Health Care Costs: Your Retirement’s Achilles’ Heel

Health Care Costs: Your Retirement’s Achilles’ Heel

A majority of affluent older Americans who are nearing retirement share the same concern — that health care costs could strike a blow to their retirement plans. In fact, 63 percent of them choose the word “terrified” to describe how they feel about the subject, according to an annual Nationwide Retirement Institute survey.

But while health costs are a legitimate concern, rather than fretting, people need to start planning so they can feel confident that their retirement savings and income are up to the task. Medical expenses can add up for retirees so everyone needs to keep those costs in mind when they are investing and saving for retirement.

Just how expensive can health costs become? A healthy 65-year-old married couple can expect annual health-care expenses of $6,999, according to a 2015 study by HealthView Services. That would grow to $14,530 annually by the time the couple reaches 85, the study says.

That could represent a huge chunk of savings for many retirees, especially when fewer people have pensions that give them a steady stream of income in retirement.
Here are a few steps worth taking as you contemplate how health care costs may throw a wrench in your retirement plans:

• Acknowledge the concern. Even though so many people are worried about health costs in retirement, the majority of them (53 percent) don’t discuss those worries with their spouses or significant others, the nationwide survey showed. One in 10 of those surveyed say they just don’t want to think about it. 

• Talk to a financial advisor. The Nationwide survey revealed that a disconnect exists between people’s thoughts and their actions when it comes to discussing with their financial advisors how medical expenses fit into their retirement plans. While 53 percent of older adults who have talked to a financial advisor say it’s important to include health-care expenses in those discussions, just 10 percent actually had done so.

• Take care of yourself. One way to reduce health costs is to avoid the need for medical treatment to begin with. If you exercise regularly, eat nutritious meals and get annual checkups, you will be in better physical shape when you reach retirement age. While there are no guarantees when it comes to good health, you can certainly improve your odds of a healthier retirement.