Health Care Costs in Retirement: What Every Woman Should Know

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By Bennett Whitlock, CRPC® Private Wealth Advisor

On average, women live longer than men and face distinctly different challenges in maintaining their health. Perhaps as a result, women tend to spend more than men on out-of-pocket medical expenses in retirement.

According to a 2012 Employee Benefit Research Institute study (“Savings Needed for Health Expenses for People Eligible for Retirement: Some Rare Good News”), a man retiring at age 65 would need $135,000 in savings for a 90 percent chance of covering his prescription drug expenses throughout retirement, while a 65-year-old woman retiring would need $154,000.

With this in mind, it’s especially important that women understand challenges they may face. This knowledge may help women avoid a financial shortfall. Start by:

  • Estimating your current health care costs. Assess your and your family’s health history and calculate your annual medical and dental expenses. Use an online health care calculator or estimator to become familiar with treatment costs for various health and dental conditions. Also educate yourself on long-term care insurance options.
  • Being realistic. Today Medicare only pays about 60 percent of retiree health care costs, and it doesn’t reimburse for most long-term care expenses. Plus there’s uncertainty about how much it will cover in the future due to potential entitlement reform changes.
  • Creating an emergency fund. Reducing your debt and saving as much as you can before you retire is the simplest way to prepare for an unanticipated need medical or otherwise.
  • Being proactive about your health. Maintaining your health is not only important to quality of life at any age, but it’s also one of the best and most inexpensive ways to keep medical bills at bay.
  • Considering a health savings account. A health savings account or HSA, available with a high-deductible health insurance plan, allows you to make tax-deductible contributions, which you can build up and withdraw tax-free for qualified medical expenses.

There is no silver bullet solution for health care costs in retirement. But you can take control of what you do have influence over now to help prepare.

Bennett Whitlock, CRPC®, is a private wealth advisor and managing director with Whitlock Wealth Management, a franchise of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Learn more at or call 703-492-7732.


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