Know requirements before choosing retirement community


When considering a retirement community, it's important you understand all the necessary "requirements."

Many senior living communities require a "membership" fee or some kind of "buy-in" fee that is usually non-refundable. This expense helps generates revenue for the community, like "initiation" fees paid towards joining a private club (golf or tennis club, spa, residential, etc.).

There usually are some benefits that are included with the membership beyond just the ability to reside in the community.

Guidelines for membership typically include the following: minimum age, ability to live independently and financial capability.

Minimum age: This is the easy one. Back in the 1980s and '90s, people were moving to retirement communities in their early to mid-70s, which is the rare exception in today's world, hence "senior" retirement living.

Ability to live independently: What's important to remember is that you're moving into an "independent living" retirement community and you must be able to live in such a way that you're "safe to yourself and others."

Ultimately, you'll need to have your family physician complete a medical form that summarizes your overall health condition and, most importantly, confirms you are capable of living independently.

If one spouse of a couple is not in good health and will need some care, if the other spouse is willing to assist and be a caregiver, the couple could be approved for membership.

Meet minimum financial guidelines: If there's going to be a potential stumbling block towards membership approval, it most likely will be the minimum financial requirements. The retirement community needs to make sure all members have the sufficient financial resources so they won't run out of money.

There are two major financial components: annual income and liquid assets.

The retirement community establishes a minimum for both based on the number of residents (single or married) and the size of the unit they would be living in.

The size of the property typically determines the value. A one-bedroom condo will be less than a two-bedroom cottage (to purchase), so you won't need to have as much income and assets to be approved for membership.

Annual income is what your most recent tax return declares. Typically, income includes Social Security, pensions, interest from CD's, stock dividends, etc.

Liquid assets includes all of your investments (stock portfolio, etc.) except real estate, which isn't liquid until it's sold. This sometimes can be a challenge for new residents because they need to sell their home before they can move.

Make sure you know what the minimum financial guidelines are before you decide where you want to retire.

Joe Agee is the marketing and sales director for The Seabrook of Hilton Head.

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