One of the toughest money decisions Americans face as they age is whether to buy long-term care insurance. Many people don’t realize that Medicare usually doesn’t cover long-term care, yet lengthy assisted-living or nursing home stays can decimate even the best-laid retirement plan.

Suzanne and Bob O’Donnell of Marshfield, Mass., were in their mid-50s when a financial adviser convinced them long-term care insurance made sense — as did buying it before they got old.

“And [that] has turned out to be true,” Bob says, “because later on, a lot of our friends have tried to buy it and either been rejected or their premiums are prohibitive.”

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