It's no secret that medication begins to gobble up significant portions of cash when you retire. According to Fidelity, the average 65-year-old couple going into retirement is predicted to spend at least $240,000 in medical costs, and that's not including long-term care.
The picture looks even bleaker for today's millennials. Social security benefits at their current level are not expected to last beyond 2037, well before a generation born in the 1980s and '90s nears retirement age. Of course, every millennial probably has that one annoying relative telling her to start saving now.
While there's no need to panic, it is important to be prepared. Starting a little early never hurt anyone -- you don't want to wake up at 64 and realize you can't afford that hip replacement or the medicine you need. Medical treatments like these can play a big role in your general health and well-being, and lack of access can make it all the more difficult for you to keep up a healthy lifestyle as you grow older.
Here are five reasons you should start planning for the health expenses of your retirement early:
Social Security As We Know It May Not Last
Demographic trends are threatening the long-term sustainability of social security, a government pension program established during the Great Depression which is now the major source of income for the majority of seniors. Today, there are around 22 people over 65 for every 100 workers, a rate which will be up to 35 for every 100 by 2030. This means that a smaller tax base will be expected to shell out for the benefits of a larger group of beneficiaries.
Millennials have been dealt a difficult hand. They are effectively the first generation to actually hear about projects to trim social security, largely by raising the retirement age to 70 and cutting pensions. None of this has been done yet, but some say it's merely a matter of time.
Drug Costs Keep Rising
Despite the introduction of Obamacare, which was partly intended to keep costs down, healthcare costs are still rising faster than inflation and prescription drug prices in particular are rising at unsustainable speeds. Prices of certain name-brand drugs have effectively grown by double-digit percentages, and although Congress is grilling pharmaceutical company executives, they haven't found a solution quite yet.
This April alone, a single company, Johnson & Johnson, raised prices on a variety of medication meant to treat everything from diabetes to leukemia.
Your Insurance May Not Cover It
One major reason higher drug costs are worrying is that sometimes insurance won't cover them, especially when it comes to medication meant for longer-term periods of use. According to the Wall Street Journal, the regimen for one new cancer medication costs up to $12,000 per month, an enormous financial burden on most people.
Insurance companies usually pay most of these ridiculous "sticker" prices, but one couple interviewed by the WSJ -- who were hardly badly-off due to their annual $200,000 income -- found out that their insurance wouldn't cover that cost, and narrowly avoided bankruptcy. You could also be on the hook for such fees if you don't pay careful attention to what kind of insurance plan you have. Meanwhile, a growing share of the insured are indeed paying a portion of such list prices.
Medicare Isn't Free
If you're into Bernie Sanders, you might think Medicare's elderly health insurance system is pretty thorough: After all, why would Bernie keep advocating a "Medicare for All" system? It's not that simple, however.
While Medicare is indeed pretty cheap (starting at $104.90 per month for Part B, which covers most outpatient care and medical equivalent), it doesn't cover everything. According to a Kaiser Family Health Foundation study, the average recipient paid $4,734 in both premiums and out-of-pocket costs in 2010. That adds up to a lot over the decades.
Extra Income Is Hard to Find When You're Older
Once you're already past middle age, getting more income becomes far more difficult. Although illegal, age discrimination is rife: Just ask any 60-year-old looking for a full-time job. If you're in your twenties and already making a decent, regular income, stashing some portion of your income every year goes a long way, particularly if you already have a decent health insurance plan through your employer.
Everyone deserves a comfortable retirement and one of the keys to getting there is good healthcare, which, like many good things, doesn't come cheap.
There are some solutions once you're actually at this stage, of course. For example, Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) tend to offer more health-based services than your basic retirement homes. And, with new technology being developed every day, who knows what health options for the elderly will be available by the time millennials reach that age.
Still, the most important factor remains being well-prepared. Retirement is a time for well-deserved relaxation and reflection -- you don't want to spend it worrying about whether you can cover the next hospital bill.