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Have you saved enough for future healthcare costs?

Over their longer lives, women spend far more on healthcare than men. These tips can help you cover the costs at every age.

YOGA. MEDITATION. FITNESS CLASSES. Women are more likely to engage in these activities than men. They’re also more likely to visit a doctor and keep up with preventive care.1 Those are all great ways to stay healthy as you age. But when it comes to health and financial wellness, there’s one more thing women could do: “Save more for future medical costs,” says Nevenka Vrdoljak, a director for the Chief Investment Office, Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank.

 

Consider this number: $194,000.2 “That’s how much more, on average, women end up spending on healthcare in retirement, largely because they tend to live longer than men and are more likely to have multiple chronic conditions and require long-term care,” Vrdoljak points out. In fact, women are faced with significantly higher annual healthcare costs throughout their lives,3 she adds. “That’s why it’s so important for women to carefully plan to cover their present and future medical expenses.”

 

$194,000: “That’s how much more, on average, women end up spending on healthcare in retirement, largely because they tend to live longer than men.”

— Nevenka Vrdoljak, a director for the Chief Investment Office, Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank

Watching their mothers deal with medical costs can act as a wakeup call, says Melissa Spickler, a Merrill financial advisor in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. One of her clients, a teacher in her mid-40s with three kids in college, is helping her ailing 78-year-old mother both financially and as a caregiver. “Seeing the impact of her mother’s illness up close has made her realize the importance of planning for her healthcare costs down the line,” she says. “She doesn’t want to have to rely on her kids to take care of her.”

 

Spickler helped her client prepare for potential costs by talking with her about her family’s medical history, her own potential life expectancy, the limits of Medicare and other factors. Armed with this information, Spickler recommended that she invest a portion of her savings for potential growth to help her cover her healthcare expenses as she ages and helped the teacher transfer some of her funds to more liquid accounts so that she’d be able to more easily manage any possible emergencies.

 

Working together with your financial advisor, you can estimate your future healthcare costs and develop a strategy for covering them as you grow older. Below are some tips and strategies to consider at various stages of your life. 

 

When you’re a young adult

 

Make wellness a habit. Be sure to take advantage of the health and wellness programs your employer offers. “When you’re considering job offers, pay special attention to the benefits like maternity and paid family leave,” says Vrdoljak. Being proactive about your health early on can help avoid complicated, costly medical issues later on. Thankfully, the rise of telemedicine means that seeking preventive care, both mental and physical, takes less time out of your busy schedule. At the same time, apps, mobile devices and smart watches can help prompt you to stay fit. And the advent of women-focused boutique medical practices — which often use a holistic approach encompassing reproductive, whole-body, nutritional and mental health — could help as you build a personalized wellness plan.

 

$5,400
Invested annually for 20 years could help a woman cover additional lifetime health care costs.4

Consider funding a health savings account (HSA). If you sign-up for a qualified high-deductible insurance plan, you are eligible to save a certain amount each year for your healthcare costs in an HSA. Funds that aren’t used right away have tax-free growth potential and can be used for qualified medical expenses anytime in the future. “Funding an HSA is a great way to start saving for future healthcare costs now when you’re young and healthy,” says Spickler. A study from HealthView Services estimated that a healthy woman’s lifetime healthcare costs are nearly $200,000 higher than a healthy man.4 That gap could be covered if she contributes an additional $5,400 annually for 20 years to an investment account.5

 

Keep saving—even during years away from work. Many women take time off to take care of children, which can have an impact on their retirement savings and Social Security payments down the line. “If your spouse is working, having them contribute to a spousal IRA could help you continue to build up retirement savings during periods spent at home,” says Vrdoljak. “It’s also important to consider whether you have sufficient life and disability income insurance,” she adds.

 

As you move into midlife

 

Explore caregiving resources. If you’re taking primary responsibility or helping care for an elderly loved one, be aware of the impact that could have on your own well-being. Half of caregivers surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a decline in both physical and mental health.6 Familiarize yourself with any counseling and stress reduction benefits your employer or insurance coverage offers.

 

Consider your long-term care needs. Long-term care insurance premiums generally begin to rise as you grow older. “When you’re in your 40s, 50s or even early 60s, they may still be affordable, and you are more likely to be healthy enough to qualify for coverage,” says Spickler. But there are other options to consider as well. Talk with your advisor about a range of ways you might prepare for long-term care costs.

 

Take advantage of catch-up savings. The more you have saved for retirement, the better prepared you could be for future healthcare costs. So now’s a good time to consider increasing your contributions. Starting at age 50, you can contribute an additional catch-up amount to many accounts. For example, for 2021, you can contribute an additional $1,000 in an IRA and $6,500 in your 401(k) or other eligible retirement plan.

 

you’re close to and in retirement

 

Keep your fitness routine going. Research has shown that engaging in physical exercise as you age can help keep your body and your mind in optimal shape, reducing health problems — and expenses — both in the present and down the road.7

 

Although Medicare helps handle many costs, it doesn’t cover everything.

Review your asset allocations. Set up time to talk with your advisor about your retirement readiness, including your ability to manage future health care costs. Will you have enough cash on hand for medical emergencies? Do you have income-producing investments earmarked for healthcare costs? “Because women tend to live longer, they should also consider investing for growth,” says Spickler. Now is not too late to consider doing that, she adds. “Aim for returns that can help provide a comfortable retirement for decades.”

 

Think beyond Medicare. Although Medicare helps handle many costs, it doesn’t cover everything. You’re still responsible for premiums and copays, and long-term care, vision and dental care generally are not included under traditional Medicare. Beyond answering your questions about Medicare, your advisor can help you compare available Medigap and Medicare Advantage health insurance plans.

 

Medical advances have given all of us extra time to do the things we love with the people we love, notes Spickler. But those advances – and extra years – may come with a higher price tag, especially for women. “Taking these simple, proactive steps is just another way to stay physically and financially fit.”

 

1Harvard Health Publishing, “Mars vs. Venus: The Gender Gap in Health,” August 2019[AHG1]

2Age Wave and Merrill, “Women & Financial Wellness: Beyond the Bottom Line,” 2018

3Infographic: “Barriers to Care Experienced by Women in the United States,”[AHG2]  Kaiser Family Foundation, June, 2019

4HealthView Services, “Addressing the Women’s Longevity Gap,” September 2020

5Assumes a 6% annual return

6Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Caregiving for Family and Friends — A Public Health Issue,” July 2019

7Nature Scientific Reports, “Physical Activity as a Determinant of Successful Aging Over Ten Years,” July 2018

 

Long-term care insurance coverage contains benefits, exclusions, limitations, eligibility requirements and specific terms and conditions under which the insurance coverage may be continued in force or discontinued. Not all insurance policies and types of coverage may be available in your state.

 

This material should be regarded as educational information on health care and is not intended to provide specific advice. If you have questions regarding your particular situation, you should contact your legal and/or tax advisors.


The case studies presented are for illustrative purposes only and intended to demonstrate the capabilities of Merrill and/or Bank of America. They are not intended to serve as investment advice since the availability and effectiveness of any strategy is dependent upon your individual facts and circumstances. Solutions presented are not appropriate for everyone. Results will vary, and no suggestion is made about how any specific solution or strategy performed in reality.

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