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Here's Where Assisted Living Communities Are the Most and Least Expensive

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  • The monthly cost to live in a facility that provides such care averages $4,057 (or $48,684 yearly) in the U.S.
  • Assisted living is generally considered a long-term care expense.
  • While not all retirees will need such care, it's worth considering how you would cover the cost if you do.

For a retirement expense that you may or may not face, it's nevertheless one worth taking note of: assisted living.

The monthly cost to live in a facility that provides such care averages $4,057 (or $48,684 yearly) in the U.S., according to research from Seniorly, which helps users find senior living communities to match their needs. That charge per month ranges from an average $3,045 (or $36,540 yearly) in Georgia to $5,893 ($70,716 yearly) in New Jersey.

Assisted living communities are residential care spots for individuals who are able to maintain some independence but may need help with day-to-day tasks such as bathing or dressing. Ongoing medical care generally is not provided, which makes these places different (and generally less expensive) than nursing homes, which cost a median $7,756 monthly ($93,072 a year), according to Genworth.

Both assisted living and nursing home care fall under the general umbrella of long-term care, which generally is not covered by Medicare. And while many retirees eventually will need some level of daily help, others won't need it at all.

So what are your options to cover this unpredictable cost?

"There is no cheap way of paying for it," said certified financial planner David Mendels, director of planning at Creative Financial Concepts in New York.

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Some retirees choose to "self-insure" — that is, rely on their own assets — to fund the unpredictable cost. That could mean eventually spending retirement savings, getting a reverse mortgage or, say, selling a vacation home.

Other options include leaning on family members or spending down (or shielding) assets to qualify for Medicaid-sponsored nursing-home care.

The most straightforward solution — long-term-care insurance — has become too expensive a proposition for many consumers, contributing to a 60% drop in sales from 2012 to 2018, according to the Secure Retirement Institute. With claims exceeding expectations, many insurers also have fled the space.

The average annual premium cost for initial benefits worth $165,000 for a 60-year-old couple is anywhere from $2,600 to $8,750, depending on whether or by how much the benefits increase yearly, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.

However, there's a 50% chance of never needing to use the insurance, the association notes.

Some advisors recommend that clients consider a hybrid policy that combines life insurance with long-term-care coverage. That can be done through a new purchase or by converting an existing policy — term or whole — to the option.

While the particulars of each policy vary, the idea is that you can tap the death benefit during your lifetime if you need it to pay for support — although doing so reduces the amount that your heirs would inherit. Some hybrid options provide long-term-care coverage beyond the death benefit.

However, you generally need to be insurable — that is, pass medical underwriting — just as with a straight long-term-care policy.

You also typically need a pot of money to fund it. Some insurers ask for an upfront lump sum, while others allow you to spread the premium payments over a set number of years.

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