The Boston Globe

Even with 35 million Americans already age 65 and
older - and the number expected to double in 30 years
as baby boomers age - long- term care coverage seems
as poorly understood as ever.

That's according to a new report, "The Costs of
Long-Term Care: Public Perceptions vs. Reality," by
AARP, the national nonprofit organization for people
50 and over. Among the report's findings, based on a
survey of 1,800 people around the country:

- 45 percent of Americans age 45 and older don't know
how much long- term care really costs.

- 55 percent mistakenly believe Medicare covers
long-term nursing home stays, when it only covers some
short-term stays.

- 31 percent say they have long-term care coverage,
which contradicts a national estimate by the Health
Insurance Association of America that only 6 percent
of Americans have bought such insurance. This
contradiction suggests people may incorrectly think
they're covered under Medicare, according to AARP.

Considering that the average yearly nursing home cost
is $56,000, and is projected to rise to $80,000 by
2010, these misperceptions can lead to devastating
financial consequences for elderly patients and their

"Our research indicates that most Americans are
woefully uninformed about long-term care services,
especially when it comes to cost," said AARP
Massachusetts state director Deborah Banda in a
statement accompanying the release of the report two
weeks ago.

"It seems that they are relying on a mere hunch when
looking at long-term care options for their parents
and for themselves in the future. Even many of those
who think they are knowledgeable about long-term care
and its costs seem to have it wrong," Banda said.

While many Americans will live longer and healthier
lives and won't necessarily need long-term care, the
fact is about 20 percent of those over 65, or about 7
million men and women, currently require long-term
care services, according to the National Academy of

And another set of statistics, from the US Health Care
Financing Administration, shows that as of 1999 about
27 percent of the nation's overall bill for nursing
home costs was paid out of pocket by individuals and
their families.

AARP plans to use its survey findings to educate the
public about the true costs of long-term care and the
need to have adequate coverage.

To help people evaluate their long-term care coverage
needs, AARP in Massachusetts offers these tips:

- If you already have a policy, review it with family,
friends, or a professional such as an attorney or
financial adviser to make sure you're adequately

- If you're considering buying such coverage, make
sure you shop around and compare plans.

- Check to see what long-term care
services Medicare covers.

- Call 1-800-AGE-INFO (1-800-243-4636), or go to, to find out what's covered under
so-called Medigap plans in Massachusetts.

- Order a free copy of AARP's "Family Conversations
That Help Parents Stay Independent," by calling

Last week I wrote about some of the personal finance
magazines, Wall Street analysts, and money managers
who got snookered by energy trading firm Enron's
questionable accounting, along with small investors

Now I have even more fodder on that topic, after the
latest issue of Money magazine arrived in my mail a
few days ago.

In a column entitled "Enron: The Lessons for
Investors. Hindsight, shmindsight. There's much to
learn when a stock loses $67 billion in value," the
magazine suggests that the red flags were there, in
regulatory filings and elsewhere, even before the
company filed for bankruptcy protection three weeks

What that column doesn't point out (but which I did
last week) is that Money magazine has long included
Enron on its "Money 30 index" as one of the "30 blue
chip growth stocks at the forefront of today's

If the magazine is going to play Monday morning
quarterback, it seems it should come clean about its
own failure to see the red flags.

But it hasn't.

In fact, the magazine continues to list Enron on its
index in the January 2002 issue, even after the stock
lost more than 90 percent of its value in a month.
Ironically, the index listing is on the back of the
page on which the "Hindsight, shmindsight" column
begins. And there's no apology.

And now for a lighter side of money. . .

Which do Americans think about more: Money or sex?

The answer: Money, according to a new and funny little
book entitled "Are You Normal About Money."

Based on surveys on, author Bernice
Kanner says 47 percent of us think more about money
than about sex, while only 17 percent (mostly men)
think of sex above money. It's a draw for the
remaining 36 percent.

The volume, published last month by Bloomberg Press,
also offers this timely insight:

Some 29 percent of men and 9 percent of women start
their holiday shopping a day or two before Christmas.

So to all you last-minute shoppers, you're not alone.

The book also answers these tantalizing questions:

Would you lend your spouse for $1 million? 66 percent
say no.

Do you reuse tin foil? 44 percent say yes.

Would you live on a deserted island for a year for $1
million? 65 percent say yes.

For $10,000 would you shave your head? 59 percent say