Kristi Rodriguez (Credit: Nationwide) Kristi Rodriguez (Credit: Nationwide)

Long-Term Care Awareness Month starts Friday, and Kristi Rodriguez is one of the leaders in talking to financial professionals about how to spread long-term care (LTC) planning awareness.

Rodriguez is now vice president for thought leadership at  Nationwide Financial. She oversees the company’s Nationwide Retirement Institute think tank program, advanced consulting, practice management, and training and development teams.

She oversaw the recent Nationwide Retirement Institute retirement and caregiving planning survey project.

(Related: Families Face ‘Boomerang’ Kid Planning Challenge: Nationwide)

Rodriguez recently visited ThinkAdvisor’s offices in New York to talk about the survey, and about Nationwide’s efforts to get more Americans thinking about, and planning for the future.

Rodriguez has a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University. She worked for a unit of UnitedHealth Group Inc. in business development, diabetes management and Affordable Care Act implementation in Connecticut from 2003 through 2012, then spent three years in marketing at Aetna Inc. before moving to Nationwide.

Here are three things Rodriguez said about LTC planning, drawn from her remarks during that visit.

1. Few consumers, or financial advisors, jump to talk about LTC planning.

The sample for Nationwide’s recent survey included 1,462 people, ages 50 or older, who had investable assets of at least $50,000, and who were already retired, or planning to retire within the next 10 years.

About one-third of the participants said they were not talking to anyone — even their own spouses — about future LTC costs, Rodriguez said.

“No one wants to think about that,” Rodriguez said.

Half of adults say they would rather die than live in a nursing home, Rodriguez said.

Some financial advisors may specialize in LTC planning, but others may not be comfortable with starting that conversation, she said.

She said one sign of financial advisors’ discomfort is that survey participants with advisors were not that much more likely than the other participants to have talked to advisors about LTC costs.

2. Many advisors are hungry for information about LTC planning.

Nationwide has developed health care cost and LTC cost estimator tools to help advisors start LTC planning conversations, Rodriguez said.

Nationwide has also been holding planning meetings about the topic throughout the country, both with advisors and with consumers.

The company has organized about 2,100 meetings and reached more than 30,000 attendees.

Many of the meetings have focused on LTC planning.

“This is one of the most popular topics,” Rodriguez said.

The topic is at the heart of many seminars on how to connect with clients. When advisors bring parents together with their children to talk about LTC planning, “this provides a great opportunity to have a cross-generational conversation,” she said.

3. An LTC planning conversation may be a great time to bring up LTC funding ideas.

Nationwide recently set up a major health savings account program.

Consumers own the HSA assets, and they can use any available HSA assets to pay for long-term care.

One thing advisors can do during an LTC planning conversation is make sure that the clients understand that they can use HSA assets to pay LTC bills, Rodriguez said.

— Read LTC Awareness Month to start Thursday, on ThinkAdvisor.

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