One of the biggest issues facing retirees is health care costs, notwithstanding the availability of Medicare for many retirees when they retire and for all eventually. Stress over finances can also have a detrimental effect on retiree health. The Employee Benefits Research Institute issues a periodic survey on retirement-related trends which includes health questions. The data paints a bleak picture of retirement for most Americans. (EBRI Brief) Some of the basic findings are astounding, only 14% of Americans believe they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. Sixty percent report that the total value of their household’s savings and assets is less than $25,000, meaning they really have nothing to support themselves when they get to retirement. Consequently, it is not surprising that 37% now say they plan to retire after age 65, whereas only 11% said that in 1991.
In regard to health care, only 13 of workers and 24% of current retirees have confidence in their ability to pay medical expenses in retirement, much lower than there confidence in paying for other basic expenses. An even lower number, 9% of workers and 18% of retirees believe they will be able to pay for long-term, or nursing home, care. This uncertainty is a major source of stress, especially for older workers. Compounding these concerns is the finding that a large percent, almost half, of current retirees left the workforce unexpectedly, for health, disability or job loss reasons. These people were probably even more unprepared for retirement and probably have even higher health care expenses. All in all a grim picture, one which will undoubtedly put heavy pressure on policymakers to create some better solutions to prepare Americans to have a comfortable retirement.