Though a number of your living costs may go down once your career comes to a close, there's one expense that's highly likely to rise: healthcare. In fact, many current seniors spend more money on healthcare than on any other individual expense, and future retirees are likely to see their costs climb even higher.
In fact, the average healthy 65-year-old couple retiring today can expect to spend a whopping $606,337 on lifetime medical expenditures, reports HealthView Services, a provider of cost-projections. That figure assumes a 22-year lifespan for males beyond 65 and a 24-year lifespan for women. And again, it assumes that couple enters retirement in average health. But seniors who kick off their golden years with existing issues could end up spending much more. And also, that estimate does not include long-term care, which costs the average senior $172,000 in his or her lifetime.
Why such a gigantic number? Much of it boils down to inflation.
Healthcare costs are estimated to rise 4.9% annually for the foreseeable future, which is well beyond the general rate of inflation. It's also far more substantial than the average Social Security cost-of-living adjustment, which explains why so many seniors on a fixed income struggle with healthcare costs -- and why so many will inevitably have a difficult time keeping up in the future.
You must save for healthcare
Many seniors depend heavily on Social Security to pay the bills in retirement, but they also spend an uncomfortably large chunk of their benefits on healthcare expenses, and as inflation rears its ugly head, medical bills will only increasingly drain seniors' limited resources. That's why it's crucial to save money for future healthcare costs in advance.
Now you have a couple of options in this regard. First, you can pad your regular retirement savings by putting more money into your IRA or 401(k). That will give you the flexibility to spend your savings as you see fit.
Another option is to put money into a health savings account (HSA). The great thing about HSAs is that they never expire. You could contribute money in your 30s, withdraw some immediately to cover near-term healthcare expenses, and then save and invest the rest for retirement. With an HSA, you'll have a dedicated source of income for medical bills, and if you use your HSA funds for qualified expenses, like copays, deductibles, and Medicare premiums, your withdrawals will be yours to enjoy completely tax-free.
Of course, no matter how you go about the task of saving for future healthcare costs, it's imperative that you make that effort. Over the past 10 years, Social Security raises have averaged 1.4% on an annual basis. Compare that to the way healthcare costs are projected to rise, and it's clear that your benefits won't do a good job of helping you keep up. If you don't save independently for medical care, you'll risk winding up dangerously cash-strapped at a time in your life when earning more money may be off the table, so rather than run that risk, take steps to position yourself to fork over that $606,337.