Over the past few months, Americans’ concern over inflation has steadily increased. A Gallup poll coordinated in March noted that 17% of Americans believe the high cost of living and inflation is a significant problem, up from just 8% in January. For individuals who may be nearing retirement, there are planning considerations to be mindful of as prices continue to rise – most notable, given the significant cost to retirees, is health care.
While inflation may result in higher prescription and medical supply prices in the short term, health care costs typically outpace inflation over the long term, regardless of market conditions. This means soon-to-be retirees need to be forward-thinking and include health care costs in their broader financial plan.
According to a model Vanguard developed with Mercer Health, even with Medicare, average health care costs can reach over $5,000 per year. In my work with clients, I typically focus on health care planning when an individual or couple is five to 10 years outside of expected retirement. This advanced planning can enable someone to develop a thoughtful approach to preparing for — and ultimately paying for, future health care costs.
A few years before retirement, start thinking about retirement timeline logistics. For example, if an individual is planning to retire at 62 but won’t be eligible for Medicare until 65, they’ll need to determine how they’ll cover health expenses for three years. For some, they might consider joining their partner’s health insurance plan (if the partner is not retiring at the same time), going with COBRA or finding a short-term insurance plan to cover the gap. Otherwise, it might mean tapping liquid assets or an HSA to pay for health care expenses before Medicare coverage kicks in.
Next, map out anticipated expenses early on and develop a corresponding savings plan to meet future objectives. Medicare.gov provides helpful information on eligibility and premium estimates. Vanguard also provides Personal Advisor Services clients, for example, with a Health Care Cost Estimator that forecasts health care and long-term care expenses.
Evaluate family history
Of equal importance to timeline logistics is health considerations, such as family medical history, longevity expectations, and current health status, as those factors could influence your Medicare coverage choice. Of course, the concept of planning for a potential health scenario can be emotional. However, a forward-looking approach, and one that is guided with a financial adviser, can limit the need to make abrupt and challenging decisions amid a health crisis.
An additional possible expense — not covered by Medicare — is the need for long-term care. The leading conditions that often spur the need for long-term care include dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and osteoarthritis. Assess family …….