Ep. 129 – Wine Down – Tips and Lessons Learned – Continuous Care Retirement Communities – CCRC

Have you already started the conversation about living through your retirement? If you’re 65 or approaching 65, it is time you start thinking and exploring the options available for you to live through your retirement.

The CCRC is a care option for older people where you get to live in the same place but through three essential steps of care in your aging process.

In this episode of the Secure Your Retirement podcast, we have Al McCleary, our client and friend who has successfully approached the CCRC process. Listen in to learn why it is crucial to start the conversations on your after retirement living and care early.

In this episode, find out:

  • The CCRC’s three essential steps of care; independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing.
  • The value of the CCRC Reference Guide in answering your CCRC detailed questions.
  • Why you should start your CCRC process as early as possible, especially when approaching it as a couple.
  • Al explains how he convinced his wife to consider CCRC as the best care.
  • How to approach CCRC by doing the necessary research early and getting on a waiting list if you have to.

Tweetable Quotes:

“When looking for CCRC; get on the waiting list, you don’t lose anything by doing that.”– Al McCleary


If you are in or nearing retirement and you want to gain clarity on what questions you should be asking, learn what the biggest retirement myths are, and identify what you can do to achieve peace of mind for your retirement, get started today by requesting our complimentary video course, Four Steps to Secure Your Retirement!

To access the course, simply visit POMWealth.net/podcast.

Here’s the Full Transcript:

Radon:Welcome everyone to our podcast. It’s a little bit different this time. We’ve not had many guests inside here with us, but we do today. Let me just say this before I go much further. We’ve got Al McLeary with us, who is a client of ours, a friend of ours, and we’re going to talk to them a little bit about what we call CCRCs. We’ll explain what that means later, but thank you so much, Al, for buying out time to coming and talk to us today.  
Al McLeary:No problem. No problem. I enjoyed it. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart.  
Radon:Great. Great. Just to do a little bit of a setup here, this is our wine down. You got to come in for that. That’s how we bribed you to get in here.  
Morgan:Lured him in.  
Radon:Morgan, before we get into this too much further, could you tell us what wine we’ve got that we’re drinking today?  
Morgan:Yes. We are drinking a Pinot Grigio from Schiopetto. It’s Mario Schiopetto. It’s a winery in Italy and it’s got a lot of dried lemon, apple, peaches, peach pit, and stone character. Medium to full body, but I’m a Pinot Grigio girl, so I’m excited to give this one a try.  
Radon:All right. Well, great. Well, let’s get it started here. Murs, could you kind of do a nice setup and as to why we brought Al in as a client and a person we’ve been working with, just to kind of give a little bit of background why we brought him in?  
Murs:Yeah, I would love to. We’ve known Al for quite some time now. I think it goes back to 2012 or 2013 is when we first started working with Al and there’s a lot of things that Al came to us, for the reasons that Al came to us, there’s a lot of reasons, but ultimately what we’re talking about today is this thing called a CCRC, which stands for a continuing care or continuous care retirement community. We’ve actually done a podcast on this a while ago, to talk really more about, well, what is a CCRC? How do they work? How do they operate? But a couple years ago, Al and I started this whole conversation of, “Hey, I think CCRCs are becoming a reality for me and my wife and we need to really start exploring how do we do this? Can we afford to do this and everything in between.”  
 What we’re doing today for this special wine down is we’re going to pick Al’s brain really, because we talk to you guys all the time in a very conceptual type of manner, but Al has gone through this and he’s seen it firsthand. He’s done the research firsthand. He is a wealth of knowledge that we figured why not ask Al to share his experiences and things that he would do differently maybe, or just any advice that he has to anyone that is currently thinking about this CCRC idea?  
 I’ll kick it off just by starting and asking the question to Al, there’s textbook definitions and everything like that, but in your opinion what do you define or how do you define what a CCRC is?  
Al McLeary:So the big issue here, once you turn some age and Russell was 68 or 69, you begin to think about the fact that, “Gee, I’m not going to be 65 years old, forever and ever and ever anymore,” which is what you think when you’re 25, you think you’ll be 25 forever. The later part of our life, what are we going to do? Well, we started thinking and the two general approaches everybody has is a CCRC, which I’ll explain in detail in a minute, a continuing care retirement community or a self-managed stepwise thing. You stay in your home as long as you can to get whatever care you can. When that becomes untenable or both people are difficulty, now you have to pick up shop and move to assisted living, and then you have to pick up shop and move someplace else, and it’s up to you to organize, plan, and pay for all that stuff.  
 The difference with that in the CCRC is that a CCRC has the three essential steps of care, independent living which is just an apartment, assisted living, which is kind of self-explanatory, and then skilled nursing and/or memory care but they’re all integrated into a single corporation, organized to help move people along the line as they need it. You don’t have to call up your brother in the middle of the night because the person who’s supposed to come and help your wife take a bath left town and can’t, so now what do you do? Those kinds of things don’t happen in the CCRC. For us, that kind of, “Holy cow, what happens when?” became hard to think about. It’s hard enough when you’re 50 years old and can think fast. When you’re 80 years old and can’t think it’s a challenge and so we’d wanted to avoid that. We chose the CCRC for those reasons.  
Radon:Well, that’s great. Like Murs said, this is something that was not one of those decisions that you wake up on a Monday and go, “Okay, I’m going to just go do this.” You are type person that does a fantastic job of research and trying to figure it out. There’s different types of CCRCs and the different types kind of have this idea of whether or not you buy in or you rent or you do whatever. Could you take us through a little bit of what you went through in that and how your thought process went?  
Al McLeary:Let me just digress a minute. One of the resources which we heard about from somebody who heard it from somebody and got it and I commend this to anybody who’s even thinking about this, North Carolina Department of Insurance, NCDOI has an annual guide called CCRC Reference Guide, and they’ve they list every CCRC. This is a North Carolina requirement. If you set up CCRC, you are required to make nice with the NCDOI. They have requirements and guidelines and various mechanisms that you have to follow. What’s in the guide is a list of every CCRC in the state. Where they are, all the key metrics, parameters, finances, size, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, and they also require each CCRC to write a … Forgot the name of it. A disclosure statement.  
Al McLeary:Which has to list a number of specific things in a certain order. It’s pretty prescriptive and that’s included in this book, the book is 250 pages long. It’s pretty big because of all the stuff that’s in. That’s an enormously valuable reference for all kinds of stuff, either to end your search by having the answer, or to at least point you in the right direct to find even more detailed It’s really, really, really very valuable.  
 I didn’t go through all of them, but the book lists five contract types, I guess, that’s the designation that separates various kinds of CRCs. One is the contract types are extensive, which is the most expensive in one sense, but also the most satisfying in another sense, all the way down to rental. Extensive, there’s an entrance fee, a significant size entrance fee, there’s a monthly fee, but an exchange for that, you are free and clear to move from one type of care level to another depending only on you and the medical people in the CCRC’s assessment of what you need, and you don’t have to pay anything more.  
 A rental is the other end. There’s no entrance fee, the monthly fee is almost always is considerably higher, and the only help you get is you have access to health services, but they’re billed by the provider at the full per diem rate. If you live in one of those for many years, I didn’t do the math, but I would guess it might be less expensive to live in a CCRC than to try and do this. There’s three others in the middle, which are various, they’re modified, something and something names, but they’re various mixes and matches of those items.  
 Let’s just see. Again, because of the North Carolina department of insurance, all CCRCs use a continuing care contract with the resident. When you sign up, you sign like everything else 500 pieces of paper. One of those is the contract, which specifies what they’ll do and what you have to do. Mostly what you have to do is pay money, but what’s listed is what they cover for lodging, what they cover for medical and nursing and health services and what the duration is, either for life or in the case of rental, a month at a time.  
Murs:Right, so clearly as you’re listening here, Al has done his research and it’s almost like he is one of those department of insurance guys that knows exactly what he’s talking about. I have had several conversations with him as we kind of did this whole analysis, but there’s a numbers aspect to it and there’s a logistical aspect to it, but there’s also a big emotional aspect to it. Before we started this podcast, Al and I were just chatting a little bit and he said his number one tip here is to start as early as possible. Al, can you just give us a quick why is that number one for you?  
Al McLeary:A real quick five second explanation, all CRCs that I know, I’ve heard about, they have an application process, the purpose of which is to have you provide them with sufficient evidence, financially and medically, that you qualify for their entrance requirements. However … Oh yeah, yeah. What was the question I got?  
Murs:Right, start early as possible.  
Al McLeary:Oh yeah, yeah.  
Murs:Because there’s the financial aspect to it and the research aspect to it, but there’s also an emotional part here where I’m sure you and Helen had to sit down and have some big conversations too. Just take us through that a little bit.  
Al McLeary:Well, I guess, for example, Helen and I started and we were 65 and what do we [inaudible] going to live forever but we discovered that that’s probably not the case. What are we going to do? We began to think about some in as doing so the discussions brought forth differences of opinion about what’s important and what’s not for later life.  
 Helen had, to use us as an example, Helen’s initial views and my initial views. Helen favored living at home as long as possible and at the time we first started this, that was until we can’t even move and that’s crazy. It has certain advantages, but there’s also some consequences which don’t work out very well. She disliked the idea, the abstract idea at the time, of living amongst just old people, only old people because they always die. Well, I mean, okay, but I mean there’s advantages. But then the thing that was really made her very upset was avoiding ending up in a nursing home because her mother did for the last couple months of her life. That was almost number one.  
 For me, my mom lived in a CCRC in Virginia for the last 15 years of her life and I visited her. It worked out very well. She did end up make use of a few of the steps of the continuum of care. She got to assisted living before she passed away.  
 The reason for to get started early is because if you and your partner are going to dance forward into the sunset at some later life thing, you got to be pretty sure that you’ve wrestled with the things that are just below the surface or far below the surface, and they’re not going to come up and cause problems and things get ugly. You need to start bringing those up and discuss them and try to find as many real world examples as you can of various options people have pursued and how it worked. Then that helps you try to come to a position where you can agree on an approach to take. Then it becomes easier to decide what you want to do because you’re approaching it as a couple rather than as two individuals.  
 The other reason is that in the process of doing all this, you’re a couple, but there’s also assorted relatives and family and friends and others who have vested interest in you for whatever reason. The two approaches of a CCRC, which is a continuing care of health versus a self-directed means of trying to piece together bits and pieces. In order for that approach too to work, friends, families, others have to play some or an enormous amount of a role because you get to the point where you can’t and there is nobody else. There’s no staff person on call that can come and arrange, you have to figure it out or your sister or your brother or your next door neighbor or somebody, and they got their own lives to lead. Then it becomes kind of unfair to burden them with a lot of stuff which is unknown to them whereas the place we picked, for example, has been in business in Cary for 30 years, they’ve done this for 30 years. They’ve got everything figured out.  
 Those are some of the big reasons why it’s really important to start having this discussion early, the actual, which CCRC shall we get? Well, you get a book and you do this. That’s information gathering, it’s not particularly emotional, it’s important, you got to write it all down, but it makes it easier to do that when you have a common view of things.  
Morgan:Yeah. You were saying that obviously you and Helen had to make the big decision and go through it together. But I was kind of wondering from family, as far as kids aspect, did you have to get their buy-in or sell it to them or how did that go?  
Al McLeary:We only had one son and, and he knew my mom, his grandma, very well. He knew Helen’s mom, his other grandma, less well, but he knew the CCRC and he’s been there a bunch of times. He was very familiar with what it is and how it works and he thought it was pretty cool to do it.  
Radon:So what do you think, you talked about this conversation, which I think is extremely important between two people. One may say, “Hey, I think this is a great idea.” The other one says no and you talked about her emotions and I think that’s very standard. I think people are going to have, “Hey, these are things I’m worried about.” So they’re not valid. They’re very valid concerns. Through this whole discussion, I’m assuming you’re making this purchase to go into a CCRC that Helen did start to change and kind of come into that. What did you see as being the things that kind of maybe made her go, “Okay and I’m coming on board with this idea and making that shift”?  
Al McLeary:It wasn’t at 2:00 on Friday morning. It was the process as you hinted at. When we whittled our list down to a handful of CCRCs, we visited the two that are in Cary at the time and there’s one or two others, I don’t know, two or three, four times and got to know a few of the people in marketing department, talked with residents and so forth to gain experience in the fact that in Helen’s concern, well, we’re just going to live with a bunch of old people. Well, they’re mature, but they’re not like falling over themselves old.  
Al McLeary:What she came to see was that one, they’re not old like she would think, and two, living in a CCRC, while it’s different than living at home, it’s an apartment building and you can hear the people next door and so forth. I’ll talk about this new building, it’s not going to be like that at all, but it doesn’t have the feel of living on top of people like you would on the fifth floor of a apartment building downtown. She got to understand that and see that. One of her big things was don’t end up in a nursing home, of course, by definition you won’t. There’s nursing facilities, of course, because it’s a care facility and because nursing is nursing, but it’s a continuum and there’s a lot of people looking at it, and it’s a lot less horrendous than you would think. After a period of time, the other day we were having a conversation and she just said, “Boy,” the only thing that she’s concerned about now is this is a hardwired feeling in Helen is, “I need my space.”  
 Well, we have a 2,700 square foot home, one floor and a half. We’re moving into a 1600 square foot apartment, which the first floor of a house is that’s the size so it’s not really living in a Japanese apartment. she’s coming to grips of that. We spent a lot of time, “Where would we put the furniture,” and significant the fraction of what we own, there’s a home for, which brings with it to things that [inaudible] good furniture brings with you that you’ve used for years. There’s lots of things that would help her see that sometimes, somewhat grudgingly, would see that this is a new home, but it’s not a lot different than the old home.  
Murs:Right. It’s still a place that you can call home.  
Al McLeary:Oh yeah.  
Morgan:Your things yeah.  
Murs:Yeah, your things and that means a lot too, and it kind of starts the process of getting rid of some stuff too, right, which is always, over the 30, 30-some years, how long have you been in your current house?  
Al McLeary:Since ’12.  
Murs:Yeah, over the years, you just accumulate and accumulate and the attic gets full and so it’s a good way to get started on that.  
Al McLeary:Let me just add along those same lines. Helen’s a bookworm, she loves books. A year and a half ago, we had a five, two and a half foot four shelf bookshelves up in up the upstairs and they were packed. They were three deep.  
Al McLeary:They were three lows deep in each shelf. “Did you read all those?”  
 “Yeah, at some point.” Over a year and a half, she’s whittled it down to one third of what-  
Morgan:Oh, wow.  
Al McLeary:Some of that’s, giving away, bookstores that’ll buy for a dollar a pound. I’m kidding there. It takes a huge amount of not just physical effort, but also mental effort to get rid of some of your favorites. She’s kept some of her favorite books, but some of them she hasn’t. That’s a good sign that the transition’s underway.  
Murs:Yeah. I want to touch on one thing that you said, because I think it’s really important to reiterate, there’s a stigma that’s attached to assisted living and long term care that this is where you don’t ever want to be in this situation. Sometimes that stigma kind of floats into a CCRC too, because it’s well, this is the next step to get closer to this step. But what you just pointed out is, hey, if you go look at these places, it’s another place to live and yeah, does it have some features built in for later in life? Absolutely. And at some point we’re going to need these, so why not go ahead and at least explore the idea. Because there’s a huge part of this that as we’re sitting here talking to Al right now, he started this whole journey of research back in ’19 I want to say maybe? 2019? A lot of research, a lot of figuring out, “Hey, can we afford this?” But then also when you did make that decision, Al, tell us about that process, because I’ll tell you right now, it’s been two years and Al is not in the CCRC yet, right?  
 There’s an aspect of, hey, you decide where you want to go. Then you make a deposit or a commitment to this place and then you’re still, well, or you’re actually on a waiting list before you can get called up to make a deposit. Tell us that a journey as far as the timeline goes, because I know right now you’re waiting on your building to be built. Kind of comes to the timeliness of, yeah, maybe we make this decision today, but it could be seven, it could be 10 years before we actually are floating into this next step.  
Al McLeary:So I talked a little earlier, there’s an application process for a CCRC, it serve many goals. One is to prove that you have the resources and the health to be able to enter the CCRC in good shape. We did that with Glenaire, the place we are signed up for in Cary, submitted application documents and they were accepted, we got on their standard waiting list. The waiting list in June of ’19 was over 600 names, which blindly gives about four to seven years of waiting. It’s a little misleading because at that time the waiting list was everybody and you’re on the same waiting list, no matter what apartment, whatever it is you’re in line for. They go through, when something comes open and they’re looking for people sign up for one apartment or one bedrooms.  
 The other one is that the requested move-in dates. There were soon to people were on the waiting list that didn’t want any for four or five years. Having 600 names is a little misleading. This is pure serendipity. That was in June of ’19 and July of ’19 Glenaire announced and had a presentation on they’re building a new building on their current site and this is a six story, 192 apartment building. It’s a big, big construction project. As a resident, it’s comforting to know it’s a steel and concrete building. There’s no wood. There’s wood with there’s no wood and the floors are concrete and the steel are the walls so forth so you won’t hear your neighbors. When they did the presentation, said, “Well, we have a waiting list for apartments in the new building.”  
 Oh, we might as well join. I would, I would ask you out there everybody, when you’re doing this, if there ever comes an opportunity when somebody says something or you can ask can you get on the waiting lists, do it. The worst you’ll lose is maybe the fee 50 bucks, 150 bucks to get on the waiting list and now you have the place in line for something. If you end up going to look at another CCRC and another waiting list, don’t hesitate. Get on the waiting list. You don’t lose anything by doing that. In July ’19 we got on the waiting list for the new building and then in the following March, March of last year, March 2020, our wait list number came up. We got together with the staff at Glenaire, went through the available remaining apartments, half of them had been spoken for already by that point and got an apartment and put down the 10% of the entrance fee needed to hold the apartment.  
 Construction began in the fall of 2020. They think that the move ins will start mid-2023. To rephrase the point that Murs made, we started the application process for a specific CCRC in June of ’19 and we’ll move in, I don’t know, July or August of ’23. That’s four years. Much of that’s waiting for a building to be built, admittedly, but still.  
Radon:I think on that point right there, Al, what you started off with start early. Let’s just think about, and I’m going to kind of timeline and see if I got it right. There was some period of time that you were just talking with Helen about the idea of a CCRC. Now, I don’t know what that was, let’s just say that’s a couple of years, okay? That gets you to the point where you actually say, “Let’s go start looking.” That finally gets you to the point where you say, “All right, let’s apply,” and now you’ve got four or five years. So the whole idea of starting early, you could start this when you’re in your sixties, early sixties, and still not be in there until you’re in your seventies because you’re having this conversation first and I think that’s really important for people to think about. You might be 62, 64, and feel great, have no problems, you’re not even wanting to think about other stuff yet but the whole idea is it could take you eight, nine years to actually get into somewhere before you actually go through this whole process. Question, conversation, family, all of that.  
Al McLeary:I don’t know of any other really good analogy in life where at some point in life, you need to start thinking about stuff, which for sure isn’t going to materialize for five years probably, and maybe even longer. It’s important to begin that conversation and start the work because the wait list … At least in this area, this area is growing rapidly. There’s a whole bunch of new companies that have signed up and they’re going to be bringing people in the area over the next few years, some of whom will probably be senior management and sort of near retirement age and be interested in doing this and so the wait lists are only going to get longer by a lot.  
Radon:So would you say at this point you’re kind of getting to the point where you’re kind of excited about going in?  
Al McLeary:Yeah.  
Radon:Where’s Helen at on that?  
Al McLeary:Yeah. I think she is excited and then she’s really going to miss her home. “Oh, it’s going to be hard for me and so forth.”  
Al McLeary:Of course. That’s Helen and that’s fine. It’s okay. After a period of time, I don’t know what more than two days and less than a year, I hope, she’s accommodated to the new surroundings and some new folks and so forth. One of the things that we liked about Glenaire was the huge amount of range of activities, clubs, random spontaneous things that they do just because. It’s astounding. It’s not what you think of as an old people’s home.  
Morgan:Have you gotten a chance to meet some of the people that you’re going to be living in the area with, or that they’re also on the wait list and kind of start that …  
Al McLeary:We’ve met, through Zoom, good old Zoom. We’ve met the people on our floor.  
Murs:Oh, that’s great.  
Al McLeary:The building, the new building is full. The waiting list is year and a half long or something like that.  
Murs:Oh wow.  
Al McLeary:The only thing I wanted to say, wanted to thank Murs. I’m a money guy and the numbers guy, sort of like Murs and we got to worry about finances, how we going to do this and how many thousands we got to give for an interest? Murs did a really, really good job of constructing a goofy multi parameter modeling equation, which is good because then, and we’ve used it on and off for two or three years, there’s a change in some parameter or something and you just call him up and he puts it and turns the crank and out it comes.  
 The other important thing is he has, which I would advise everybody to do, is the output of the program is how much money will I have left at date X or at age X and X is any number you want. We chose the one we’re going to go, “Oh my God, we better be careful,” is at 100. When we get to age 100, that’s sort of the go no no, go no go decision point for some move we want to make is when Murs turns the crank and out comes the number, how much money do we have left at the age of 100? Is it $2.50 or is it some reasonable number? We set a reasonable number only because there’s so many damn variables in this equation he put together that he has not a clue, well, some clue, but not very much of a clue about what that might be five years from now, 10 years from now, whatever. By building in safety at the end of the calculation, as well as in the middle of the calculation, it helps ease everybody’s mind.  
Murs:Well, I will say we did not pay Al to give us that little plug as far as running him through the numbers, but yeah, we did have several conversations and part of it was us learning how CCRCs really work and the difference between just being in a house versus the expenses when you pick up a CCRC. It was mutually beneficial to go through that exercise. Now we’re doing it for quite a few clients because it is a reality and it’s something that is valuable, but you got to wrap your head around the expenses or to be able to understand what you can afford.  
 Al, I think this has been fantastic. We could sit here and talk for hours and we would run out of wine, but thank you very much for kind of sharing your insights and your experiences. I know that this will be beneficial for anyone that’s out there thinking about this whole concept of a CCRC and if it’s right for them, so thanks a bunch for coming in.  
Al McLeary:I enjoyed it. Thanks very much. I hope people will benefit from this.