Can senior living really be affordable? Most of us would assume the answer is no. With the cost of care continuing to rise and communities catering to lifestyle (an upscale one at that), we can see why you’d think so. But, you actually may have more funding sources available to you than you realize. And with careful budgeting, senior living could be well within reach. Here’s how.

Where to Start
To prepare financially for senior living, there are three general steps you should follow to get started.

First, organize your financial documents including:

  • Bank and brokerage account information
  • Deeds and mortgage papers
  • Insurance policies
  • Monthly or outstanding bills
  • Pension and other retirement benefits
  • Social Security payment information
  • Stock and bond certificates

Second, think about your wishes, needs and goals and plan how to handle ongoing financial responsibilities such as paying bills, managing benefit claims, making investment decisions and preparing tax returns in the future.

Third, consider consulting a financial advisor and/or estate planning attorney to discuss:

  • Insurance options
  • Pension, retirement benefits and personal property that may be potential income
  • Programs in which you are eligible
  • Potential tax deductions
  • Analyzing your investment portfolio with long-term needs in mind

Funding Sources

Now that you’ve gotten a better handle on where you stand financially, give some thought to the funding sources that could help offset the cost of senior living.

  • Your Home – Consider a sale, renting it or a reverse mortgage.
  • Your Savings – You could make use of rainy day funds in your bank account or perhaps your stocks, bonds or annuities.
  • Your Income – This could include Social Security or a pension as well as dividends paid from stocks.
  • Other Options – Veterans may qualify for the Aid & Attendance benefit. Life insurance conversions and/or long-term care insurance may also be options.

The Cost of Senior Living

It’s time to talk cost. Here’s what you can expect in terms of average monthly cost according to the Genworth 2018 Cost of Care Survey:

  • Assisted Living – A residential arrangement providing personal care and health services 
    • Private, one-bedroom: $4,000
  • Nursing Home Care – Often a higher level of supervision and care than in assisted living with onsite nursing 24/7; also known as skilled care 
    • Semi-private room: $7,441
    • Private room: $8,365

Unlike the levels of care above, there is little published data on average monthly costs for independent living and memory care because it varies so greatly. However, typical ranges are as follows:

  • Independent Living — For active seniors who require little daily assistance and are seeking a maintenance-free lifestyle with social opportunities
    •  $1,400 to $4,000 per month
  • Memory Care — Specifically for those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, with specially-trained staff and 24/7 supervision 
    • $2,000 to $7,000 per month

What You Pay For in Senior Living

Again, don’t let the cost itself discourage you. Not only is senior living a tremendous value with meals, weekly housekeeping, access to activities and amenities such as fitness center and pool, but you also have some control over what you pay.

First, there are three main factors that drive cost: 

  1. Level of Care – Essentially the more assistance you need, the higher the cost. You might consider a community that offers multiple levels of care on one campus. You’d benefit by paying less for independent living now yet have peace of mind that if your health needs evolve you can more to a higher level of care later.
  2. Geography – Where you live affects the cost of senior living the same as it does real estate. For example, the most expensive area for assisted living according to Genworth is District of Columbia ($9,266 per month) whereas the least expensive is Georgia ($3,100 per month). To keep costs down perhaps look at communities outside the city or in nearby towns, even a different state.
  3. Amenities – The more luxury you desire, the higher the cost as well. Options that affect your monthly cost include the type of residence (private, semi-private, studio, one- or two-bedroom), pet fees, concierge services, private transportation.

Another area in which you can have a degree of control is in the fee structure you choose. Although not all senior living communities offer all these options, the most common pricing includes:

  • All-inclusive –All services and amenities the community offers in one monthly cost
  • Tiered – Different levels of options available, each one with a different variety of included services
  • A la Carte – You pay a base rate for rent that may include some basic services then you’re charged a flat or per-hour fee for every additional service or amenity you use

Bonus Budgeting Tips

Senior living communities may have move-in incentives such a month’s rent for free or perhaps assistance with moving costs so always make sure you check.  Perhaps most importantly, don’t wait until there’s a crisis to look at senior living. Planning ahead gives you many more options and the time to consider what’s truly best for your family and budget.

For more information on 12 Oaks Senior Living, download our Family Decision Guide today →

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