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Prepare To Curb Health Care Expenses In Retirement

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OAKBROOK, Ill. (6/18/13)--Today's preretirees can expect to live longer than those of previous generations--and with more serious illnesses and chronic conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity. This trend will be costly (Advocate Health Care June 9).

According to Urban Institute findings, you can plan on spending about 30% of your income on health care expenses in retirement. Will you be able to afford the care you'll need?

Your planned-for Social Security and pension benefits might not be adequate, health and vigor likely will decline, Medicare won't cover long-term support and services--in short, life could get a lot harder.

For many, one solution to not having saved enough for health care in retirement is to stay in the work force longer. But what if you get sick and have to retire? If you're not at least age 65 and covered in part by Medicare, this could seriously deplete your savings.

Even if you retire early and keep your health, it's a double whammy: A new report by the Health Care Cost Institute finds that early retirees will pay even more dearly for health care. The report estimates costs at $146,400 for someone age 65 who lives 20 more years, and $372,400 for someone retiring at age 55 and living 30 more years.

Here's how you can prepare today to afford health care in retirement:

  • Stay healthy. It's never too late to quit smoking, watch your diet, get enough sleep, and exercise. Start small, bankroll your successes and build from there.
  • Educate yourself about health issues. Get regular checkups and ask questions. Take advantage of the many online forums and organizations devoted to different health concerns.
  • Purchase health care insurance wisely. If you have choices, carefully evaluate each health care plan available to you. Look for ways to save on premiums in your region. Investigate your insurance options ahead of the rollout of online insurance exchanges in October by visiting the federal government's website,
  • Save on health care costs. Use generic drugs when possible and weigh the pros and cons of recommended tests and procedures. Shop for high-quality, low-cost providers.
In addition, find ways to save and invest more money for retirement, now. Consider starting a health savings account (HSA). A high-deductible plan with a health savings account could save you a lot of money if you're single and rarely go to the doctor. For related information, read "Medigap Helps Pay Out-of-Pocket Costs" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.