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Life Health > Long-Term Care Planning

Here's Why Extended Care Planning Remains Critical for Women

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What You Need to Know

  • Maybe you have thought about this before.
  • Certainly, some of your clients have.
  • What about the other ones?

Working women ages 40 and up often juggle career and family obligations in a way that virtually no other demographic group does.

Often at the peak of their earning power, many women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s are also primary caregivers for younger members of their families, and frequently for one or more parents or in-laws as well.

Given these responsibilities, it’s no surprise that women often postpone thinking about their own future, particularly when it comes to potential extended care needs.

Managing Today’s Responsibilities Often Means Neglecting Tomorrow’s Needs

An extended care plan is especially important for women as their life expectancy is roughly five years longer than men’s, meaning many women may find themselves living for years without the assistance of a partner. But, in a 2023 Thrivent survey, only 16% of women said they have an extended care plan in place for themselves.

The same Thrivent survey shows many women recognize that paying for extended care would be a challenge, but many don’t have a full picture of what those costs are likely to be, which makes it difficult to plan for in advance. The survey also found that 78% of women don’t know enough about the cost of receiving extended care to make the right financial decision.

There’s a clear opportunity here for financial advisors to help women prepare for their future right now, while they are still in their prime working years.

How to Help Women Start Thinking About Their Extended Care Needs

Planning for extended care can be tough to do alone, no matter the stage of someone’s life. Expert financial advice can make all the difference and, ultimately, help deliver a better outcome for care.

A financial advisor can start important conversations about what extended care is, explain how it fits into a sound financial strategy, and develop a funding plan that reflects the client’s unique wishes. Part of this process is helping the client determine what her long-term extended care needs are likely to be and explaining the various ways it may impact her life — physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially.

They can also help women think through perspectives on family and caretaking. As they’re planning for the future, women probably don’t want to place additional caretaking responsibilities on their children and would rather spend their golden years building meaningful memories and connections with family.

How to plan for those long-term needs will vary depending on where she is in her life. For a woman in her 40s, it’s important she understand the different kinds of financial solutions available — from long-term care insurance to annuities — and the upsides and downsides of each.

With plenty of time ahead in her working life, it’s also the right time for a financial advisor to start a conversation about what her long-term care needs are likely to be. As she gets a clearer picture, she can start planning for extended care while still working toward her other financial priorities.

A woman in her 50s should have at least the beginnings of an extended care plan and identify which financial solutions can best cover whatever funding gaps may exist. Options to bridge those gaps include products that combine long-term care with life insurance — which are often less expensive for women than men — or, depending on her health or other qualifications, an annuity or trust.

Many women in this age group may not realize retirement planning and extended care planning aren’t the same thing, or that neither Medicare nor Medicaid cover specific aspects of long-term care. It underscores the need for financial advisors to communicate the value of developing a funding plan sooner rather than later.

Fortunately, it’s still possible to get an affordable extended care plan at this age, though delaying it further can be costly. For example, a single woman buying long-term care at age 55, for a benefit of $165,000, would pay an annual premium of $1,500. Delaying five years brings that premium up to $1,900 per year. Moreover, long-term care insurance is much more difficult to obtain if she has already suffered a critical health event.

In her 60s, her extended care plan should ideally be finalized and clearly documented, shared with her family, and securely funded. It’s critical at this stage for a financial advisor to make sure there’s flexibility in both her extended care and retirement plans to accommodate anything unexpected.

There are other considerations that financial advisors can help with as well. Who is designated to make health care decisions if she can no longer advocate for herself? Where does she want to be cared for? If at home, how will her house and living arrangements be modified to accommodate her care?

Why a Personalized Plan Is So Important

Whatever their age, there are financial solutions that can help women address critical care needs. But the first step is to get a clear picture of what those needs are likely to be, as those can differ according to family, income level, personal aspirations and age.

A customized plan can help ensure each person is covered appropriately. No matter where they are in their journey, having an extended care plan in place can offer women the foundation and peace of mind to live the life they want — even as they care and attend to the needs of others.

Wendy McCullough. Credit: ThriventWendy McCullough is vice president, solutions pricing and development, at Thrivent.






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