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Are You Prepared for the 10 Toughest Retirement Years?

By Christy Bieber – Aug 24, 2020 at 9:09AM

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You may need more money than you think!

When preparing for retirement, most people want to make sure they have the money to travel and enjoy life. But while that's important, indulging your hobbies and fulfilling your dreams isn't the only thing you need to worry about doing with your retirement nest egg.

In fact, some of your biggest expenses may occur during the toughest years of retirement, and they may not be optional. 

Woman being pushed in wheelchair by caregiver.

Image source: Getty Images.

These 10 years could be the most expensive ones

So what are the toughest retirement years? For most people, they are the years in which they begin to experience serious health problems. Sadly, new research from Edward Jones revealed older Americans live an average of 10 years in poor health. 

This decade of your life is likely to be not just physically difficult, but also financially difficult as well. That's because when you start to experience health issues, your use of medical services generally increases. You may have more doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription drugs to pay for. And contrary to popular belief, these costs are not fully covered by Medicare. In fact, when you factor in copays, deductibles, premiums, and out-of-pocket expenses, you could be looking at spending six figures on medical services during the typical retirement. 

As if that statistic isn't scary enough, these 10 tough years often make it impossible to continue to live independently. As many as 70% of older Americans require some type of custodial care, either in a nursing home setting or from home healthcare aids, during the course of their retirement. The costs associated with this can be astronomical, topping $100,000 a year in some cases. If you experience an average of 10 years of poor health and need nursing home care for the bulk of that time, the price tag could come close to $1 million -- none of which is covered by Medicare, in most cases. 

Sadly, when you experience serious health issues, you often can't simply choose not to pay for the medical care you need -- finding a way to cover these costs is essential. And going back to work is almost never an option, both because of your serious health concerns and because of the fact they tend to arise later in your life after you've been out of the workforce for decades. 

But despite the fact that Americans average 10 years of health problems that can be costly to address, far too many people don't have plans for how to ensure those care costs will be covered. If you're one of them, you could find yourself in dire straits during a decade of poor health as you worry about both your medical issues and your financial ones.

Don't consign yourself to a decade of money troubles

If you don't want to worry about money at the same time that your health is failing, it's important to plan for these 10 tough retirement years.

If you haven't yet left the workforce, you can do that by considering the likely cost of medical services when setting retirement savings goals. If you are eligible to invest in a health savings account, doing so can also help you build a nest-egg earmarked for your future medical needs. 

If you're already retired and not yet in poor health, you can also take steps now to make sure you're ready if this fate befalls you in the future. Make sure to maintain a safe withdrawal rate so you'll have savings to support you late in life. Get regular medical care to try to stay as healthy as you can as long as possible, and explore your insurance options carefully during Medicare open enrollment to get the right coverage. 

Taking these steps may not seem fun, and you may hope that you end up with fewer years when your health is poor -- but since a decade of physical difficulties is the average, you better be prepared for it. 

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