An Increase in Retirement Healthcare Costs Signals a Need for More Information

by on May 11, 2018

This year the standard retiring couple will require an extraordinary $280,000 after taxes for medical expenses alone. Women will require $147,000 in retirement, while men will need $133,000, according to a new Fidelity study. These estimates represent a nearly 2% increase—the smallest increase since 2014—from last year’s average cost of $275,000 and do not account for long-term care costs.

Long-term care is necessary for many, and care costs are on the rise. According to a study by Lincoln Financial group, more than half of Americans turning 65 will need some form of long-term care during retirement, with the total in need of care expected to more than double by 2050. On average, those age 65 who will eventually require long-term care services will need 3.9 years of support. Since average annual rates for long-term care in 2016 ranged from $47,840 for a full-time home health aide to $102,900 for a private room in a nursing home, participants should plan and save accordingly.

Many do not consider long-term care costs and frequently overestimate the role that Medicare will play, in turn significantly underestimating their overall healthcare expenses in retirement. Bill Nash of Lincoln Financial Group stated, “People severely underestimate the cost [of healthcare in retirement] and many feel they won’t need long-term care, and there is a lack of awareness about what Medicare or Medicaid will pay.” Indeed, a Fidelity poll of 1,000 people between 50 and 64 found that 80% underestimated how much they would need for healthcare costs, while many had no idea how much they would need. Pairing this widespread unawareness with ever-inflating healthcare costs suggests the strong possibility that even more participants will struggle to pay for healthcare in retirement in years to come.

Firms can start to combat this problem by providing literature, tools and calculators to help participants understand and better estimate healthcare costs. Many firms already recognize the need for financial education. For example, Lincoln Financial Group’s robust What Care Costs sitelet breaks down long-term care costs by state and locality to provide participants with current and future prices for services like in-home nursing and home health care visits. The tool organizes data in interactive maps, graphs and charts and lets users compare states and national averages.

Lincoln Financial Group What Care Costs Sitelet

Many income projection tools do not explicitly allow users to account for healthcare costs. Participants can factor in such expenses on their own by increasing their income replacement ratio, but many tools often display a default rate of 85%, which should be reconsidered by those anticipating high healthcare costs. Firms could help participants better estimate their benefits and costs by incorporating retirement medical expense calculators into income projection tools. At a time when healthcare just gets more and more expensive, it is critical for participants to remain realistic about what their costs could be and if their retirement savings will sufficiently cover them.