“What’s the biggest risk to your financial security in retirement?” Whenever I ask that question, what I hear most often is that people are concerned about whether or not their money will last. Many pre-retirees don’t budget for unexpected medical expenses that can pose a threat to their retirement income plan. The Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates that a couple, both 65, retiring today with median prescription drug expenses needs $151,000 (in today’s dollars) to have a 50 percent chance of meeting their health care costs in retirement, not including long-term care costs. A couple with $255,000 in savings would have a 90 percent chance of covering those costs.
Why the Disconnect?
In my experience, many pre-retirees mistakenly believe that Medicare, the federal health insurance program for those aged 65 and older, will cover the vast majority of their health care expenses in retirement. Not so.
In reality, Medicare doesn’t cover many of the health care expenses older Americans use most. I’m talking about vision and dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses. And Medicare Part D plans vary widely when it comes to prescription coverage. I remember feeling sticker shock when I helped my mom and stepdad pay their monthly pharmacy bill. Millions of Americans take blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and other commonly prescribed medications to stay healthy and out of the hospital. These aren’t health care costs you can dial back on to save money.
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