In spite of what the title seems to infer, this post is not about the pros and cons of Long Term Care Insurance (LTCI); it is simply a post about Joe and Jan … and why they don’t have Long Term Care Insurance.
The year before I turned 60, I started researching Long Term Care Insurance. I read brochures; I asked questions; I solicited quotes and I asked questions about those quotes. Long Term Care Insurance, in case you don’t know, has many nuances and is quite complicated. Because I assumed that Janice would agree that we need this insurance, I wanted to make sure I clearly understood how it worked.
Did you get that word, “assumed"? With all of the grace of a bulldozer I laid my bulging LTCI file on the dining room table and commenced explaining how it worked and why we needed it and how much it would cost. Janice listened thoughtfully and then said, “No one in either of our families has ever needed nursing home care. I think it is a waste of money."
“But…but…", I stammered. “A prolonged nursing home stay will wipe out whatever nest egg we have. Is that OK with you?" As I listened to myself talk I realized that I sounded strangely like an insurance representative.
“Well, no." Jan replied. “That is not OK. But it is worth the risk to me. I would rather hang on to that premium money than spend it year in and year out for the rest of our lives."
Janice and I have an agreement: we don’t spend money on anything over $100 without both of us agreeing. In this case, we both didn’t agree so we didn’t spend the money.
Still, I was plotting to not give up easily. I remember thinking, “We don’t have to buy the long term care insurance right now. I will wait until before my 61st birthday and bring it up again."
The Years Pass
I kept my word to myself. I brought up the issue before my 61st birthday, before my 62nd birthday and before my 63rd birthday. Each time Janice politely explained her views. Finally, in our most recent discussion, Janice’s voice had an edge to it, “I thought we had already settled this discussion. I understand our decision. I am willing to take the risk. I just don’t think we need to be spending that premium money for insurance that I don’t think we will ever use."
“OK Jan." I countered, “I respect your judgment, so let’s discuss a compromise. Would you agree to increase our investments? Realistically, we will never create a big enough nest egg to be self insured, but we could earmark the nest egg for Long Term Care and it would surely help if we need it. If not, then we still have our money."
“Sure. We could do that." she said.
So we agreed, once and for all, that we will not buy Long Term Care Insurance and that we will beef up our investments instead.
What is the Point?
You might not agree with our decision. That is OK. But even though I didn’t get what I wanted, I harbor no ill will about it. The point is that with this issue, as with any issue, we have a process: we talk it out and respect each other enough to listen and negotiate and come to an agreement. My wife is a wise woman, one I have great respect for. Someday, I suppose, we will learn which one of us was right. But there will be no “I told you so’s" – no matter what. WE talked and WE made a decision and WE are both on board.
In my mind, that is what a great marriage is all about. The best long term marriage insurance I can think of is a healthy process of talking things through, coming to an agreement and living with that agreement.
Even if things don’t work out the way we want, we will manage. We are a team. We do things together. We will figure it out. Together. That is the point.
Readers: How do you resolve money issues in your family setting? Which ones have been particularly difficult? What have you done right?