Life Insurance Or Long-term Care: Make The Right Pick

As the kids leave the nest and the mortgage gets paid off, the need for life insurance wanes for many people who have reached late middle age.

The focus moves from "How will my family survive without me?" to "Who will take care of me, and how will I pay for it?"

You have a 70 percent chance of needing long-term care sometime after age 65, according to the National Clearinghouse for Long Term Care Information. Health insurance, including Medicare, generally doesn't cover long-term care, which pays for assistance with basic activities, such as eating, getting in and out of bed, and bathing.

The cost of care, whether it's provided in a nursing home, assisted-living facility or at home, can reach tens of thousands of dollars a year and decimate your financial portfolio. Here are 8 long-term care insurance myths.

"If you think you worry about your kids now, just wait until you get older and you worry that you'll outlive your money," warns Thomas Horner, president of Horner Marketing Services, a long-term care insurance agency in Cape Coral, Fla.

Making a switch

So when should you drop life insurance and start pouring money into a long-term care policy?

The answer depends on your situation and your cash flow. You might need both types of coverage, just one, or you might find the best option in a policy that combines long-term care and life insurance coverage.

For most people, the need for life insurance is greatest when they're in their 20s, 30s and 40s, Horner says. Those are the prime years for paying a mortgage, starting families, raising children and saving money for the kids' college education. You need life insurance if you have dependents who would suffer financially if you died.

As couples reach late middle age, the financial obligations start to drop off. The kids graduate from college and become independent. The house often gets paid off. A nest egg grows, providing security for a surviving spouse.