I was amazed to read recently that retiring couples can expect to spend over $245,000 on healthcare expenses throughout retirement.(1) The first thing that came to mind was the maxim “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When you consider that chronic diseases account for more than 86% of healthcare spending,(2) and are among the most preventable, this old aphorism never rang so true.
With that in mind, here are the four main behaviors (as identified by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(2) that you can change now to help ensure a healthier retirement—and avoid a huge dent in your savings later on:
• Smoking is still the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., and can lead to chronic illnesses like emphysema. Yet around 40 million American(3) are smokers.
• Poor nutrition is another major cause of chronic diseases and conditions. Packaged food increasingly comes with nutritional information but too many of us are ignoring the daily recommendations. Case in point: 90% of Americans consume too much sodium, increasing their risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.(3)
• Lack of exercise is a major problem in our television-watching, car-driving culture and the health effects are wide reaching. Obesity and lack of muscle strength, for instance, can lead to serious long-term health conditions and even more serious healthcare bills.
• Binge drinking accounts for most alcohol-related deaths in the United States, even though most binge drinkers are not alcohol dependent. To many people, drinking socially on the weekend, however heavily, does not register as problem drinking. However, unless it is done in moderation, it may eventually lead to chronic problems such as liver disease.(3)
However healthy your lifestyle, a lifetime of good health is never guaranteed. Certain genetic disorders, for example, can lead to long-term disability. Long-term care insurance can be a wise option for many, since it helps cover some of the cost of care not covered by health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Services may include bathing or eating assistance, which chronically ill retirees may need for long, undetermined periods. As a wealth planner, I meet many women who are so worried about future healthcare expenses that they reluctantly hold on to money they would much rather give away to loved ones or charities. Although future healthcare expenses are impossible to predict with any accuracy, a healthier lifestyle and adequate long-term care insurance could possibly mitigate the risk of sapping your estate to cover medical costs as you age.
1. “How To Make Sure Your Healthcare Costs Do Not Ruin Your Retirement,” Investopedia.com, February 2016.
2. “Chronic Diseases: The Leading Causes of Death and Disability in the United States,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.org, February 2016.
3. CDC Fact Sheet, www.cdc.gov, March 2016.