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Illness and unexpected expenses strain retired teacher's finances

Patricia Ricci's multiple sclerosis has progressed more rapidly than expected, bringing worries about her long-term care. Her pension income barely covers her monthly expenses.

March 13, 2011|By Kelly Barron

Meanwhile, the house and the yard require continual upkeep. Ricci pays nearly $300 a month for a gardener, pool maintenance and other outdoor services, including one that keeps gophers at bay.

Cleaning help for the two-story house costs $170 a month. And its blue-and-maroon exterior will soon need painting, which will cost at least $10,000.

Barlow said the best way to deal with the house would be to sell it. Even in a down market it could go for as much as $750,000, said Orange Realty's Dan Slater, an expert in the area's historic district.

After closings costs, commissions and taxes, Ricci could end up with more than $500,000. She could find a more modest place to live that would allow her to cut way back on home care and maintenance expenses. The rest could go toward funding long-term care.

At first Ricci resisted the suggestion that she leave the house. But a few weeks after meeting with the planner, the reality of her situation was sinking in.

"I sort of figured someone would recommend that to me," she said. "It's becoming more of a financial burden than I thought."

Her hope is to sell the home and find a smaller, one-story house in the same neighborhood. She'd still like to have at least a modest garden.

She took to heart other advice from the planner. She is planning to sell some stock to get rid of the credit card debt, and she has started to plan more realistically for her care in the future.

Because of Ricci's multiple sclerosis, it's unlikely that she would be able to get long-term-care insurance, said Bonnie Milani, an insurance broker with Milani Insurance in Encino. But Milani advised her to look into the possibility of getting some kind of coverage through the California State Teachers' Retirement System.

Ricci also began talking with her son about her hopes and expectations for the future.

"I realize what my situation is and I'm making the most of what I have," she said. "I'm moving on."

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