Women have some special challenges in life, just by being female.
Because the average woman can expect to live to age 80, or 5.3 years longer than the average man, life experiences are likely to be different.
With that longer life span comes the question of who will provide care in the aging years and at what price?
While many women may not think about relying on others for care, ignoring the future can carry risk.
In "Assisted Living in the United States" an October 2004 research report conducted by Bernadette Wright of the American Association of Retired Persons, 79 percent of nursing home residents were women whose average age was 85.
Because of their longer life span, women should think carefully about including long-term care insurance in their retirement plans.
The high cost of long-term care makes it imperative for women to learn what potential risks are ahead and to plan accordingly for those risks.
According to America's Families and Living Arrangements, a 2003 study, 40 percent of women age 65 and older were living alone, compared with only 19 percent of men. By age 75, this number grows to half of all women living alone, compared to 23 percent of men. Put simply, many women shouldn't expect to depend on a spouse to care for them as they age and are at a greater risk of needing to pay for care.
And, because women are more likely to be caregivers, they are at greater risk of bearing the costs, financial, physical and emotional, associated with providing care.
According to a report on trends in health security conducted in 2002, one in five Americans said they or their spouse was providing help with everyday activities to a relative or friend. In an earlier report, AARP reported that seven in 10 caregivers were women.
This is why long-term care insurance is, fundamentally, a women's issue.
How will you be cared for if you become unable to do simple things, such as eat, dress, use the bathroom or get in and out of bed alone? The costs of such care could be overwhelming, even for those prepared.
Typical safety nets, such as Medicare, cover only a fraction of the bill, typically limited to such skilled care as nurses or physical therapists.
And while Medicaid pays for certain types of long-term care, eligibility usually comes only after contributing most of any income you receive and exhausting most assets.
Even with long-term care insurance, costs can mount quickly. In July 2005, "Business Week" reported that the average cost of long-term care can easily reach $50,000 a year.
The odds of needing some type of long-term care are high. The majority of the population age 50 and above report living with at least one chronic condition.
Only 30 percent of Americans ages 50-64 and 4 percent of those 85 and older have no chronic condition or functional limitation.
For an ever-growing number of people, long-term care insurance has become an essential part of retirement funding.
And there are many factors to consider when choosing a long-term care insurance policy.
For this reason, it's important to work with a professional who understands your needs and can design a policy that gives you the best protection you can afford.
It's also important to look at the track record of the company providing the insurance. To ensure that coverage will be there when you need it most, make sure the company is well established, with a solid history of treating its policyholders well. Choose a company that has been given the highest possible ratings by at least three rating agencies.
And buy early, while you are still insurable and premiums are more affordable. The plan you establish now can spare you and your family the anguish of depleting your assets to pay for your long-term care.
By planning ahead, you can reduce the risk of losing your independence and ensure continued financial security to live your life your way.
If interested in learning more about long-term care insurance and other asset and income protection products, contact Michael Summers, a financial representative with Northwestern Mutual Financial Network at (561) 630-6300 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. He will help design a plan that's right for you.