The Benefits of Planning Early for Retirement Living

August 20th, 2021

“I’m not ready.”

Those three little words are packed with a lot of power. If you’ve only started planning for your life in retirement, it’s what you might be saying to yourself right now. 

That’s understandable: If you’re 55 years old, how do you know what kind of retirement living you’re ready for — and how do you know what would be right for you both today, and 30 years from now?

No wonder why you feel like you’re not ready. If you’ve just begun to investigate your options, you could be scratching your head over these terms:

  • continuing care retirement community, or CCRC — which sounds like a community focused solely on care (though the truth is, continuing care is just one component of these very active communities).
  • 55-plus community — that sounds like everyone’s still heading off to work their 9-to-5 job. And what’s with the “plus”?
  • A Life Plan Community (also the same thing as a CCRC) — a community offering you a plan for life seems like a smart thing to you, but what’s the plan, exactly?

All these communities come with different price tags. Then there’s the cost of retirement itself. One online financial publication estimates that the cost of a comfortable retirement in the state of Washington is $71,124 annually. That figure is almost guaranteed to increase considerably in the coming years.

You’ve most likely been engaged in retirement planning for most of your working life, saving into a 401(k), Roth IRA or other retirement program. While that’s exactly what you need to be doing financially, what’s your plan for retirement living?

The truth is, it’s never too early to start planning for your retirement living. And there are lots of benefits to planning now: When you know what your options are, you’ve done your research and you’ve found the perfect place to live, you’ll be closer to feeling ready to make the move.

First, research your living options

You’ve already noticed there are many different types of communities out there. It’s helpful first to know what each one is and what each offers.

55-plus community — as the name says, people as young as 55 can move into these independent living communities. Residents typically buy their homes and pay a monthly fee for services like exterior and interior maintenance, and for amenities like a pool, tennis or pickleball courts or a golf course, onsite dining and organized activities. However, typically there are no additional levels of care offered at a 55-plus community. So if you need a higher level of care in the future and your spouse doesn’t, you’ll have to move elsewhere while your spouse stays behind. 

Life Plan Community — this is a more contemporary term for a Continuing Care Retirement Community, or CCRC, though they’re the same thing. A Life Plan Community offers residents independent living, along with a variety of services and amenities, and a continuum of care designed to meet the needs of residents’ changing health needs. Those additional levels of continuing care generally include assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care, though not all communities offer all levels of care.

Continuing Care Retirement Community — you’ll often see this name’s acronym, CCRC, used as shorthand by many senior living communities. Some senior living  communities still call themselves CCRCs, even though there’s no difference between a CCRC and a Life Plan Community. 

Second, understand what you’re looking for in a community

Thanks to advances in healthcare, Americans today are living much longer than their forebears. Their lives look a lot different in retirement now than that of their predecessors, too. Many retirees are still teaching college courses, walking the Pacific Coast Trail, touring Canada by rail and penning novels into their 80s and beyond. 

So you know your life at 85 will look different than your life at 55. At 85 you may still be running or bicycling competitively, but your time will probably be slower. You may still be hitting the lake on weekends on your sailboat, but you may need to stretch a bit more first and take more ibuprofen afterward.

Consider, then, what you might expect from your retirement living setting, whether it be a 55 plus community or a Life Plan Community. What will you want now, and what will you want available to you as you get older?

  • If you’re fairly physically active, you may want a retirement community that offers you lots of wellness opportunities. eliseo, for example, features the Emerson Wellness & Clark Aquatic Center with a saltwater pool and spa, exercise equipment room and aerobic studio, along with numerous fitness classes.
  • If you’re not as social as you once were, choose a community that provides you with 

activities, amenities, a full social calendar and numerous opportunities for connectedness. At eliseo there are a wealth of unique amenities, like the Arneklev Garden with its concrete garden beds, ideal for residents who have any shade of green thumbs; and the Chihuly Family Art Center where residents can get creative with a fully equipped woodworking shop and a textile, ceramic, and painting studio. 

  • If you’re tired of the upkeep on your house and maintenance of your property, look for a community that takes care of all maintenance inside your residence, as well as the community’s grounds and landscape. Consider a community that will also check on your residence and collect your mail and packages while you’re out of town.
  • Perhaps you’ve grown tired of cooking and cleaning. What you may want is a community like eliseo that offers regular housekeeping for your residence. And you’ll definitely want to live somewhere where both fine and casual dining are available, with chef-prepared menus and flexible options.
  • If you want to ensure you have access to all the care you may one day need, consider a senior living community that has what’s called the full continuum of care. A community that has the full continuum means you won’t have to make another move from your community as your health needs change. At eliseo, you’ll find independent living along with assisted living, short-term skilled nursing and rehabilitation, long-term care and memory care.

The retirement living setting is important. It’s a big decision in so many respects — it’s like choosing your new residence, fitness center, country club, group of restaurants, social circle, health care plan and more, all in one community.

And that’s not even the biggest consideration. What are the financial expectations behind choosing the right retirement community?

Third, learn what your financial options are.

Life Plan Communities and 55-plus communities have contracts and options that vary widely, depending on whether you want financial predictability or affordability. You may look into a particular senior living community’s fee structure and contracts and think there’s no way to afford it. But think of the costs of your current lifestyle. Unless you own your home outright, you’ve got your mortgage. You’re also paying for things like:

  • Monthly utilities
  • Property taxes
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Home Ownership Association dues
  • Groceries
  • Entertainment, like eating out and going to concerts, movies and other events
  • Regular maintenance of your home
  • Upkeep of your lawn and landscaping

If you’ve lived in your house for a while, you know this is just a short list of what you pay for. At most Life Plan Communities, all this is paid for either through your entrance fee or monthly service fee. Understanding this terminology will greatly help you decide how you want to spend your nest egg.

Entrance fee: This is an upfront fee you pay once; at some Life Plan Communities your entrance fee is partially or fully refundable. The entrance fee typically guarantees you residency at the community for the rest of your life, though this varies by community, along with use of all services and amenities. It also assures you of multiple levels of care in the future if you or your spouse needs it. Many residents sell their home and put the proceeds from it toward the entrance fee.

Monthly service fee: This is one fee you pay each month to cover the cost of your homeowners insurance, utility bills, all interior and exterior maintenance, yard work, food, all community services and amenities and more. 

Something to consider: At many Life Plan Communities, you can enjoy certain tax advantages. Talk with your tax preparation expert to determine your best tax strategy. 

Fourth, determine your personal moving timeline

From the moment they first utter, “I’m not ready” to the moment they move into their independent living residence, every person’s senior living journey is different. But one thing almost every person says once they become a resident is, “I wish I’d moved in sooner.” 

Yet sometimes, moving in sooner isn’t even an option.

Many senior living communities have long waiting lists for their independent living residences — which means you wouldn’t be able to move in on your timeline. You’d have to wait until your name reaches the top of the list, which can take months or even years, depending on the residence you’re waiting for.

To avoid this problem, plan ahead. You can do this by putting down a deposit at a community that’s still being built or at an existing community that’s undergoing an expansion. If the expansion is slated for completion in one to two years, you’ll have time to downsize and mentally prepare yourself for your move. You’re also guaranteed to get the brand-new residence you really want.

And by getting onto the community’s future resident list as a depositor or priority member, you may receive certain benefits that others won’t receive, such as customization options, entrance fee discounts, a moving allowance and other financial incentives.

Discover all the benefits of planning your move to a Life Plan Community

At eliseo, we have several no-pressure ways to learn more about our community and our exciting expansion, scheduled for completion in 2023. You can call us at 253-319-3947 or email us at Or you can get more information simply by completing our form