The simple answer is: when you are healthy enough to qualify for long term care insurance coverage.
But, most of us are looking for a bit more definitive guidance. For example, is this something I plan for when I'm in my 50s or 60s? And a new report on long term care insurance provides some helpful hints about how much it costs and when people buy long-term care insurance.
The 2011 Long-term Care Insurance Price Index Report says:
1. A 55-year-old couple purchasing long-term care insurance protection can expect to pay $2,350-per-year (combined) for about $338,000 of current benefits ($169,000 each) which will grow to about $800,000 of combined coverage for the couple when they turn age 80.
2. The average age of a long-term care insurance buyer (not through an employer group) is 57 years old.
3. The study found that rates for comparable coverage from leading insurers could vary by between 41-to-48 percent.
4. Over 75% of purchasers of long-term care insurance are between the ages of 45 and 64.
So, if you're thinking about affordable long term care insurance as a way to protect your family from the high costs of long term care and preserve your independence, here are three take-aways from the long-term care insurance study:
1. Buy when you are younger and healthy. That way you are more likely to qualify for coverage and your premium cost will be lower.
2. Be smart about the coverage you need. There are additional options available that might make a policy more affordable such as a 3% increase for inflation rather than 5% that has been traditional; or a shared care plan that might let you buy fewer years of coverage but give you access to a larger pool that you share with your spouse. Ask a long-tem care insurance specialist for help comparing plans and prices.
3. Shop and compare. Plan benefits and prices vary widely - AALTCI provided the example of a policy for a 65-year old couple (standard rates with the shared care option) would cost $4,660 per year for $338,000 of combined benefits but could cost as much as $7,200 from another insurance company.
AALTCI study and resources - 2011 Long-term Care Insurance Price Index Report
Longevity Alliance Long-term Care Quote compare plans from major long-term care insurance companies