By Anna D. Banks, GCDF

One of the most essential and basic questions of retirement planning, is the one that is unfortunately also the most ignored: does your retirement plan cover health care issues? It is important to start thinking about health care issues as you begin planning for your retirement needs. Always remember that planning ahead will protect you and your family from the possibility of having to pay considerable health care costs, or worse, being unable to afford health care or long term care when you need it.

Always take the necessary steps to protect your financial future as well as to plan ahead for your health care needs. As a generality however, most people do not pay enough attention to this very important aspect of life planning. A large number of people, pre-retirees as well as retirees, readily agree that health is one of the most important issues in retirement. However, almost no one really spends enough time actually planning for health issues in retirement. Most pre-retirees do undertake some kind of planning for the financial aspects of retirement, but seem to neglect understanding and planning for health benefits options.

Planning for medical issues during retirement takes more than just planning the financial details. It would, in fact, involve reevaluating your routine and budget, exploring the health care options, and researching Health Savings Accounts, long term care options and life insurance options. Even though most pre-retirees are willing to pay for prescription drugs and doctor’s visits during their retirement, they seem to have a very unrealistic view of what it will cost. Most people anticipate costs to be less than $300 a month for health care-related expenses whereas, in reality, the average retiree actually spends around $640 a month.

In short, most Americans are confused about health benefits and do not really plan for a healthy retirement as well as a financially stable one. Most people don’t even have a realistic idea of how much money they spend on essentials each year. To help people like that, many websites offer a health expense calculator that estimates your annual health expenses, including all your medical costs, dental costs, ophthalmology costs, and the total amount spent on prescriptions, for the entire family. These calculators can help you to understand how much money you would need, to meet all your medical expenses.

They are, in fact, invaluable tools in planning health benefits and financial needs after retirement. Having a retirement plan that covers health care issues is vital. The risks of both heart disease and diabetes increase as we age. This is another reason why planning for retirement should include a sensible diet, exercise, and active control measures against any chronic illness.

Research and gaining updated information would be an important step in making the right decisions for a healthy post retirement lifestyle. There is also a major financial incentive, for retirees to try to stay healthy – economics. A healthy lifestyle and healthy habits developed now will be helpful in protecting your financial well being after retirement.