To put that long-term care insurance plan in action, Ameriprise Executive Vice President Pat O'Connell advises getting the earliest possible start, kicking as many tires as needed to get the best deal. "Generally, the earlier the better when it comes to purchasing a long-term care policy," O'Connell says. "It may not make sense for a person in their 20s or 30s, but by the time a person nears 50, he or she should be thinking about paying for future health care expenses. LTC policies typically cost less for healthy individuals, so as a person ages, the likelihood that he or she won't qualify due to a health issue increases." O'Connell has some advice on those all-important "first steps," too. "It's important to understand what your future health care needs could be, and to do as much research as possible about different policies before choosing one," he says. "Depending on your family's health history and any pre-existing conditions you have, you may have different long-term needs. For example, if you had one parent who lived into their 90s and another with Alzheimer's, you may have a greater chance of spending many years in a care facility. After you calculate what you may need to cover long-term care costs in retirement, be sure to read the fine print on policies and understand how and what the policy will cover." Don't shy away from the perceived expense of adding an LTC element into your retirement savings, either. "It's crucial to do the math," O'Connell says. "It may appear counterproductive to purchase a policy as you're trying to sock away as much as you can for your retirement, but consider the value of each dollar that goes towards a LTC policy vs. into an IRA or 401(k). Of course, doing either is a great way to prepare for your future, but you may find that your policy will pay out more to help with future health care costs than what you can save on your own."