First Person: A Less Costly Assisted Living Option

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According to, the national average monthly cost in the US for assisted living facilities in 2012 was $3,300. That equates to almost $40,000 a year. As my wife and I still have a good 30 years before retirement, we expect to pay well over this amount…or maybe not.

Several friends of our own a vacation condo in Florida. The condo building is more of a community than just a bunch of residents tossed together in the same location. As many of the residents are older, they tend to care for and watch out for one another much as one might be supervised in an assisted living environment. This example made my wife and I realize that there might be other -- more affordable -- assisted living options.

An Affordable Care Option

Using this condo example, we could cut costs compared to the average assisted living expense in 2012, by nearly half or even more should we be able to enter such a situation without a mortgage. Factoring an estimated $300 a month in property taxes with a $400 a month assessment, and $300 a month in utilities and the monthly cost of living in such a setting would be about $1,000 -- less than a third of what the average assisted living environment might be.

Examples of Care

In this particular situation, the residents of the condo complex in our example tend to watch out for one another, assisting each other without being professional "care givers" and without the associated costs too. For example, while we were visiting, one disabled resident needed a new washer and dryer. Rather than pay to have it delivered, I went along with a couple other residents to pick up the appliances for him. Other residents would check on this individual regularly, and take him to the store, and get him to doctors appointments when necessary.

Another example of the community this condo complex provides is the regular activities that take place. There are regular holiday parties and activities in the clubhouse. There is a walking club. And there is a nightly "happy hour" where residents can get together, hang out, and socialize. If someone is missing, they notice and check to ensure everything is okay...all for free I might add and out of the goodness of their hearts.


I do however recognize that there can be pitfalls involved in such a situation. First off, while the residents of this particular condo complex look out for one another, there is no guarantee that it will stay that way or that other complexes would develop a similar situation. Second, these people are not medical professionals and can't provide all the skills and services that an actual assisted living location might. Third, there can be extra costs involved in such a living situation. Property tax increases, higher association fees, and extra assessments for repairs for things like the swimming pool, parking lot, elevator, or the structure or condo units themselves can come as large hits in a fixed-income retirement situation. Such extra costs could come as a surprise and shocking lump-sum charges with condo living where as they could be built into the cost of an assisted living environment.

Therefore, while such a situation could pay off in certain ways financially, there are other financial aspects to consider as well as our particular situation and needs as we near retirement.

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