Nancy Nall Reporting

There’s nothing like hearing that nursing-home care can cost $8,000 a month to send a person into despair. Never mind gasoline at $3 a gallon. How are older Americans to manage their finances, hard-earned over a lifetime, after their earning years are over? Is it possible to live comfortably and still leave something for your descendants? It is, if you plan carefully and know the financial landscape.

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Financial planning for one’s elder years — whether your own or a parent’s — should begin years before bifocals and back pain. None of us knows how long we’ll live, and we have to be prepared for the years when we have to live on pension, savings and Social Security. 

But once you’re there, a financial planner can help you sort out the various financial products and services related to aging, including long-term care insurance, trusts, reverse mortgages and Medicaid-related issues. The latter is especially important to many older people, who may wonder how they can get the benefits they have coming as taxpaying U.S. residents, support themselves and perhaps leave a little behind for their loved ones.  

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Many people have misconceptions about these issues, believing they must themselves be bankrupt before claiming Medicaid benefits, for instance. This isn’t true. The issues are complex, but generally speaking, a person with a good plan in place can still leave a financial legacy, even if they do need long-term nursing-home care.  

But, again, a plan is essential. A lawyer specializing in elder-care issues will guide you through the process.

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