Editors' pick: Originally published Oct. 13.
There is one big reason that retirement scares even the most well-off workers: health care and its unpredictable costs.
According to a study by financial firm Edward Jones, almost two-thirds (60%) of U.S. workers are worried about how they will pay for health care expenses in retirement. That includes 69% of Baby Boomers, the most recent generation to enter retirement age.
"Health care expenses can be difficult to project, especially when you are decades away from retirement," says Scott Thoma, principal and investment strategist for Edward Jones. "Unexpected conditions and medical expenses that manifest later in life pose a great threat not only to physical and mental health, but also to the financial well-being of both the care receiver and the caregiver. That's why it is critical to start preparing early - proactive planning can ultimately help individuals protect their assets over the long term, even if health complications emerge during retirement."
According to a recent report from financial firm HSBC, 76% of people surveyed see illness and health care costs as the biggest obstacles to overcome in retirement. Even if you're healthy, 61% say a partner's illness could also derail retirement plans. The survey of more than 18,000 workers and retirees in 17 countries found that 67% of those currently employed have no ideal what they'll spend on health care in retirement.
It's especially worrisome that only 42% of older workers think they're in good health for their age. Worse, they're taking their time getting in shape, too. Roughly 61% of older workers are eating a healthier diet, 59% have regular medical check-ups and 33% take medicines to prevent future conditions. That compares to 7%, 84% and 66% of retirees, respectively, who do the same.
"Retirement can often invigorate and remind people of the importance of healthy lifestyle choices, but it is equally as important to consider adopting a healthy lifestyle in advance of retirement," says Michael Schweitzer, global head of sales and distribution at HSBC. "Having a financial plan can help demystify long term saving as well as help provide a stress free outlook for all stages of your retirement, both in sickness and in health."
But implementing that plan has been a problem across the earning spectrum. HSBC found that 63% of those making $80,000 or more have no idea how to prepare for health care costs in retirement. Meanwhile, a UBS survey of wealthy investors found that 57% say accounting for future health issues is important to them), but just 48% think they'll be able to do so. About half (49%) said they are "highly concerned" about rising health care costs, but that 77% haven't set aside money for future medical expenses, and as a result, 33% are worried about medical cutting into a big chunk of their children's inheritance.
"Even for those who have discussed future health and long-term care decisions, there still is a lot that goes unsaid and unasked between parents and their children," says Sameer Aurora, Head of Client Strategy for UBS Wealth Management Americas. "It's a tough conversation, and no one wants to even think about it, let alone talk about it, but it's important to get everyone on the same page before it's too late."
Part of the confusion stems from an ever-changing healthcare landscape. The Census Bureau predicts that the number Americans aged 65 and older will grow to greater than 80 million by 2050. In that time, the number of people likely to require long-term care is expected to more than double from 12 million today to 27 million.
Roughly 88% of wealthy UBS investors say that longer lifespans are making it difficult to budget for future health care. Coupled with the rising cost of modern health care (76% find it troubling) and complicated changes in medical policy (65%), it's obscuring the path forward for many future retirees. However, according to Hartford Funds, 89% of investors between the ages of 45 and 59 plan on paying down debt, reviewing and adjust investments, spending less, saving more and/or downsizing their life.
However, asking family for help isn't always an option. While 64% of the women surveyed by Nationwide say they are "terrified" of what health care costs may do to their retirement plans, 47% are willing to give all their money to their children so they could be eligible for Medicaid-funded long-term care. However, it helps to make your children aware of those plans. Though only a third of wealthy investors (36%) say that they plan to turn to family for support or care, with the vast majority (64%) preferring to solicit outside help, only 39% have spoken with their children about those plans. Meanwhile, according to Caring.com, more than half (52%) of adult children don't know where their parents store their estate documents including both wills and health care plans, while 58% don't know the contents of the documents.
"Nearly all major life events have financial implications," said Bill McManus, director of strategic markets for Hartford Funds. "It's easier to plan for and reach those financial goals when we can anticipate events, such as sending a child to college. However, it's just as important to plan for the unexpected."
That's why, with help from Gallup-Healthways, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), we came up with the 25 best cities for retirees' health care needs. While HHS and JCAHO helped illustrate the number of health care facilities in certain cities, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index indicated where people can best afford food and basic healthcare services and where they have the best access to medicine, doctor/dental visits and health insurance coverage:
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.