You’re trying to help the sixty-something clients plan for what they can anticipate spending for medical care in the future. You tell them about the average amounts a couple retiring at age 65 will need. The language seems fuzzy. Are you, the advisor, completely clear about what the term means when you say “out of pocket medical costs”?

That which is “medical” and what is paid by Medicare does not seem to be clear to many financial professionals we’ve interviewed. If you want to help your clients plan adequately for retirement, here are some critical points you need to make with them.

Medicare never paid for what it calls “custodial care”. This is not medical care by Medicare’s definition. It did not cover it in the past and it does not pay for it now. There is a distinct and very important difference between what it covers and what most people need over the long run in their retirement years. If your idea of “out of pocket medical costs” is hazy, let’s clear it up right now. This is a list of things Medicare doesn’t pay for, which just happen to be the most common things people need as they age. This is only a partial list.

┬áNursing home (“rehab”) after a limited number of days. The maximum coverage depends not on how sick the client is, nor how much help they really need due to such disabling conditions as a stroke, nor how they feel. It depends solely on what the nursing home administration decides about whether they are continuing to make the right kind of progress. That progress must require skilled care which can be nursing, physical, speech or occupational therapy. There may be 100 days available for coverage, but this does not mean that all of it will be covered or that the person will get that much in the rehab facility. If it is decided that there is not enough progress, the person’s care is termed “custodial” and they are cut off from Medicare.

Home Care. Millions of people who are released from a nursing home after surgery, an emergency or a fall, for example, need help at home either short term or long term. Medical events change us and can rob us of complete independence. There is a false belief around that Medicare will cover what you need if you have to have home care. This is true only for a very short time and only if skilled, licensed nurses or therapists are needed at home. Most of the time, a person is cut off from help when leaving a facility and has to pay for home care out of pocket. The national average hourly rate is $20, which can eat up one’s assets quickly in a fairly short time frame.

Help at home to stay out of a care facility. A lot of folks think they’ll live to be 100 years of age. No one discusses with them what it would mean to live that long without being completely independent. Help costs money. Many people assume that family or someone will take care of them if care is needed. But not everyone is willing to or capable to undertake what is often a serious burden. Even when family does take on caregiving, they need a break, and relief. Then help from outside must be hired. Without constant help many older people would have to be in a care facility. Does it make sense that when assets are largely all spent, Medicaid will pay for a nursing home but Medicaid will not pay for preventing the need for a nursing home, a far more economical alternative? Of course not, but that’s how it works.

The Takeaways

Fully two thirds of us will need long term care at some point in our lives. Unless the client is the rare one with long term care insurance, there is no way to pay for long term care other than to do so out of pocket. Sometimes this depletes all the client’s assets and leaves them with no choices in the last part of their lives. For those who live into their 90s and beyond, the need for some kind of long term care by family or a facility seems almost inevitable. Your clients need to stop pretending that it’s not going to happen to them, and you, the professional must steer them in the direction of saving and anticipating this need as much as you can. They will resist! Keep trying. Educate yourself first. You can get all the facts and figures you need to have a wise conversation with your older clients in our new book, Hidden Truths About Retirement & Long Term Care. Get your copy now and start adding value to those retirement discussions with your clients.

Click HERE to order.

By Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder law attorney,


Dr. Mikol Davis and Carolyn Rosenblatt, co-founders of

Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder Law Attorney offers a wealth of experience with aging to help you create tools so you can skillfully manage your aging clients. You will understand your rights and theirs so you can stay safe and keep them safe too. Dr. Mikol Davis, Psychologist, Gerontologist offers in depth of knowledge about diminished financial capacity in older adults to help you strategize best practices so you can protect your vulnerable aging clients. They are the authors of "Succeed With Senior Clients: A Financial Advisors Guide To Best Practice," and "Hidden Truths About Retirement And Long Term Care," available at offers accredited cutting edge on-line continuing education courses for financial professionals wanting to expand their expertise in best practices for their aging clients. To learn more about our courses click HERE
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