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4 Reasons Retirement Might Cost More Than You Think

By Maurie Backman - Nov 5, 2019 at 5:36AM

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You can't afford to underestimate your retirement costs -- but here's why you might.

Many workers plan and save for retirement in the hopes that they'll manage to enjoy their golden years without financial stress. But if you're not careful, you could end up struggling during retirement despite all that forethought. Here are a few reasons why your golden years could end up costing more than expected.

1. You're ill-informed about healthcare

Healthcare is one of seniors' biggest expenses, and the unknowns of it make it downright terrifying. But while it may be difficult, if not impossible, to get a precise estimate of what medical care will cost you in retirement, you can rely on the data that's out there. To this end, you should know that HealthView Services, a provider of cost-projection software, anticipates healthcare costing $387,644 throughout retirement for the average healthy 65-year-old couple leaving the workforce today.

Older man and woman sitting at table with laptop and documents in front of them, looking concerned

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Of course, that's just one number, but if you're planning to spend much less on healthcare, you could be throwing your entire retirement budget off course. The takeaway? Read up on healthcare estimates to get a sense of what you're in for.

2. You don't have long-term care insurance

Many older workers avoid buying long-term care insurance because they don't want to foot the bill for those potentially costly premiums. A long-term care policy, however, could save you thousands upon thousands of dollars in retirement if you wind up needing extensive care. Or, to put it another way, if you don't buy long-term care insurance, you could wind up spending $90,155 a year for nursing-home care, which is the current average price nationwide for a shared room.

Home health aides and assisted-living facilities aren't much cheaper. Currently, they average $52,624 and $48,612, respectively. That's why a long-term care insurance policy could really pay off, and the ideal time to apply is around your mid-50s. At that age, you're more likely to snag a competitive rate on your premiums, and to get approved for a policy in the first place.

3. You're not accounting for homeownership costs

Many seniors enter retirement with their mortgages paid off, and assume that their housing expenses will therefore be minimal. But if that's your plan, don't forget that as homes age, they tend to require additional maintenance and repairs. The result? More spending on your part.

Another thing to keep in mind is that property taxes have a tendency to rise, even if home values aren't following suit. And while there are programs in place to help seniors in this regard, they're generally reserved for lower-income households. In other words, prepare to see your property tax bill climb, and factor that into your anticipated retirement spending.

4. You're forgetting about taxes

The income you have access to in retirement might come from a number of sources, many of which are taxable. Take Social Security, for example. Unless you're a low-income household, you can expect to pay taxes on your benefits at the federal level, and some states impose their own taxes on benefits, too.

Then there's your retirement savings. Unless you're housing that money in a Roth IRA or 401(k), your withdrawals will be subject to taxes, as will (in most cases) income you collect from a pension. And if you have cash in the bank accruing interest, or investments in a traditional brokerage account earning money, the IRS will come after its share of that as well. Therefore, understand what taxes you're in for during retirement, so you can budget accordingly.

The last thing you want to do is find yourself cash-strapped during retirement. In the course of your planning, read up on healthcare costs and taxes, plan for homeownership costs, and look into buying a long-term care policy. Doing so could help you make the most of your golden years and avoid financial troubles throughout.

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