The True Secret to a Happy Retirement Is Not About Money

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — A new survey that sheds light on retirees’ sentiment towards health indicates that money isn't the key to a winning retirement gameplan.

According to Merrill Lynch, 81% of retirees say health is the most important part to a successful retirement, along with financial security (58%), loving family and friends (36%) and having a purpose (20%).

The study of 3,300 respondents also said health was their most pressing financial concern, largely on the heels of trepidation surrounding health care costs.

“As Boomers move into their later years, health will be the ultimate retirement wildcard,” said Andy Sieg, head of Global Wealth and Retirement Solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “For many, health can be the difference between a retirement of opportunity and independence or one of worry and financial challenges.”

Plus, 70% of couples over age 50 haven’t talked about how they’ll cover such costs during retirement, a concerning sign that retirees aren’t prepared for some of the financial challenges that lie ahead.

“It’s not surprising that retirees aren’t talking about this issue,” said Bill Peattie, founder of Peattie Capital Management. “It’s human nature to punt when you don’t know the answers and like education, health care costs seem to rise inexorably and I don’t know where the limits are.”

For many retirees or those nearing retirement, it’s difficult to balance competing financial tasks, such as prepping for health care costs or helping your kids pay for college.

Kids can take out loans to pay for school, but retirees can’t finance their retirement from a financial institution or through government loans. If your focus is pointed elsewhere, start thinking of ways you can jumpstart your retirement savings plan.

“To offset rising health care costs, invest in companies that benefit from increased healthcare costs, like pharmaceuticals that are selling more drugs or companies in the drug distribution sector,” Peattie added.

Talk to your financial advisor about what steps you can take now in your portfolio to find ways to hedge against rising health care expenses.

According to a new report from the non-profit Transamerica Center for Health Studies, 42% of the uninsured were able to afford health insurance premiums of only $100 per month. Plus, 48% of the continuously insured said premiums, deductibles or out-of-pocket expenses increased as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

This is also an opportune time to make sure you have skin in the game when it comes to the stock market, which has seen a significant melt up in valuations since the recession. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up over 157% since its March 9, 2009 low.

“The wealth that has been restored over the past several years has been going to the wealthy who can afford to buy stocks, but people in the middle and lower classes aren’t benefiting from rising stock prices,” Peattie told MainStreet.

- Written by Scott Gamm for MainStreet. Gamm is author of MORE MONEY, PLEASE.

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