Longevity Will Cost You: Why Healthy Lifespans Mean Sticker Shock for Women

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Here’s some good news: Women are living longer than ever. The bad news? They’re paying a hefty price for it.

Nearly 70% of Americans ages 65 or older are expected to need long-term care—either at home or in a facility—at some point in their lives. But whether seniors need help recovering from surgery or a stroke—or simply require assistance with daily tasks like bathing and dressing as they age—the cost of such long-term care can be staggeringly expensive.

In 2013 the median cost of a private room in a nursing home for just one year came in at $83,950—that’s up from $67,575 just five years ago.

Medicare only covers a very small portion of long-term care costs. And since paying out of pocket could easily decimate many people’s retirement savings, an increasing number of Americans may need to protect their nest eggs by buying long-term care insurance, which can cover some or all of the costs of extended elder care.

However, the policies aren’t cheap. The average, healthy, 55-year-old man can expect to pay a premium of around $2,000 a year. But that’s nothing compared to what women are being charged for identical coverage.

Last spring, two major providers of long-term care insurance—John Hancock and Genworth—hiked premiums on new policies for women by 20% to 40%, with other carriers following suit. The reason: Women are growing old for far longer.

An American woman who turned 65 last year is now expected to live to the average age of 87, compared to 85 for men. Women are also less likely to have a caregiver at home when they need it because they often outlive their spouses, making them more likely to end up in a nursing home or assisted-living facility—and more likely to rely on long-term care insurance to pay for that care.

RELATED: The Right Insurance for Every Age

  • Jan Cullinane

    A few other areas of sticker shock: Haircuts (even if it’s the same length and style as a guy’s hair, the woman will pay more); deodorant (advertisers say it’s more expensive to market to women); dress shirts (even those made out of the same material as a guy’s).

    Jan Cullinane, author, The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement

  • meganK1

    I have been told it is better to wait, as you never know which company will still be in business by the time you need long-term care. Is this reasonable?

  • Dominique

    I will save the money as if I’m paying the insurance. If they come around, and only then, will they be so lucky and get my money. Until then I’m still saving for me and paying into me and no one else.