MONEY Health Care

Do You Really Need a Long-Term Care Plan?

Shout

Doing the math on long-term care insurance is no easy chore. Here's how to navigate this high-stakes decision.

Millions of boomers are wondering how to prepare for the possibility of needing costly care some day. Count me as one of them. At age 58, I am in the sweet spot for buying long-term care insurance—assuming I want it at all. After weeks of research, I still haven’t decided. But I have sorted out the moving parts.

What I’ve found is that the rising cost of both care and the insurance that pays for it is only one piece of the puzzle. New types of insurance give me more options to mull over. And recent research calls into question how common lengthy nursing-home stays really are, leaving me to think harder about the odds of needing coverage.

What’s more, I have to be concerned about the health of an industry that I would need to rely on for the next three decades. Insurers badly miscalculated how many policyholders would make claims, leading to a mass exodus of big players from the business in recent years.

The upshot: drastic price hikes from the insurers who remain. A typical long-term-care policy written 10 years ago has seen annual premiums rise about 70%, says Michael Kitces, director of research at Pinnacle Advisory Group. Even so, those old policies are cheaper by half than what a person nearing 70 has to pay for the same coverage today.

That’s because the insurers that have stayed in the business have jacked up the price of new policies. Those premiums rose an average of 8.6% last year alone, reports the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. For some, the price hikes are even worse. Today, for example, a healthy 55-year-old man would pay $2,075 a year for comprehensive single coverage—up 17% from last year.

All in all, the answer to the question Do you need long-term-care insurance? is a personal one—and far from easy. Here’s how to think through the decision.

The Promise of Insurance

Long-term care is something you hope you never need. Or at least you hope that when and if you aren’t entirely self-sufficient, your spouse or another family member can pitch in. But when you need more of a hand with daily activities than a lay helper can provide, or around-the-clock or more expert medical care becomes a must, you’ll have to pay for a professional.

The national average for a shared room in a nursing home is $77,380 a year, according to the Genworth 2014 Cost of Care Survey, but the tab can go much higher—$120,000 is typical in Massachusetts, for example. Even assisted living, where you get just some one-on-one help and basic medical care, averages $42,000 a year.

Medicare covers 100 days in a nursing home if you are recovering from an illness or injury and showing improvement, but it offers no help at assisted living or in your home. Medicaid picks up the tab for a nursing home and some in-home help only after you have all but exhausted your savings (in some states, the program helps with assisted living too).

Enter long-term-care insurance, which reimburses you for at least a portion of the cost of a nursing home, assisted-living facility, adult day care, or in-home help. To qualify for benefits, you must be unable to perform two of these six day-to-day activities—bathing, dressing, moving from bed to chair, using the toilet, eating, and maintaining continence—and a medical pro must expect your disability to last at least 90 days.

How to Decide If You’re a Candidate

You may figure you’ll roll the dice and fund your care out of savings. In fact, sales of long-term-care policies fell by 24% in 2014 and are down 65% from 2004 levels, reports LIMRA, an insurance industry trade group. Just 13% of people 65 and older have a policy, according to estimates by Anthony Webb, a senior economist at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Here’s how to make the call.

Start with what you’re worth. The rule of thumb is that you’re a candidate to buy long-term-care insurance if you have between $200,000 and $2 million in assets. With less, you can’t swing the premiums and don’t have enough to protect. Medicaid will cover most of the costs of care after you whittle your savings down to as little as $2,000 if you’re single. With $2 million, you can reasonably plan on paying your own way. But even in that doughnut hole, the answer isn’t always clear.

Understand the true odds. You may have heard figures that make rolling the dice seem like a foolish bet. One frequently cited stat is that 70% of Americans who reach 65 will eventually need some sort of long-term care.

But a recent paper from the Center for Retirement Research paints a less alarming picture. As the graphic below shows, a high number of people will need nursing-home care at or after 65, but only a small portion will remain long enough to run up big bills. Half of men and 39% of women stay less than 90 days, before most long-term-care policies even kick in. The average stay for a man is less than a year; for a woman, a year and a half.

Previous studies had estimated that a long-term-care policy made financial sense for 30% to 40% of 65-year-olds. The CRR pegged that number around 20%. “We’re getting more people going into care for a shorter period of time,” says Webb. “That’s what’s driving down the value of insurance.”

Money

Ask yourself what you’re insuring. At its root, long-term-care insurance is about protecting your estate. A desire to preserve a legacy for their three adult children is why Craig and Jan Klaas, both 60, bought a soup-to-nuts policy. Last year Jan’s mother died after eight years in a facility. Her father had spent two years in a nursing home. “I’ve seen people get wiped out,” says Craig, a financial planner in Rockford, Ill. “I do not want my estate at risk.”

Without coverage, you’ll still get care, funded by savings and Medicaid, if needed. But paying for it could deny your children an inheritance.

See if you even have a choice. Insurers have stepped up medical screening. Overall, 30% to 40% of applicants are turned down for health reasons, says Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care. Your chances are better when you’re younger. Still, 17% of 50- to 59-year-olds are disqualified, up from 14% in 2009. Common reasons include chronic health problems like diabetes and arthritis, or any condition that can leave you incapacitated. A denial from one insurer, adds Slome, will often lead to automatic denials from others.

Check your family tree. It’s not just your health that counts. Since last year, Genworth has also been considering your parents’ health when you apply for a policy. With early-onset dementia or coronary artery disease in the family, you might not qualify for the best rate.

You should take your family history into consideration too. Half of all claims are triggered by care associated with dementia. On the other hand, says Howard Gleckman, senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a history of cancer may argue for less or no coverage because patients usually have a decent quality of life until just a few months from the end. That’s a cold calculation, but one you shouldn’t ignore.

Next: If you’re ready to explore your options, here’s how to keep down the costs of long-term-care insurance.

MONEY Autos

44,000 Cars Were Stolen Last Year for One Dumb Reason

key in ignition
B. Christopher—Alamy

It's embarrassing, but more people have done it than would like to admit.

Having your car stolen would be a terrible thing to experience, but apparently thousands of Americans aren’t thinking about that because they leave their keys in their vehicles — and then the cars get stolen.

Sure, it may seem like a no-brainer to not leave your keys in an unattended vehicle, but people are increasingly making this mistake, according to an analysis from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. From 2012 through 2014, 126,603 vehicles were stolen with the keys left inside. The actual number of key-in-car thefts is likely higher, because if the theft report didn’t include that detail (perhaps an omission of an embarrassed victim), it’s not included in these figures. While auto theft has declined in the last few years, the percentage of those thefts involving keys left in the vehicle has climbed.

In 2012, 5.4% of cars stolen had the keys in them at the time of theft. That share increased to 6% in 2013 and to 6.7% in 2014 — that’s 44,828 vehicle thefts with the keys inside.

Losing your car is bad enough, but think of what else you might lose. People leave lots of stuff in their cars that can be used by identity thieves, like mail and vehicle registration documents. If someone lifts your car because you left it running when you went to grab a cup of coffee, you might have left your purse, briefcase, wallet or phone behind, too. Not only do you have to deal with the stress of having your car stolen (and who knows what your insurance covers), now you have to worry about someone stealing your identity.

Identity theft can manifest in a variety of ways, all of which can harm your well-being, particularly your financial stability. For example, if someone opens up fraudulent credit accounts in your name, your credit standing will suffer the consequences, which could include a slew of things including credit inquiries, high debt levels and missed loan payments. The sooner you spot fraud, the sooner you can get the information removed from your credit history and repair any damage done. The longer fraud goes on, the more likely you are to deal with limited credit access and higher loan interest rates, as a result of fraudulent information. That’s why it’s so important to regularly monitor your credit, which you can do for free on Credit.com.

Of course, it’s also extremely helpful if you avoid leaving your car unattended with the keys inside. That would save you a lot of trouble.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

TIME

Here’s What a Ticket Does to Your Car Insurance Rate

Car driving through intersection with photo enforced camera radar.
Theo Fitzhugh—Alamy New technology aims to help drivers avoid getting speeding tickets from one of these roadside cameras.

Demographic differences play a big role

Getting a traffic ticket is bad enough, but what’s even worse is getting stuck with higher insurance premiums as a result. Whether or not a ticket will mean those costly extra charges, though, depends on a few things — and they’re factors that are largely out of your control.

In a new survey, InsuranceQuotes.com digs into the demographics of who pays higher insurance premiums after getting a ticket, and it finds that not all drivers are created equal.

First, the good news: Just under one in five drivers will be stuck paying higher premiums after getting a ticket, compared to nearly a third just two years ago.

When it comes to avoiding a premium hike after the fact, being older helps. InsuranceQuotes finds that drivers under the age of 50 are three times likelier to pay higher rates after a ticket than those 50 years old and older. Part of this could be due to how often insurance companies take a peek at your driving record: Younger drivers — who have a reputation for riskier driving — are checked more frequently than older drivers.

But drivers under the age of 30 are actually less likely to get tickets in the first place than those between the ages of 30 and 49, the survey finds.

Wealthier drivers are also more likely to get ticketed. Those with incomes of $75,000 or higher were the most likely income bracket to be ticketed — although they’re less likely that the poorest drivers to see a subsequent rise in their insurance rates.

While 21% of the wealthiest drivers paid higher premiums after a ticket, 24% of those earning under $30,000 a year had to pay higher rates. Drivers who earn between $30,000 to just under $50,000 fare the worst: 27% of those who got tickets saw higher rates.

In terms of income brackets, the sweet spot seems to be the upper-middle income bracket, as just 7% of those who earn between $50,000 and just under $75,000 paid higher premiums after a ticket.

Also, racking up more than one moving violation also increases the likelihood of having to pay more for insurance. While the most common citation, by far, is speeding, other common infractions include driving without a license, not using a seat belt, running a red light or stop sign, or using a cell phone while driving. InsuranceQuotes finds that, among drivers who have been ticketed over the past five years, just over 10% accrued four or more tickets.

MONEY Autos

3 Ways to Avoid Costly Rental Car Insurance

airport sign for car rental companies
Chris Rank—Bloomberg via Getty Images

When you rent a car, you will be asked if you want car rental insurance. You might already have it — but it may have gaps. Here's how to figure it out.

I’ve been rear-ended in a rental car by a hit-and-run driver. And on my last business trip, the rental agent almost foisted a car with a scratched-up bumper on me. (Thankfully, I remembered to inspect the vehicle before I left the lot and asked for a different one.) So I know firsthand the importance of making sure you have adequate coverage when you rent a car. Without it, you could face enormous bills and a damaged credit rating if you can’t pay them.

But I am also frugal, so there is often a tug-of-war going on in my head when I rent a car: do I pay for the rental car company’s coverage or not? Purchasing it can literally double the cost of a car rental. Sometimes the coverage is even more expensive than the daily rental rate.

Fortunately there are some good alternatives for those who want to be protected and save money.

1. Your Own Car Insurance

If you own a car, then you (hopefully) have car insurance, and this is probably your first line of defense. You want to make sure you are adequately covered in four areas:

Loss of use: If you wreck a rental car, the rental agency will charge for the days that car is unavailable to other customers. My own auto insurance does not provide this coverage, so I use a credit card that fills this gap. (More on that in a moment.)

Collision/Comprehensive: Collision coverage typically covers damage to the vehicle if you are involved in an accident, while comprehensive coverage often pays for damage to the car due to theft, vandalism, flood, fire etc. Remember, your current deductible will apply. (Using the right credit card to pay for the rental can be helpful, since it may cover your deductible.)

Liability: This generally covers damage to another vehicle(s) and/or medical bills to others injured in an accident you caused. If you have an umbrella policy, that coverage may provide additional protection.

Medical/ Personal Accident Coverage: Does your personal auto insurance offer coverage for medical bills sustained in an accident, and will that extend to a rental car? Do you have good medical insurance? (Note, consumers who are injured in an accident sometimes find their own medical insurer balks at paying those medical bills.)

2. Your Credit Card Coverage

Many credit cards offer rental car coverage. This insurance is usually secondary to your personal auto policy, and that the claim will first be filed with your own insurer. (A few credit cards automatically include primary coverage.) But it may cover deductibles or expenses that your personal auto insurance doesn’t, such as loss of use. However, you’ll need to be aware of exclusions, which may include rentals in some foreign countries, certain types of vehicles such as pickup trucks or full-sized vans, or travel on unpaved roads. Full-time students may also be excluded from coverage.

Like most third-party coverage, it typically covers expenses related to the rental car but not to other cars you damage or people or property you damage in an accident. For example, when I reviewed the coverage offered by the credit card I use most often, I noticed the following are not covered:

  • Damage to any vehicle other than the rental car;
  • Damage to any property other than the rental car, owner’s property, or items not permanently attached to the rental vehicle;
  • The injury of anyone or anything.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind here is that you need to read the details about what is and isn’t covered before you get to the rental car counter.

If you’re thinking about getting a new credit card that provides rental car coverage, keep in mind that your credit score will be a factor in whether you’re approved. You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see where you stand.

3. Private Third-Party Coverage

If you purchase travel insurance, you can often add rental car coverage for a small additional fee, says Damian Tysdal, publisher of TravelInsuranceReview.net. But, as with credit card coverage, it usually doesn’t cover everything. “It is really just for collision and loss of use,” he says. “It won’t cover a car you hit, or harm to others.”

You can also purchase coverage through a third party, even if you don’t buy travel insurance. For example, American Express cardholders can buy “Premium Rental Car Coverage” for most rentals for a flat fee of $19.95 or $24.95 per rental (not per day). It is primary coverage, and there is no deductible. It also provides additional coverage for accidental death and secondary coverage for medical expenses, and covers vehicles the basic automatic coverage doesn’t (such as luxury vehicles and SUVs).

Other third-party services such as Protect Your Bubble, offers rental car coverage for $7.99 per day and covers rental car damage and theft, and personal effects protection, with no deductible. However, like other third-party coverage, it doesn’t include additional liability coverage or personal accident insurance so you’ll want to make sure you are adequately covered there through your own insurance policy or find out whether that coverage is available through your rental agency.

“If you are looking for the best coverage, look to your personal auto insurance,” says Tysdal. If you don’t own a car or have minimal coverage on your vehicle, you may need to piece together the best coverage you can from the options available.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

TIME United Kingdom

Daring Thieves in London Have Made Off With as Much as $300 Million in Valuables

A police forensics officer enters the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company in London Tuesday May 7, 2015 after it was burgled over the weekend.
Dominic Lipinski—AP A police forensics officer enters Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd. in London on April 7, 2015, after it was burgled over the weekend

No, this is not a movie plot

A crack team of thieves broke into a vault in central London’s gem district over the weekend and raided up to 70 safety deposit boxes, making off with a staggering fortune in jewels, cash and other heirlooms.

Though police have not confirmed the value of the haul, the former chief of the Flying Squad (a London police branch that specializes in organized crime) Roy Ramm estimates the jewelry stolen during the heist could be worth as much as $300 million, reports the BBC.

Users of the safety deposit boxes at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd. still do not know if they are among the victims, as police continue to forensically examine the scene.

One local jeweler, Michael Miller said he “felt sick” at the prospect of losing up to $74,000 of uninsured watches and jewelry.

Many other users of the depository did not insure the contents of their boxes because of the high cost of premiums.

“If you can’t afford your jewelry insurance, you put it in a safety deposit box which is going to cost you between £300 [$450] to £400 [$600] a year and you know it is the most secure place you can put it,” said James Riley, a gem industry expert.

Using heavy cutting equipment, the thieves are believed to have accessed the vault via a lift shaft, drilling into the vault to reach the boxes.

“There is still a concern that the thieves may have had some kind of inside knowledge,” said BBC News correspondent Daniel Sandford.

Tracing the stolen gems would be nearly impossible says diamond dealer Neil Duttson. “Once diamonds have been recut and polished there is no geological map,” he said.

[BBC]

MONEY Insurance

Millions of Americans’ Flood Insurance Rates to Increase

With the National Flood Insurance Program in debt, many Americans will see a 25% premium increase in their flood insurance.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 17

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Is it time for the Jews to leave Europe?

By Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic

2. The divorce rate is falling. Here’s why that’s bad news for some Americans.

By Sharadha Bain in the Washington Post

3. Across the planet, cost and class determine who lives and who dies.

By Paul Farmer in the London Review of Books

4. The U.S. should consider joining — rather than containing — the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

By Elizabeth C. Economy in Asia Unbound

5. Trade unions in Cleveland will launch a “pre-apprentice” program to prepare high school kids for construction jobs.

By Patrick O’Donnell in the Cleveland Plain Dealer

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Insurance

Injured Workers Are Getting Raw Deals

People injured on the job are getting shortchanged by workers' compensation, while employers and insurance companies are benefiting.

MONEY Insurance

The Fastest Way to Shore Up Your Safety Net

Treadmill screen with dollar sign on it
Alamy

You can make sure you have enough life insurance in less time than it takes to make a sandwich

As part of our 10-day series on Total Financial Fitness, we’ve developed six quick workouts, inspired by the popular exercise plan that takes just seven minutes a day. Each will help kick your finances into shape in no time at all. Today: The 7-Minute Insurance Check-Up

You’ll need some financial info for this one. Pull together an overview of your investments, what you owe on your mortgage, the amount of life insurance you currently have, as well as saving and debt numbers.

0:00 Visit lifehappens.org, and select “Start calculating your life insurance needs.”

0:21 The first part asks about the expenses your family will incur if you die. Life-Happens suggests budgeting $15,000 or 4% of your estate. A funeral typically costs about $10,000, so if you won’t leave major debts, $15,000 is fine.

2:30 Next, you’ll calculate the money your family would need if you died today, and how much your spouse might earn. While your clan won’t need to replace 100% of your income, you will want to cover regular expenses.

4:19 Step 4 asks for an estimated inflation rate (pre-populated with 3%) and after-tax net investment yield (pre-populated with 6%). To be more conservative, decrease the yield.

5:00 Now the site will spit out a suggested amount of coverage. This is a good starting point but may miss some details. Say you’d like to cover a portion of your kid’s tuition; the calculator doesn’t allow for partial payment.

5:59 Go to intelliquote.com for instant quotes on term-life policies from a range of insurers. (Don’t be surprised if you get some sales calls.)

Easy, right? Next you’ll want to do an insurance inventory to check the health of all your policies. Not only will you be better protected, you might save some money too.

Previous 7-minute Workouts:

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com