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How a long-term-care plan protects your assets

Q: In October, you quoted a financial consultant David Bendix, who recommended that an elderly retired couple use 2 percent of their $150,000 in assets to pay for long-term-care insurance. That works out to $3,000. It makes no sense to me, since they are going to be living on a limited income. What am I missing here?
M.D., via e-mail

A: Admittedly, long-term healthcare plans may not be for everyone, "but in New York state alone, long-term care expenses now run over $100,000 a year," says David Bendix, president of Bendix Financial Group, in Garden City, N.Y. That amount is far more than the $3,000 the couple would pay each year for the care plan, he says.

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"The couple last October were worried about their own long-term healthcare. So they had a special need to be met," Mr. Bendix says. "Using 1 to 2 percent of your assets for such a care plan can make a lot of sense in protecting finances, and ensuring one's dignity as one gets older."

"If you want such a plan, start it off as early as possible, say in your 50s, to hold down total costs." Bendix recommends.

Q: My credit-card company charged me a stiff penalty because my payment arrived past the due date, even though I mailed the bill over a week early. It seems unfair to penalize me for a mistake by others, such as the US Postal Service.
J.C., Los Angeles

A: "Call your credit-card company and ask if they will remove the penalty this time because of the delayed mailing," says a spokesman for one bank that we contacted in the New York area. Some card companies will give you the benefit of the doubt.:

Q: I recently received my income statement for my mutual-fund investments for the second quarter of 2002, ending in June. They were down. But a friend has just told me that I should check with my investment company, since they have probably fallen even more since June 30. I did, and was shocked at my losses in July. Why was I not told of these even deeper losses? How do I find out what's happening with my accounts?
G.F., Seattle

A: Mutual-fund houses typically send out quarterly statements. To find out what is happening to your funds on a more regular basis, call the fund company's toll-free 800 number to check on your account balances. Most major fund companies also maintain websites that allow you to check your accounts online.