Personal Finance

Assisted living communities average more than $4,000 monthly. This is where they are the most and least costly

Key Points
  • The average monthly cost for an assisted living facility ranges from $3,045 (or $36,540 yearly) in Georgia to $5,893 ($70,716 yearly) in New Jersey, according to research.
  • These facilities are residential spots for individuals who can maintain some independence yet need help with day-to-day activities.
  • Not all retirees will need this type of care, but it's worth giving thought to how you would cover the cost if you do.
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There's a common retirement expense that you may never face but should take note of anyway — assisted living.

Facilities that provide such care come with an average monthly price tag of $4,057 (or $48,684 yearly) in the U.S., according to research from Seniorly, a website that helps users compare senior living communities. That cost 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 spots for individuals who can maintain some independence yet need help with day-to-day living activities, such as bathing, dressing or doing laundry. While they may offer medication management, 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.

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Both assisted living and nursing home care fall under the umbrella of long-term care, which generally is not covered by Medicare except in certain situations. 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 David Mendels, a certified financial planner and director of planning at Creative Financial Concepts in New York.

Some retirees choose to "self-insure" — that is, rely on their own assets — to fund the 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 assets to qualify for Medicaid-sponsored nursing-home care.

The most straightforward solution — long-term-care insurance — can be too expensive a proposition for many consumers. 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.

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.