IT'S TOO EASY when focusing on what's happening today and tomorrow to overlook what may happen years from now. After all, especially in our business, who can predict tomorrow?

But you don't need a crystal ball to predict that more of your clients, and indeed you too, are likely to live longer than prior generations. Living a long life, into one's 80s, 90s, and even beyond is no longer a rarity. It's an increasingly common occurrence. And one of the consequences of living a long life is the increased risk of needing long-term care, especially in one's later years.

When you or a client ultimately need long-term care, it's very likely a loved one or family member will provide that care. Indeed, some 44 million Americans currently provide unpaid care for a family member. Job interruption, loss of benefits, and added stress are just a few of the possible consequences.

Long-term care planning is still a relatively new issue, but one of growing importance. According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI), some eight million Americans currently own long-term care insurance, or one of the hybrid annuity or life insurance policies that offer LTC benefits. The industry, which hasn't grown during the past few years, is back on the upswing as the market attracts younger, pre-retirement clients.

To focus attention on the importance of planning, the AALTCI created Long-Term care Awareness Week (November 4-10, 2007), and established a national program to help financial and investment professionals gain a better understanding of the risks and options available to clients. We're pleased to see a new Website (www.yourLTCsuccess.com) provides access to good basic information. Created by the AALTCI with support from 10 leading insurers, this marks an important milestone in the evolution of the industry.

As with retirement planning, waiting to begin the process of long-term care planning can be a costly mistake. Most long-term care insurance products available look for individuals in reasonably acceptable health, something that changes especially at older ages. Likewise, costs for protection increase significantly after age 65 because insurers have fewer years for investment returns to cover anticipated future claims.

Long-term care planning shouldn't be relegated to just one week. It should be an issue that individuals focus on in their 50s. Planning for long-term care needs will be of growing importance to your clients as well as to your business. Jesse Slome, AALTCI's Executive Director put it quite succinctly when he said, “the first call to liquidate an investment to pay for care, will be just the first of many such calls.“

Planning for the future is always a smart move. Long-Term Care Awareness Week is an excellent opportunity to begin your own process and put what you already know into practice.