By Catey Hill
Health is both a key factor to a happy retirement and a top retirement concern. Nearly all (98%) of retirees say that good health is “extremely” or “very” important to a satisfying retirement, according to a survey of middle-income retirees released Tuesday by Bankers Life and Casualty Company’s Center for a Secure Retirement. At the same time, 80% of retirees say that paying for health care in retirement is a top retirement concern, and 74% say that becoming ill is.
So how can retirees improve their health and minimize costs — and thus maximize their happiness in retirement? Encore asked Chris Campbell, the vice president of strategic marketing and business development for the company, to share some tips:
See your doctor regularly: Sure, we all know that we should eat less fat and cholesterol, stop smoking and exercise more, but what else can we do to remain healthy? “You need preventative care,” says Campbell. “A lot of people don’t realize that Medicare offers several free, preventative services, including the annual wellness exam — it’s important that you go each year.” Even if you’re not yet eligible for Medicare, it’s still important to go to the doctor annually for a checkup, he adds.
Get up to speed on Medicare benefits and costs: Fewer than one in ten middle-income Americans say they have an “extremely good” understanding of Medicare’s benefits and costs, and just about one in three say they have a “very good” understanding, the study showed. “Many people just take the ‘learn as you go’ approach,” says Campbell. But this can be costly, especially if people pick the wrong Medicare plan, experts say. Click here for the four best sites for Medicare information.
Learn what Medicare doesn’t cover: Many people assume that Medicare covers things that it does not, says Campbell. For example, Medicare typically doesn’t cover dental, vision and hearing care — nor does it tend to cover long-term care like an extended stay in a nursing home. For a more complete list of what Medicare does and doesn’t cover, click on the Medicare and You handbook here.
Plan with an adviser: A typical married couple age 65 will face an average of $260,000 in uninsured health care and nursing home costs, the study shows. Furthermore, there is a 5% risk that costs will exceed $570,000. There’s no doubt that you’ll need cash to get the best care, so it’s important to “plan accordingly,” Campbell says. Work with your financial adviser to sock away the cash you’ll need for health care in retirement.