Why do so many people fail to sign up for long-term care insurance? One reason is that they just never get around to thinking about it. They put off dealing with it, just like they put off other retirement-planning tasks. Another reason, though, is that it's expensive.

Why is it so expensive? Well, because there's a big chance that you'll need it. The odds that your house will burn down are one in several thousand. The odds that you'll end up sick for a long time are much, much greater.

There are ways that you can manage the cost, though, if you plan carefully. Here are some:

  • First off, consider your financial situation. If you're on the wealthy side, you'll likely be able to afford long-term care on your own. A year in a nursing home costs upward of $70,000, on average. If you're close to poor, you may qualify for Medicaid, which can cover some costs. If you're in the middle, as most of us are, you should think about long-term care insurance.
  • One way to get the cost down is to buy it before you get too old. The older you are, the more it costs. Look into it while you're in your 50s. If you're in good health, you may qualify for special discounts of 10%-20%.
  • Another option is to not buy the fanciest package you can find. You might prefer a policy that will support you for five or 10 years, rather than one that offers just three years. But according to a study by the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, only about eight in 100 claimants exhausted their policy. The study was a big one, examining 1.6-million in-force policies, and it found that just 5.6% of closed long-term care insurance claims lasted longer than 36 months (some 16.2% of open claims last longer than 36 months). So if you're willing to take on the odds, opt for a three-year benefit, which can cut your policy's cost by 35%-40%.

Learn more about insurance, including long-term care insurance, in our Insurance Center. You may not have thought about some kinds of insurance, such as disability or long-term care insurance, but they're vital for many people. And, of course, properly insuring your property is vital, too. Take a little time to learn more and you may be very happy you did, when and if some future calamity occurs.

Learn more about ways to protect yourself in these articles:

If you're in the market for insurance, another way to inform yourself about options is to spend some time at the websites of insurers. Some biggies who offer long-term care insurance are:

  • CNA Financial (NYSE:CNA)
  • Nationwide Financial (NYSE:NFS)
  • Hartford Financial (NYSE:HIG)
  • Metropolitan Life (NYSE:MET)
  • Aetna (NYSE:AET)
  • Genworth Financial (NYSE:GNW)
  • Prudential Financial (NYSE:PRU)
  • New York Life
  • Mutual of Omaha
  • Country Life
  • John Hancock

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.