Though many workers look forward to retirement and the opportunity to break free from the daily grind, it's also a worrisome prospect, particularly from a financial perspective. But of all the various retirement concerns today's older workers have, the two most pressing are future healthcare expenses and changes to Social Security that could reduce benefits, according to the Insured Retirement Institute.
If you're worried about paying for medical care as a senior while losing some of the benefits you might one day come to rely on, you're clearly not alone. But rather than succumb to those fears, you can learn how to mitigate them.
Preparing for senior medical costs
Without a crystal ball, it's hard to predict how much you'll spend on healthcare once you stop working. After all, just because you're healthy today doesn't mean you won't encounter medical problems in the future. Still, if you're looking for a reasonable estimate, HealthView Services, a cost-projection software provider, says that the typical 65-year-old man who lives an average lifespan will spend $189,687 in today's dollars on medical care in retirement. The typical 65-year-old woman, meanwhile, will spend $214,565, since women tend to live longer.
Clearly, these aren't small totals and they don't even account for long-term care expenditures, which can be catastrophic. But knowing these numbers can help you establish a savings goal that adequately prepares you for what might lie ahead.
Furthermore, if you're worried about long-term care, which, frankly, you should be, buying long-term care insurance in your 50s or 60s can help offset some of the risk you'd otherwise face. It's estimated that 70% of seniors 65 and over will need some type of long-term care in their lifetime, and applying for insurance early will not only increase your likelihood of getting approved, but snagging a health-based discount on your premium costs.
Understanding what's in store for Social Security
Despite the many rumors that abound, Social Security is by no means at risk of going broke. That simply can't happen, since the program is funded heavily by payroll taxes. This means that as long as we have a workforce, there'll be money coming in.
The program is, however, facing a serious shortfall that, if left unaddressed, could slash benefits by up to 23% as early as 2034. On the one hand, that could spell trouble for future recipients. On the other hand, lawmakers have plenty of time to intervene with a fix, so there's no need to worry about your future benefits just yet.
That said, many seniors run into financial trouble in retirement because they go in expecting Social Security to cover all or the majority of their bills. It won't do that. Those benefits, in a best-case scenario (meaning no future cuts), will cover about 40% of the typical worker's pre-retirement income. Most folks, however, need more like 80% of their former earnings to pay their basic expenses, even if their lifestyles are relatively modest.
The solution? Save independently during your working years and look at Social Security for what it is: a means of supplementing an already solid stream of income.
Now the good news is that older workers get a huge opportunity to catch up on savings. Those 50 and over can put up to $24,500 a year into a 401(k) and $6,500 a year into an IRA. Max out the former for 10 years and you'll pad your nest egg by $338,000, assuming your investments generate an average annual 7% return during that time.
Another option? Prepare to work part-time in retirement. This will not only give you an additional income stream, but the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you do have the option to generate cash when you need it. And as an added bonus, working in some capacity as a senior will give you something productive to do with your time, thus helping you avoid spending money on entertainment while simultaneously staving off depression and boredom.
Paying for medical care in retirement and facing cuts in Social Security benefits are two very valid concerns -- but you don't need to lose sleep over them. Save appropriately, and you'll feel much better about the prospect of leaving the workforce for good.