When it comes to understanding how health affects wealth, Americans aren’t always wise.
Many ignore the impact health-care costs will have on their nest egg as they age. In fact, only 12 percent of working Americans have taken any steps toward addressing medical expenses in retirement, according to HealthView Services’ 2016 Retirement Health Care Costs Data Report.
That’s understandable, given that most workers have always relied on an employer to pick up at least some of the cost of their health-insurance premiums. Many even balk at the percentage that’s left for them to pay, blissfully unaware of what the burden would be if they had to shoulder the entire amount.
And if they retire – or are downsized – in their late-50s or early-60s, there’s some serious sticker shock.
Consider a married couple who, because of their age, have health issues that require more comprehensive – and more expensive – insurance coverage. It could cost them $18,000 a year – an expense that definitely doesn’t fit into a scaled-back budget.
If they’re counting on Medicare to cover their costs after they reach age 65, they shouldn’t. They’ll still need a supplement or advantage plan to help with some expenses. And if one of them has to recover from a long-term illness or injury, Medicare’s benefits are limited.
Here’s a sobering statistic. According to a 2016 Fidelity report, the average couple retiring at 65 will need $260,000 to cover their medical expenses through retirement. That’s a daunting number, especially when you consider that a 2016 PWC survey found that roughly half of all baby boomers have a retirement nest egg of $100,000 or less.
Financial advisors spend a lot of time warning clients that they should have a plan for how they’ll pay for rising medical costs. Maybe we should also nudge them toward purchasing a gym membership.
The National Institute on Aging says exercise can give older folks more energy, improve physical strength, reduce feelings of depression, improve balance and reduce falls, and manage and prevent conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Yes, American are living longer, but you only have to watch a few hours of daytime TV to realize we’re not all living well. It seems as if every other commercial promotes a new drug, an insurance plan or a nursing home.
Those advertisers know their audience. The odds are high that if a couple reaches the age of 65, at least one spouse will require specialized care in retirement– maybe just for weeks, but sometimes for years.
Without a plan, those long-term care costs will come dollar for dollar out of their nest egg.
Your financial professional can help come up with options to prepare for both short-term and long-term health care expenses, including health savings accounts and long-term care insurance, but also annuities and cash-value life insurance policies with long-term care riders.
Talk to your advisor about finding something that fits your plan. Then talk to your doctor about finding a plan that gets you fit.
Both conversations will help you feel more confident in retirement.
Richard Paul is the president of Richard Paul & Associates, LLC and the author of “The Baby Boomers' Retirement Survival Guide: How to Navigate Through the Turbulent Times Ahead.” He holds life and health insurance licenses in Michigan and Florida and is a Certified Financial Planner, Registered Financial Consultant, Investment Adviser Representative and insurance professional.
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