Whether you're setting savings goals for retirement or you're leaving work and trying to figure out if you have enough money to last the rest of your life, it's important to have a clear idea of how much money you'll spend as a senior.
Unfortunately, far too many current and future retirees forget to take some essential costs into account, which can result in retirees running out of cash too quickly. To ensure you don't end up with an empty bank account in your 80s, consider these five expenses you're likely to face as a retiree and make sure to plan for them.
Healthcare is likely to be one of your biggest expenses in old age. In fact, the average American who started getting Social Security at 62 could see 64% of those benefits going toward medical care, according to Nationwide research.
Healthcare is extremely expensive because Medicare doesn't cover all services seniors require and comes with high co-insurance costs. Medical care costs are also rising faster than inflation, and seniors tend to be major consumers of medical services.
You can plan for healthcare costs as a senior by investing in a health savings account throughout your working life. But this tax-advantaged account is available only to people with qualifying high-deductible health plans.
If you aren't eligible to invest in an HSA, increasing contributions to other retirement savings accounts can help prepare for medical expenses in retirement.
2. Long-term care
Seniors turning 65 today face an estimated 70% chance they'll need long-term care services for some time during the remainder of their lives, according to LongTermCare.gov. Men typically need around 2.2 years of care, while women require 3.7 years. And 20% of today's 65-year-olds will need care for longer than five years.
While Medicare pays for a short time in a skilled nursing facility, the circumstances under which it covers you are very restrictive. Most people need custodial care -- routine help with daily tasks -- not skilled nursing care provided by medical professionals. This means they get no coverage at all from Medicare.
With Genworth's 2019 Cost of Care Survey estimating the price of a semiprivate room in a nursing home at $7,513 per month, it's easy to see why you could end up in serious financial trouble if you don't plan for long-term care.
You'll either need to save a substantial sum on your own, buy comprehensive long-term care insurance, or work with a lawyer to qualify for Medicaid coverage while protecting your assets.
When figuring out how much income your retirement accounts will produce, don't forget that you must pay taxes on withdrawals from traditional retirement accounts. Unless you have a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k), you'll be taxed on retirement account distributions at your ordinary income tax rate.
Social Security benefits may also be taxable on the federal level. If your income -- defined as taxable income, some non-taxable funds, and half of Social Security benefits -- exceeds $32,000 for married joint filers or $25,000 for other tax filers, you could be taxed on up to 50% of your benefits. And with incomes above $44,000 for married joint filers or $34,000 for others, up to 85% of benefits become taxable.
Some states also tax retirement income and Social Security benefits. Depending on where you live and what your tax bracket is, you could lose a substantial percentage of your account balance to the government.
Either invest in a Roth IRA so you can take tax-free distributions, or factor in taxes when deciding how much you need to save so your retirement investments produce sufficient income.
4. Debt payments
According to the National Council on Aging, 60% of households headed by adults 65 or over had any kind of debt in 2016, compared with just 41.5% in 1992. Median debt balances have also grown dramatically, reaching $31,300 in 2016 -- 2.5 times the median debt burden seniors faced in 2001.
If you're going into retirement with debt, you'll need to make payments to creditors out of your retirement savings or Social Security checks. This either means you'll need to withdraw more from your investment accounts or live on less.
The best way to plan for this is to figure out how to pay off what you owe before retirement and get on a debt repayment plan. If you can't become debt-free before leaving the workforce, you'll need to save more or cut your budget for retirement spending until the debt is paid off.
5. Family obligations
More than $500 billion per year is transferred from parents to early adult children in the form of financial assistance, according to a recent Merrill study. If you have children who aren't financially independent, some of your savings will likely be used to assist your kids.
With longer life spans, many retirees may also find themselves caring for aging parents. This can come at a financial cost, whether you're helping to pay for long-term care or nursing services or traveling to assist parents who don't live locally.
Determine the likelihood you'll need to help out loved ones and adjust your retirement savings if you know you'll be making financial gifts.
Don't forget these essential expenses
While you can cut taxes by moving or saving in Roth accounts or an HSA, and it's possible to avoid family obligations by saying no to your adult kids, most of the expenses on this list are not optional. That means you need to be prepared to pay them without drawing down your savings too fast.
If you're still working, you have time to sock away some extra cash in your retirement accounts. But if you've already left the workforce for good, you may need to watch your budget and withdrawal rate to make sure cash is available for these essential expenses.