Do you sometimes think about what your life will be like when you retire? Most people imagine living independently in comfortable and safe surroundings, preferably residing in their own home. With longer life spans and advances in health care, many retirees—if they retire early enough—may have several decades or more to enjoy their “golden years.”

Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), also known as life-care communities, accommodate active, healthy older adults in a range of living quarters, such as single-family homes, apartments, or condominiums. As residents age and require assistance, they remain at the CCRC, but can enter an assisted living or nursing care facility. Such a community allows residents to remain in one place for the duration of their life, so they can age in place, without worrying about their future care.

The Cost of CCRCs

CCRCs usually require a one-time entrance fee and monthly charges. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP, 2014), the one-time entry fee can range from $100,000 to $1 million, and it pays for care in advance and funds the CCRC’s operating costs. Monthly fees can average $3,000 to $5,000 and more depending on your state of health, whether you are renting or buying, how many residents live in the facility, and the type of service contract you choose. Additional fees may be added for such options as for housekeeping, meal service, transportation, and social activities.

Three types of service contracts are usually offered. The life care, or extended contract, the most expensive, provides unlimited assisted living, medical care, and skilled nursing care. A modified contract provides care for a specified length of time, after which the monthly fee increases if you require other services. A fee-for-service contract allows you to pay a lower enrollment fee, but you would pay for assisted living and nursing home care, if needed, at the market rate.

Do Your Research

When you are researching facilities, it is important to be sure that the one you pick is financially stable, because you will want to be certain it will provide the housing and support you need 10 or 15 years into the future. Most states offer some level of CCRC regulation, so you should ask to see any licensing and inspection reports, complaint investigations, and audit reports. You should also plan to visit all of the different facilities in the community.

Seek Legal Advice

If you are considering this retirement option, you should get legal advice because of the complexity of CCRC contracts. Once you have worked out a contract, have your attorney look at it, to make sure it accurately reflects your agreement with the community.

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