One version of the saying is, “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.” Another version is, “The cobbler’s children’s feet go bare.” However the saying is worded, the meaning is that, a lot of the time, “Do as they say, not as they do.”
Or, to put it in a more concrete fashion: People in a certain field often do a lousy job of applying the lessons they have learned, or should have learned, in that field to their own households.
The bankruptcy lawyer may be struggling to pay her credit card bills. The accountant may have never quite gotten around to filing the last three years’ of taxes. The reporter who reports about the evident value of vision benefits may miss typos because she last made time for an eye exam three years ago.
A life and health insurance agent, or retirement advisor, or financial planner may have a hazy notion for how to handle future health and financial challenges that involve a cardboard box and a guitar. Maybe a clarinet.
The editors polled 120 readers ages 60 and older, including a few who were 81 or older, via email to see how they themselves have been addressing LTC planning issues.
Here are five of the findings.
1. Retirement advisors are not always perfect at filling out LTC surveys.
At one point in the survey, the senior advisor survey participants were asked whether they had private long-term care insurance (LTCI). The participants who had LTCI were supposed to say they had it and go on to another question.
Fifty-eight participants — 48 percent — said they have LTCI coverage, and 64 participants — 52 percent — said they have none. The questionnaire included a write-in response section for those who had no LTCI coverage, which could be used to explain what was holding them back from buying LTCI coverage.
Six of the 21 participants who used the write-in response section said nothing was holding them back from buying LTCI coverage … because they had LTCI coverage. In other words: They actually had LTCI coverage, but something had gone wrong with how they had filled out the survey.
They count as not having LTCI coverage in the results, even though they, apparently, have LTCI coverage.
Moral: Every source of data has its limitations. Trust, but verify.
2. There are pockets of unmet need for advice everywhere.
About 57 percent of the advisors who said they have no private LTCI coverage said they think the product is too expensive, and seven said they don’t think they’ll need it, for whatever reason. But a few of the advisors without LTCI coverage — people who may well have been in training programs with scores of agents and would-be agents who were being told, “Go out and find 20 good prospects for our products!”— had a different answer.
Four of the advisors said they have no private LTCI mainly because no one’s tried to “sell it to me.”
See also: The cost of prospecting [infographic].
Moral: If you think people should have private LTCI or some other financial product, it never hurts to ask whether they have it.
People who seem as if they must get 100 cold calls for a product every week may not actually be getting those calls. At least, not in any form that they happen to notice.
3. Some older advisors lack LTCI coverage because they are uninsurable.
Eight of the 74 senior advisors who have not bought LTCI — and answered a question about their reasons — said they have no LTCI coverage because they are uninsurable. The participants weren’t asked when they became uninsurable.
Maybe some were born with conditions such as Type 1 diabetes and will live long, full, prosperous lives with conditions that scare away the same insurers that pay some of their sales commissions. Maybe some developed disqualifying conditions after birth, but before LTCI existed. But one wonders if some failed to buy LTCI coverage because they thought about it, and thought about it, and let fate close that door for them.
Moral: Circumstances change. Insurability is a gift that may not keep well.
4. Some advisors say they’ll pay for LTC services out of 401(k) money.
About 15 percent of the participants who answered the question, “How would you pay for a long-term care event in your family?” gave the answer, “Dip into my 401(k).”
Nine of the participants who answered that way said they had a total net worth — including the value of the home — under $1 million, and none reported having total net worth of $2 million.
It seems as if households with about $500,000 to $1 million in financial assets might be the kind of households with both an obvious need for formal protection against LTC costs and the means to pay for protection.
Moral: Even for people who have what they think is a big nest egg, LTC costs can be a burden.
5. Some advisors are getting their LTC plans from Lady Luck.
About 32 percent of the survey participants who said they have no LTCI, answered a question about how they would pay for the care with the response “other.”
A number had what seem to be well-thought out plans. Some, for example, are veterans. They qualify for LTC services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Others have plenty of assets to tap. But about a quarter of the participants with “other” responses had explanations along the lines of “Go broke,” “Not sure,” or “?????”.
And, keep in mind: These are responses from people who read publications that shower them with articles about LTCI, asset-based LTC planning vehicles and the like.
Moral: Lady Luck might provide for your long-term care expenses an awful lot better if you help her by making some plans of your own.