Health care costs in retirement

By MARK MOGAN

With all the uncertainties of the future, it’s difficult for people to know exactly how much to save for retirement. While it may be relatively easy to gauge how much you’ll need for everyday living expenses like food and housing, other expenses such as the costs for health care can be a lot more difficult to estimate.

According to projections from the Employee Benefit Research Institute*, a baby boomer couple retiring in 2020 will need an average of $227,000 to cover medical expenses. You can hope your costs will be on the lower side of that figure, but there’s really no way to predict the amount of medical care you’ll need as you age-or the price tag that will go with it.

To help people better understand how their future health status, health care costs and finances are all intertwined, Ameriprise Financial recently released the Health, Wealth and RetirementSM study.

Here are five key findings from the study, along with some tips to help you manage future medical costs:

– Most baby boomers have yet to take financial action to prepare for health care and potential long-term care costs in retirement. You can take some comfort in knowing you’re not alone if you haven’t put a plan in place to manage your future health care costs. But, because these costs can be so significant, the sooner you take action, the better off you’ll likely be.

– The majority of boomers see the connection between health and potentially reduced health care costs in retirement. While many health events are unpredictable, you can control some aspects of your future state of health. One way to offset your need for medicines or surgeries is to take care of yourself now-by eating right and getting sufficient exercise and rest.

– One in four baby boomers have experienced a serious health condition; 54 percent say it had a financial impact. This insight reinforces the vital importance of an emergency health care fund and the value of a comprehensive medical plan. Your task is then to learn about your health coverage options in retirement, including supplemental plans that can help offset large and unexpected expenses in exchange for monthly premiums.

– Those who have taken action to prepare for health care coverage in retirement experience positive emotions, while those who have not experience worry, anxiety and insecurity. Do your best to reduce the amount of worry and stress in your life by taking steps to plan and save for your health care expenses in retirement.

– A majority (62 percent) of those preparing for retirement plan to consult their financial advisors about how to afford future health care costs. This fact reveals that this is a task that requires a second opinion. With the help of a qualified financial advisor, you can explore strategies for managing future health care costs in the context of a larger plan that considers all of your wants and needs in retirement.