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Friday, February 24, 2012 2:27:40 PM

How can I avoid making mistakes when shopping for and buying long-term care insurance? What common mistakes are you aware of?

Almost three-fourths of seniors over age 64 will need some sort of long-term care, and 20 percent of those will need it for at least five years. Long-term care insurance can be part of your retirement planning, taking into account your current and future needs. Consider your health now, your family health history, your current financial status, and your projected finances and assets at retirement.

When shopping for long-term care insurance, you should start by educating yourself about the complexities of this type of policy, then work with an experienced long-term care insurance agent who understands what each insurance carrier offers. Most mistakes come from not fully understanding your policy.

A long-term care insurance policy can be complicated; you may not be familiar with each aspect or certain terminology. Make sure you ask questions of your agent until you thoroughly understand the coverage.

For each long-term care insurance company and policy, there are differences, exclusions, limitations and restrictions. Be sure to understand all of these factors. With long-term care insurance, there's no "one size fits all" coverage. Think of this as an opportunity to learn, to understand, and to thoroughly prepare for your future.

People often misunderstand the elimination period of a long-term care insurance policy. In this case, an elimination period usually 30, 60 or 90 days is the time between when a long-term disability occurs and when your benefits kick in. Another potential oversight is failing to factor in the rising costs of long-term care. You may want to consider a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) provision when buying a policy. COLA boosts your benefit amount each year to keep up with inflation.

Buying long-term care insurance is like buying any kind of insurance. You hope you never have to tap the policy's benefits, but you are covered in case you do need them. The time and effort you put into designing the right policy for you and your family will buy peace of mind.

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Laura Adams is a personal finance expert and award-winning author who is Senior Insurance Analyst for InsuranceQuotes.com. She represents Bankrate Insurance’s web properties in the media and works as an advocate to make sure consumers protect their financial futures by having the right kinds of insurance.

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