What Women Need to Know
When planning for health care costs during retirement, women should be aware that they face higher lifetime costs than men. The primary reason for this cost disparity is longevity. According to a recent report from HealthView Services, a provider of health care-related data to the financial services industry, women live approximately two years longer than men. Consequently, the average woman will incur two more years of health care-related expenses, including premiums and other out-of-pocket costs. This is compounded by the fact that the average woman is more than two years younger than her husband. Therefore, a married woman may be forced to pay health care-related expenses for up to four years or longer after her husband’s death.
A healthy 65-year-old retired couple is estimated to pay $378,644 in health care premiums over their lifetime. When costs not covered by Medicare are considered, the cost differential becomes even greater. These costs, including vision, dental, and hearing, could raise health care costs closer to $450,000.* These figures assume that the individual’s (or married couple’s) modified gross income remains below the thresholds that trigger Medicare’s income-related surcharges.
Planning ahead for these potential costs is a vital component of a comprehensive financial plan. Individuals who have some time before retirement can set aside the funds necessary to ensure that a surviving spouse is able to afford premiums and other health care costs. Health care costs are expected to increase by approximately 6% per year and will be highest during the final years of life. When planning, couples should consider their current health and prospects for longevity. Individuals in excellent health have a greater chance of living beyond life expectancy and facing additional years of health care expenses.
There are a variety of ways for a couple to ensure that a wife will be able to cover health care costs after her husband’s death. For example, a couple may consider an annuity that will provide income for the surviving spouse’s life. A couple may also consider a life insurance policy with a death benefit that will provide the surviving spouse with income to cover health care costs. Finally, a couple may increase savings in employer-provided retirement plans, IRAs, and health savings accounts (HSAs) with the goal of providing for future health care costs.
Unfortunately, these costs do not account for the potential future need for long-term care. Since Medicare will only provide funds for a short period under very specific circumstances, additional planning is necessary to address the potentially catastrophic costs associated with long-term care. Be certain to consult with your Stifel Financial Advisor, tax professional, and legal advisor to assess your options.
* Source: 2019 HealthView Services Retirement Healthcare Costs Data Report