How women can prepare for health care costs in retirement | Opinion

Women live longer than men and face distinctly different challenges in funding their health care needs in retirement.

According to a 2016 study by HealthView Services, a 65-year-old man who retires this year will spend an average of $200,000 on healthcare in retirement, while a woman will spend $235,0001 — $35,000 more than their male counterparts.

With these expenses in mind, it’s not surprising that the cost of health care is one of the biggest retirement planning concerns for Americans. It’s essential for everyone to plan for health care expenses, although it’s especially important for women. The following strategies can help you create a plan to prevent a financial shortfall in retirement:

•Estimate your health care costs. Begin by assessing your overall health and family health history, using your current annual medical and dental expenses as a starting point. For help projecting what these costs may be in retirement, consider using an online health care calculator. Many estimators can educate you on potential treatment costs for a variety of health and dental conditions. Knowing the challenges you may face with your health – and what they may cost – can make a difference in being prepared.

•Have the right insurance coverage. Insurance plays an important role in helping you manage your current health care costs, as well as plan for expenses you may incur down the road. Review your current life, disability, long-term care and health insurance policies to ensure you have enough coverage for your financial situation. If you don’t have coverage in one of these areas, become educated about various insurance options to determine if a policy makes sense for you. Plan to review your coverage regularly and update as your health or financial situation changes.

•Consider setting up a health savings account if you have a high deductible health insurance plan. An HSA allows you to both build money up and withdraw it for qualified medical expenses tax-free. Unlike a flexible spending account, you don’t lose money you don’t withdraw. If you change jobs, you can take the account with you. Plus, you can use it anytime during your lifetime to pay for qualified medical expenses. Keep in mind that if you withdraw funds for non-medical purposes, you are subject to a tax penalty.

•Save strategically for other retirement expenses. If you have a healthy retirement account that covers what you expect to spend on living expenses and the dreams you want to pursue, you can feel more comfortable about your ability to handle out-of-pocket health care expenses. Compare your current retirement savings to the amount you anticipate needing in retirement to live the lifestyle you want. Then, make a plan to fill in any gaps.

•Prepare for unexpected expenses. Reducing your debt and saving as much as possible before you retire is the simplest way to prepare for an unanticipated need — medical or otherwise. If your balance sheet is healthy, you’ll likely be better positioned to absorb medical costs not covered by Medicare or your insurance.

•Be proactive about your health. Schedule and keep routine dental and medical check-ups as well as stay up-to-date on preventative services. Thoughtful prevention and early detection of potential health concerns may keep minor medical issues from becoming major ones.

While planning for health care costs in retirement can be a challenge, there are steps you can take today to help you feel more prepared.

Shawn Bumgardner is a financial adviser and president of Clear Horizon Wealth Advisors, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Service Inc., in Southgate. He can be reached at 734-284-3700.

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