse mortgage people. It’s a guarantee that people understand what they are getting involved with.
SMA: Social Security and Medicare are under siege in Washington while at the same time, the senior population is growing. What’s the impact?
Somers: It’s not only a problem in this country, growth patterns [are] changing around the world. So our country is not alone in facing the fact we are going to have a senior population [larger than] the younger generation who are supposedly going to take care of the senior population. No young generation has ever had to deal with the fact that there are going to be more elderly people than there are going to be young people to support them. It’s a phenomenon that we have never had to face in this world. It’s beautiful that people are living longer, and by and large they are living healthier, but there are consequences to that. If people do not take care of their own health, then our younger generation is going to be suffering in ways that I don’t think we can even measure.
SMA: How does LTCI play into that?
Somers: I think when people think in terms of how can I best protect myself and my family, for me, long-term care insurance is not an option, it should be mandatory. We should get tax incentives so that no matter what your economic status is you can get some form of long-term care insurance. I’m trying to get the younger generation to start thinking in terms of LTCI for themselves. If somebody is 30 or 40 years old, yes, that’s an age when they feel they are invincible and nothing is ever going to happen to them. But when you are younger and you can afford to get the insurance, you are protecting yourself, your loved ones, and you are going to get a cheaper rate because you are healthier and younger. You may be paying into it longer, but your protection is also longer.