Trying to decide if a CCRC if right for you? The first step is to get educated about how CCRC contracts and fees really work - and luckily Seniorly is here to help.
Most seniors hear the phrase “aging in place” and immediately think about making home modifications and changes. Ultimately, this is so that they can grow old in their own homes. However, continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) - sometimes known as life plan communities - offer another way for aging adults to enjoy aging in place and provide different senior housing options and levels of care on a single campus.
CCRCs offer an appealing option for independent seniors who want to enjoy an active, community lifestyle while preparing for the future. However, the costs of a CCRC can be a bit complex, with a fee structure that might include entrance fees, a monthly fee, amenity fees and more. Add them all up, and it can be pretty difficult to understand whether you can afford to live in a CCRC.
Here’s a closer look at CCRC costs, information on the available contracts, and a look at some tips on how to pay for living in a CCRC.
One of the biggest CCRC costs is upfront entry fees. This is a one-time entrance fee that may or may not be partially or fully refundable, depending on your contract. Entrance fees vary greatly and can run between $100,000 and up to $2 million. According to the AARP, the average initial payment was just over $400,000 in 2021. The amount you’re paying upfront for entrance fees depends on the location and size of the unit you’ve chosen, and may even include a certain amount of money towards your care in the future.
According to LongTermCare.gov, your one-time entrance fee may not be refundable. However, some communities are willing to offer full or partial refunds in certain circumstances. For example, if you move or pass away within a certain period after you move in, your entrance fee may be partially or fully refundable. It's important to note that the fee could be held until your spot has been filled.
Along with the upfront entrance fee, you’ll also need to pay monthly fees while you’re living in a CCRC. Monthly fees can vary greatly but usually range between $2,000 and $4,000 per month. Consider these payments as rent! Remember that the monthly fee is affected by the type of housing you’ve chosen, the contract you’ve signed, and the amenities that are available.
It’s important to note that monthly fees often go up over time, increasing with inflation. According to Kiplinger, monthly fees generally increase between 4-6% annually while you’re still in the independent living unit of a CCRC. It’s even possible to see higher increases in monthly fees if you’ve moved to skilled nursing or an assisted living wing within your community.
Even though you’ve already paid an entrance fee and you pay a monthly fee, there are still fees you may be asked to pay for services that aren’t included in your CCRC contract. When you’re considering a CCRC, make sure to ask for a clear outline of what is - and what isn't - included in your contract.
These may include things like transportation, meal plans, health care, housekeeping, assistance with daily living activities, beautician services, and more. Identify the services that may have additional fees and ask for a printed or emailed copy of the fee schedule for additional fees before you sign a contract and consider how much they’ll cost.
Some of the potential miscellaneous continuing care costs you may need to plan for include the following:
When it comes to the cost of living in a continuing care retirement community, the most significant factor affecting your costs is the type of contract you sign. There are three basic types of CCRC contracts, and they come with different risks and benefits. The major differences between the contract types are explained by a trade off between entrance fees and future health care costs.
The upfront enrollment fee is the lowest with this choice of contract, but there's a trade-off down the line. Should you need the assisted living or skilled nursing services available in your CCRC, you'll have to pay for them at market rates. With this type of contract, you're essentially making a bet on your future health and wellness.
Fee-for-service contracts start out as relatively inexpensive initially, but they have the possibility of becoming extremely expensive should you need extensive amounts of health care.
According to the AARP, while these contracts come with the lowest enrollment fees, they have the highest risk because skilled nursing and assisted living costs in the future will be paid for at market rates. And with the current and projected labor shortages in the nursing and care sectors, those costs are likely to rise.
These contracts are the most expensive but also provide the greatest peace of mind for you and for your family. Under a Life Care contract, your monthly maintenance fee remains stable no matter what kind of care you need in the future. If you need an in-home caregiver, it's covered.
If it comes time to move into assisted living wing or a skilled nursing facility, it's all covered. You have unlimited access to all the health care the CCRC can provide, all for the same fee you paid when you first moved in.
Unsurprisingly, a Life Care contract requires the largest buy-in upfront, sometimes rising into the high six figures. If you can afford it, it's a good choice for couples, who may end up developing different medical needs at different times. In addition, it protects your family from rising costs in the future.
With modified contracts, you receive specified services (mostly medical services) for a given amount of time. Once you hit that time limit, you still have unlimited access to the services, but you have to pay a higher monthly fee.
Typically, the fee you pay is still quite a bit lower than what you might have paid for the same services outside the CCRC. Sometimes a modified contract covers a certain number of days per month of health care — say, 15 days a month of skilled nursing care or assistance with the activities of daily living (grooming, bathing, dressing, etc.). After that, you have to pay the fees yourself.
Before committing to this type of contract, it's a good idea to look over your health insurance policy to see understand the potential overlap with the services you'd be paying for.
While the idea of a large entrance fee and additional monthly fees may seem overwhelming, there are multiple ways to afford life at a CCRC. If it’s an option that fits your needs, know that you can pay for a CCRC in several ways. Some options include selling your home or using your long-term care insurance if you eventually need to make the move to the assisted living level of care. In some cases, Medicare may pay for certain services needed while living in a CCRC.
To determine whether it’s an affordable option for you, it’s a good idea to ask the CCRCs you’re considering for audited financial statements and work with your financial advisor to evaluate the costs versus your assets.
Arthur Bretschneider is CEO and Co-Founder of Seniorly. As a third generation leader in the senior living industry, Arthur brings both deep compassion and a wealth of practical experience to his work at Seniorly. Arthur holds an MBA from Haas School of Business and has been featured in the New York Times and Forbes Magazine as a thought leader in the senior living space. Arthur is a passionate and vocal advocate for improving the lives of older adults through community, and believes strongly that structured senior living environments can positively impact the aging experience.
To learn more about Seniorly's editorial guidelines, click here.
Seniorly’s Senior Living experts created a comprehensive handbook to help people age happily while ensuring they love where they live. Enter your email address below to receive your copy and learn more about Healthy Aging and Senior Living.*