As a firm that specializes in working with retirees, I am often reminded of how blessed I am to serve such incredible people who are wise, intelligent and living role models on what it means to live the good life. One of the disadvantages to working with folks who are retired is I am often confronted with what it means to lose a spouse after 50 years of marriage or the impact deteriorating health can have on an entire family.

Early in my career I had a meeting scheduled with a woman who was concerned about long-term care. She asked me if I would mind coming to her home for the meeting because she said traveling was getting harder. Upon entering her home I sat down at the kitchen table, and I asked her why she was interested in looking into long-term care insurance. About that time her husband came walking into the room to get a drink of water. I stood up to greet him but he just ignored me and walked straight past me. I looked over at his wife and she said, “He has Alzheimer’s.” I sat back down at the table and for the next hour I listened to her share her story of what it had been like caring for her husband with this disease. I’ll never forget when she said, “We spent our whole life saving and looking forward to retirement. We were both excited to spend our retirement years traveling, but now that he has this disease, I don’t feel like I can even travel to the ice cream parlor for an ice cream cone.”

November is national awareness month for long-term care insurance, which is an insurance designed to help people pay for the care they may need as their bodies and minds change with age. This is such a hard topic to talk to people about because most of the people we serve are healthy, independent and financially astute. When we talk about the topic of long-term care most people say, “I eat right. I exercise and my parents didn’t need long-term care so I don’t want to waste my money paying insurance premiums for something I don’t think I’ll ever use.” And frankly, they may be right. In fact as an advocate for long-term care insurance, if I recommend somebody buy a policy, then I always tell them I hope you pay on this policy for years and years and years and never use it.

It really doesn’t matter what the national statistics say about the likelihood of you needing care. It doesn’t matter what your family history is. It doesn’t matter if you have enough money to self-insure the risk. Because those are not the reasons people buy insurance. The reason people buy insurance is because they love someone. Buying insurance may mean the difference between whether your children have a choice to be your caregiver or if they feel obligated to be that caregiver. Buying long-term care insurance may be the difference between whether or not you have enough money to last for retirement or not. Buying insurance may be the difference between maintaining your independence and staying in your own home versus becoming dependent on the government to provide for you in a facility. Buying insurance may be the difference between leaving a legacy of a thriving, productive,contributing member of society to that of a dependent, sick and broken poor person.

Most people don’t get healthier with age. The younger you are, the better your chances of qualifying for long-term care insurance. Over the last several years, several of the major insurance carriers have decided to exit the long-term care insurance arena and are no longer offering new policies. Any time an insurance company decides that a product line is no longer profitable is a big sign, to me, that if the insurance companies are having a hard time figuring out the risk and pricing, then it might be something we, the little guy, should consider.

If you are going to buy long-term care insurance be sure to explore all of your options. New insurance products are available to help you protect against this risk. Some are life insurance policies that have long-term care benefits linked to the death benefit. Others are riders on annuity contracts that allow you to use the value of the contract to pay for long-term care. And some are straight forward long-term care insurance policies. You should meet with an expert that specializes in this very complicated insurance niche. The professional you meet with should be independently licensed and have the ability to offer you insurance from many different carriers. Try to find an insurance company that has been in this arena for more than 10 years, has an excellent claims-paying reputation, and has been responsible with rate increases with their existing clients.

Please don’t delay looking into this insurance. I heard a very well respected financial advice giver say you shouldn’t consider buying long-term care insurance until you’re 60 years old. The problem with that advice is what if your health changes before you turn 60, then you might not be able to qualify for the insurance. I tell people you should consider buying long-term care insurance when you can financially afford the premiums without a change in your lifestyle. At 37 years old, my wife and I own a long-term care insurance policies. So if you’re healthy, can afford the premiums, and love someone, then consider buying long-term care insurance.