Saturday July 17, 2021

The Most Consequential Decision Facing Your Clients – Medicare Advantage versus Medigap

The following is an article by Joanne Giardini-Russell of Giardini Medicare, that appeared in the March 9, 2021, issue of Advisor Perspectives.

 Every year. Every day. I teach clients that they must choose one of two paths to complete their Medicare coverage.

When a person transitions to the Medicare system, there is lots of confusion. Remember that for the first time in 40 years, most are leaving the safety of their employer sponsored group plan and they have to make their own decisions. Those decisions may not be “fixable” at the next open enrollment window for the employer.

 Suddenly, it’s not so simple.

Let’s visit the basics. Here’s the two-second overview of the two choices most people have. In this article I’m not addressing those who have retiree medical coverage available. I’m strictly looking at a person who needs to choose their products for the rest of their life with their own dollars.


Medigap follows original Medicare. When you purchase a Medigap plan, original Medicare pays 80%, and the plan you purchase will generally pay “the rest.”

Medigap costs for a 65-year-old are approximately $150.00 per month, every month.

Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage is a bundled approach to Medicare. A private carrier creates a plan but must provide at least what original Medicare (Parts A and B) offers. It can add bells and whistles to its plan to attract new participants. These are managed-care plans with networks, co-pays, co-insurance and an out-of-pocket in-network maximum in 2021 of $7,550.

Thousands and thousands of Medicare Advantage plans claim to “cost” zero per month. Yes, zero.

 No tricks!

Guess what – there’s no trick here. As consumers, we’re used to looking under the hood for the problem. What are you hiding? What am I missing? Medicare Advantage versus Medigap is like that. People sit back and ask, “What am I missing that I’m going to get burned by?”

They’re missing nothing. The consumer will sacrifice something by choosing one plan over the other. That’s it.

I know from experience what every single person wants. Ready? They want a Medigap contract that costs zero like Medicare Advantage, and includes dental insurance and over-the-counter perks.

Mic drop.

Every day I help people understand that ain’t gonna happen.

If you choose Medigap, you will generally sacrifice the bells and whistles that Joe Namath is talking about: the free dental, the transportation, the over-the-counter benefits and more. Original Medicare doesn’t cover those things and the Medigap contract will follow original Medicare.

If you choose Medicare Advantage, you may sacrifice the ability to go to any doctor that you want to go to. You may not pay a larger premium, if any premium at all, but remember the old adage, “You get what you pay for?” Will that play out for you in this situation?

Who knows. Who’s got the Magic 8-Ball?

 Pre-existing conditions

That lack of the 8-ball is one of the things that makes a consumer crazy when having to decide between Medigap and Medicare Advantage.

With a Medicare Advantage plan, the monthly cost can be as little as free. If a person is a healthy 65-year-old, takes only atorvastatin (to reduce cholesterol) and goes for an annual physical, this person adores the idea of Medicare Advantage. It’s free. Why should they pay more than free if they don’t use the coverage? They’re using the free gym membership and getting their teeth cleaned bi-annually and telling all of their friends how dumb they are to pay that monthly premium for a Medigap contract.

Suddenly Mr. Healthy needed to have rotator cuff surgery on his shoulder. The surgery was mostly effective, but follow-up care required a lot of physical therapy. PT began costing hundreds of dollars a month for several months. The plan told him after X number of sessions that he was done with PT, and he found himself in the position where his doctor needed to become involved to get more sessions covered by the Medicare Advantage plan.

Yes, I threw the hassle factor into his case but over the year he paid $1,400 out of his pocket that year so it wasn’t so bad.

Ms. Healthy wasn’t so lucky. She had breast cancer 18 years ago. She had a healthy stretch and assumed things would continue. She enrolled in a zero-premium plan when she retired at 68-years old.

Unfortunately, a different cancer struck, and she needed to undergo a fair amount of treatment, nights in the hospital and chemotherapy. She ended up hitting her plan’s maximum out-of-pocket of $5,000 that year.

At the end of that year, the Medicare commercials on TV appeared and Ms. Healthy was confident that she could change her plan to Original Medicare and add a Medigap get better coverage for her treatments.

 But no one told her that she wouldn’t qualify for the Medigap plan once she’d been diagnosed with the cancer recurrence. Her only option was to go back to Original Medicare and pay the 20% that Medicare doesn’t cover (not a good option) or enroll in the same or a new Medicare Advantage plan in her area.

Don’t assume that you’ll always be able to buy a Medigap contract.

Here’s a great tip and something everyone should know: When people are new to Medicare Part B, they have a special six-month window where their pre-existing conditions do not preclude them from buying a Medigap contract. It is referred to as their own personal open-enrollment window. It occurs when a person is new to Medicare Part B and is over age 65 – those two events together equal your special open enrollment window.

Reality versus television ads

When we’re speaking with new clients, we’re attempting to coach them through conversations so that they can see themselves at age 70, 75, 80 and beyond. It’s important to not just choose your Medicare product for today, as you can see from the situations above.

But it’s so darn hard to do that when your fraternity brother is telling you all of the things that he’s getting for free from his plan. Do you think he’s telling you the 100% truth? We see people constantly that just sort of forget about that two-night hospital stay for $700. No one wants to brag about the downside of their plans, right?

Just take things with a grain of salt when you see Joe Namath on tv or listen to your friends.

 Take the 30,000-foot view

Medicare is easier to digest when you take a top-down approach.

Think about some of these descriptions below of each program. Pretend that money doesn’t matter for a minute and decide which program you’d prefer to be on.

Medicare Advantage

  • They have networks. You’ll be in or out of a network. Stay inside the network for best pricing. Are you okay being, “told what to do?” If you want to go to MD Anderson in Texas and the plan says you can’t, are you okay with that?
  • Should you use the plan, you’ll have co-pays and co-insurances fees. Have a bad year? I’d put away $5,000 for emergencies. Use your $5,000 for the plan’s charges.
  • The plan may require prior authorization. Look to your plan’s evidence of coverage and see how many or what services may require prior authorization. How do you feel about having to obtain that?
  • “My doctor stopped accepting my plan, what do I do now?” It happens and will happen. You’ll have to find a new plan or a new doctor.


  • Ask the doctor that you want to see: “Do you accept original Medicare?” (most do). If they say “yes” you are good to go.
  • If Medicare approves a charge (they approve most things), the Medigap plan will pay the rest (generally after the $203.00 annual deductible).
  • That’s it.

Sunday August 19, 2018

Top 5 Things You Could Spend Less On In Retirement

In retirement it’s not always about the money you have, it’s about how much you are spending.  As you prepare or revise your retirement plan, one of the most important steps that you can take is to ensure that your projected future budget is accurate. Any oversights or poor estimations can unfortunately lead to financial shortage in retirement. However, the flip side of this is that overestimating expenses may lead to unnecessary financial anxiety. It could cause you to scale back your lifestyle so dramatically now that you cannot maintain a comfortable lifestyle. In some cases, it could cause you to work for several additional years than you actually need to.

When you read retirement planning books and articles, you will commonly see advice that tells you estimate future financial needs at 80 percent of your current monthly expenses. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that actual retirees spend approximately 25 percent less than they did in their working years. This five percent difference may not sound like much, but it can result in a significant reduction in the amount of money that you need to save for retirement. These are some of the major expenses that may decrease after you retire.

Transportation Expense

Your current transportation expense may include two car loan payments, auto insurance on two vehicles and gas. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that fuel expense may decrease by more than 30 percent annually after you retire. In addition, many married couples are able to downsize from a two-car household to a one-car household. This eliminates a substantial amount of money on car loan payments and auto insurance premiums.


Working adults may go out to eat more frequently than retired adults. For example, it may be convenient to drop by a fast food restaurant on your lunch break at work or to pick up a pre-made meal on your way home in the evening. When you are retired, you may have more time to make thoughtful grocery store purchases and to prepare affordable meals at home. In fact, you may expect to spend up to 25 percent less on food after you retire.


The primary housing expenses for older adults are a mortgage payment, property taxes and home insurance. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that almost 62 percent of retirees have paid off their mortgage, and this number increases as seniors continue to get older. While property taxes and home insurance premiums remain, the elimination of a mortgage payment can result in significant savings in your budget.


Insurance costs fluctuate in retirement. After all, as you get older, you may pay more on medications and related expenses regardless of the insurance plan that you have. However, you may qualify for auto and home insurance discounts. You also may no longer have the financial need to maintain life insurance, and you may be able to eliminate this premium from your budget.


As you prepare for retirement, you may believe that your entertainment expense would increase dramatically because you seemingly will have more time to spend golfing or watching movies at the theater. However, as you get older, your energy level for participating in these types of activities can decline, and you may feel more content to simply spend time at home or in the company of family and good friends. You may expect to spend a decreasing amount of money on entertainment as you continue to advance in age.

As you can see, you could actually spend considerably less in retirement in many areas than you currently do. This information can help you to create a more realistic budget based on your projected lifestyle. Remember to review your retirement budget periodically going forward so that it remains as realistic as possible.  Yes, we are here to help create your budget and plan with you.

Monday July 9, 2018

The Affordable Care Act & Your Retirement 

What is the status of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA)? High-end net worth “seniors” planning for retirement need to know. How will the changes in the Affordable Care Act impact your retirement?

Health Care Planning

A lot of time, energy and money went into promoting and advancing the Affordable Care Act. Then, a new president was elected and poof those who were ready to be in compliance were left hanging. Is the Affordable Care Act dead?

What has been repealed is the “mandate that all American must obtain healthcare coverage.” 

Here are some important ACA provisions that remain in effect, according to Forbes: 

  • Elimination of Pre-Existing Conditions Denials
  • Closing Gaps for Prescription Drug Benefits
  • Expanding Medicaid

Numerous politicians continue to promise that health care will remain a top priority for Congress.

Medicare Future

The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) has predicted that Medicare may become insolvent by 2026. This is three years earlier than previously estimated. There are 61 million Americans enrolled in this government program.

One of the reasons for the Affordable Care Act was to deal with all of the government health care programs. The hope was to place them under the new umbrella provided by a solvent system created by the Affordable Care Act.  Now, all that has changed.

The AAMC has predicted that these health care costs will increase from 3.7% to 5.8% of gross domestic product (GDP) between 2017 and 2038. The federal government is not receiving as much revenue from taxes. This has made it difficult to balance the budget.

Future Health Care Plans

Health care has always been a bone of contention. America still has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. The primary problem has been cost.

Wealthy senior citizens will have more options with the rescinding of the health care mandate. Many Americans wondered how a free nation could force people to purchase health care in the first place. The good news is that the four-part Medicare system is still in place:

  • Part A – Hospital Care
  • Part B – Doctor & Outpatient
  • Part C – MA Plans
  • Part D – Prescription Drugs

There are also a wide range of choices for “Medigap” coverage.

Senior citizens are free to invest in their own healthcare plans. That is good news for many. Will government healthcare plans still be around in the future?

For decades, experts have warned of the insolvency of certain government programs. With Detroit and Chicago struggling to survive, the future does not look good for raising revenue. Tax revenue at many levels of government are falling.

Wealthy individuals might want to find their own healthcare retirement planning solutions. Just as the Affordable Care Act did not last forever, other healthcare government programs might have a limited life expectancy. It is better to be safe than sorry and plan for Health Care along with the rest of your retirement plan.

Monday July 2, 2018

Rising Interest Rates And Your Portfolio

The reality is that rising interest rates will likely continue through 2018.   This has been choreographed by the Fed Reserve for some time now, and even most of the talking heads on television agree that this is more likely to continue than not.  This begs the question of whether rising interest rates will harm your finances or benefit them. The answer is that they can affect your finances in both ways. A closer look at how interest rates affect you will help you to position your finances for optimal benefits.

The Impact on Your Debts

Interest rates directly impact the cost of your debts. If you have a fixed rate debt, such as is common with a home or a car loan, rising interest rates will not affect these debts until you refinance your home or buy a new car. You also may have adjustable rate debt, such as is common with credit cards and some loans. The rates on these debts will rise as the market rates rise, and this means that your monthly debt payments will increase. If you carry substantial debt with an adjustable rate, you can generally expect your budget to feel burdened. Furthermore, high interest rates can be costlier when you apply for new financing in the future.

The Impact on Your Assets

On the other hand, rising interest rates can be beneficial for you if you have specific types of assets. For example, savings accounts and money market accounts are directly tied to interest rates, and you will benefit from a higher yield on these accounts. CD rates and bond rates generally will improve substantially as well, and this means that you can enjoy a higher yield on relatively safe investments. Stocks and mutual funds may be hit for a short period of time until corporations adjust their finances. Understanding how your assets are tied to interest rates is important if you want to take full advantage of rising rates while minimizing your financial risk.

How to Position Yourself to Benefit From Rising Interest Rates

As you can see, in the most basic sense, rising interest rates benefit your assets and are detrimental to your debts. Make an effort to pay down debt balances. Take out new debt strategically. For example, now may be the time to purchase a home so that you can lock in a low interest rate with a 30-year fixed term. Eliminate adjustable rate debt, if possible. In addition, prepare to take advantage of rising interest rates with strategic CD and bond purchases. You may even invest in rental real estate now. You can lock in a low fixed rate mortgage on your rental property, and you can enjoy the income stream with affordable financing for decades.

Interest rates are a critical component to personal finances. By understanding how interest rates impact your financial well-being and by paying attention to expert insight regarding changes to interest rates, you can better position yourself to improve your financial situation in the years to come.

Play It Safe

As you near retirement your planning should zero in on safer investments in general. The shorter your time horizon until retirement, the less you may want to have riding on things like stocks.

Stocks can be great for building long-term wealth, but they are also risky by nature. They are higher risk and higher reward.  It is when you near the time that you are ready to leave work that you will want to shift into investments that have less risk to them but can still afford you some return on your money. Moving into more guaranteed income vehicles, cash and interest baring accounts could be a better strategy. You may want to avoid risky investments that could leave your nest egg with a lot less money than you had expected to retire with.

Speak With Your Adviser

Understand that a professional financial adviser can help you create a plan that will last through your retirement and achieve your retirement planning goals.  He or she has the ability to really make an impact on your Golden Years.  We are here to help answer your questions as the market and our nations economy changes.

Monday June 25, 2018

Bucket List Retirement Trips

Summer seems to be the time to travel and the best thing about retirement is that you finally have time to travel.  Whether you want to see more of the United States or explore foreign lands, the following list will help you find the perfect adventure.

Go to Europe

Europe is still an attractive destination, offering history and beauty everywhere you look. It is also a very connected place that is easily traveled by rail. You can begin in Tuscany, Italy’s wine country, and continue on to Germany and France, where luxurious hotels and old-world cuisine awaits you. When planning your trip, consider finishing with a shopping spree on London’s famous Bond Street.

Take a Road Trip

If you prefer an old-fashioned road trip, go see the Grand Canyon. While it is often more of a family destination, it still has plenty to offer seniors and is close to Sedona, Arizona, where you will find comfortable accommodations complete with spa treatment at the end of the day. The next leg of your journey can take you to the California coast, known for its beaches and rugged beauty.  Have you ever driven the Pacific Coast Highway?  Breathtaking!  To see even more of America’s wonders, pick up old Route 66 in Los Angeles and drive all the way to Chicago.

Head to Australia

Visiting “down under” is not for the faint of heart because flying to this wild continent takes an average of 18 hours. From the modern form of the Sydney Opera House to the dry heat of the outback, Australia offers a cultural experience like no other. There are wineries, museums, restaurants and ranches to explore, and it is best to set aside at least a month for your visit. It could be one of the best trips you will ever take.

Visit China

After Australia, consider making China your next travel stop. Beijing offers Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City palace, which was built in the 15th century and housed the Ming and Qing dynasties. Shanghai has hundreds of wonderful restaurants and colonial-era buildings to spend time in. Of course, the Great Wall of China still stands today as one of the world’s most impressive and ambitious feats of architecture. If you are planning to visit China, ensure that you set aside a few days to walk the Great Wall and get a sense of its incredible history.

Enjoy a Cruise

Perhaps you would like to relax and let other people take care of you during your travels. A cruise is the perfect choice for those times when you do not want to drive or constantly fly, walk or take a train. You can stay in a luxurious room, enjoy five-star meals and take in the sights without having to worry about the details. If you prefer a quiet atmosphere, select a cruise that is for seniors only. There are many different cruise trips available to all parts of the world, and you can book your vacation online in minutes.

Retirement means your time is finally your own. Get the best out of your golden years by seeing as much of the world as you can.

Monday June 18, 2018

Social Security Depletion Timeline

Social Security has been a hot button topic for political pundits for decades. Many younger Americans fear that by the time they get to retirement age, the program’s funds will be so depleted that they will receive little, if any, benefits. A recent announcement from the Social Security Administration (SSA) proves that these fears are well founded. At the current pace, the program will become depleted before today’s younger generation reaches 62.

This makes retirement planning more important than ever. With the retirement trust fund being steadily drawn down, today’s working people need to make their own independent provisions for their golden years. Many retirement-plan options are available for workers, including tax deductible 401 (K) plans and IRAs. Investment firms are growing more innovative in offering diverse options that go beyond stocks and bonds. These accounts now offer precious metals, real estate, and private equity investment options. Considering the SSA’s announcement, these expanded options could be a great thing for many planning for retirement.

The crux of the announcement

According to the SSA, the combined trust funds for the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASDI) will, at the current pace, be depleted in the year 2034. Without action, which could take the form of raising taxes or cutting benefits, there will no longer be a reserve. At that point, benefit payouts could continue using the program’s current income. The SSA estimates that the income in 2034 will be sufficient to pay 79 percent of benefits.

Taking the OASI (Old-Age and Survivors Insurance) and DI (Disability Insurance) funds separately, the OASI trust fund’s depletion will occur in late 2034, with 77 percent of funds still payable, while the DI trust fund depletion will occur 2032, with 96 percent of funds still payable. Since last year, the overall depletion estimate for the OASDI remains the same. Taken separately, the OASI’s depletion timeline has moved forward slightly, while the DI depletion timeline has improved from 2028 to 2032.

Other insights

Despite the projected depletion of the trust funds, in 2017, the OASDI trust fund’s assets increased by $44 billion, to $2.89 trillion. The implications of this are unmistakable. The income of the programs at this point remains sufficient to continue paying benefits and building reserves. A clear change will likely occur before 2034 to reverse that trend and deplete the entire trust fund.

The SSA projects 2018 as the year this slow-wave financial tsunami will began. This year, the program’s cost will exceed income for the first time since 1982. The program will run in the red throughout the entire 75-year projection included in the report. It’s worth noting that the program has run a deficit of non-interest income since 2010.

The total 2017 income for the program was $997 billion. Of this, $874 billion came from payroll taxes, $38 billion from benefits taxation, and $85 billion from interest. Total SSA expenditures in 2017 were $952 billion. This includes $941 billion in benefits, plus the costs of administering the programs.

The number released in the report makes it clear that we have arrived at a critical point. More money will begin to flow out of the SSA than comes in. If the projections hold, serious problems will force a drastic change in policy by 2034. The SSA is encouraging Congress to take action now.

It seems commonsense that by taking action now, Congress can lessen the pain on workers and retirees in the future. Why suffer a sudden calamity down the road when we have time to prepare? Despite this, Congress has provided no clear guidance on what it plans to do to keep social security solvent.  Americans must not only be active in advocating for a solution, they must also be proactive in planning for their own retirements.  

Monday June 11, 2018

Don’t Ruin Your Retirement This Summer

Few Americans have employers that save for their retirements automatically. Pensions are going the way of the dinosaur. Therefore, Americans are required largely to save for their own retirements. This means that it’s important to make retirement savings a priority. This can seem like a boring life, and there may be a temptation to take a two-week trip traipsing around the French countryside; however, this is not really a good idea in most instances. Expensive vacations could derail your retirement plans. However, this does not necessarily mean that you  have to skip a vacation altogether. When starting retirement planning vacation options do not have to completely disappear.
Stay Close To Home
Depending upon where you live, it might be possible to take a short trip to a relatively local destination like a lake or an amusement park. Most Americans who take a vacation stay within a day’s drive of home. In fact, the vast majority of vacation travelers  drive to their destination. It’s likely that family or friends live close to your hometown, and staying with these connections might allow you to save on lodging during your trip.

To avoid destroying your dreams of retirement because of a family trip, it’s important to set a budget before leaving. The items that you’ll want to budget for are transportation, lodging, food and souvenirs. Some of these items could vary quite a bit. For example, are you looking to drive or fly to your ultimate destination? Are you staying with friends or in a hotel? Buying bread and meat for a sandwich will be cheaper than eating out for every meal. Choosing a hotel that has breakfast could save some money on food, as well. Knowing how much you’ll likely spend is an important step to ensure that vacation spending does not get out of control and that you’re still able to save for retirement.

Save Up
It’s usually a good idea to save up ahead of time for a vacation. After setting the budget, you could decide to set aside a given amount each week or month so that you can offset the cost before embarking on your trip. Otherwise, you’ll be more likely to make bad decisions such as putting off retirement savings or going into debt. Neither of these options is ideal, and they could wind up costing you in the long run.

Look For Discounts
Traveling during the off-season can be a great way to save money so that your retirement savings does not take a hit. If you have no kids in school, you can travel pretty much any time your boss will give you the time off. This could be September or October for beaches along the East Coast or in the Caribbean. Additionally, some hotels will offer deep discounts when they have a large number of rooms available. Looking for these discounts can go a long way toward making your vacation more affordable. Loyalty points can also offset the cost of your vacation. If you have enough miles or points, your flight, your lodging or both could be nearly free.

By taking these steps, you’ll make it less likely that you’ll need to raid your retirement savings to take a nice summer vacation for your family. If you’re getting closer to retirement, you might even want to take a retirement planning vacation to find a nice community in which to retire. This could involve a beach condo that you might want to rent for the winter or another option that would allow you to retire on your own terms.

Monday June 4, 2018

Thinking About Downsizing In Retirement? 

With the exception of those under 35 years of age, between 60 and 70 percent of the median household wealth in the US is tied up in home equity. Those within 10 years of retirement have about 40 percent of their net worth held outside of their home equity, and the number gets worse from there. All Americans who are older than 65 hold only 28 percent of their net worth outside of their homes. This is why it might be a good idea to start thinking about downsizing in retirement.
There are many benefits that come from choosing to downsize during your golden years. Here are a few:

Lower Utility Costs

One of the big expenses that comes from owning a home is the utilities that a homeowner uses up. On average, heating and cooling are the source of 42 percent of household energy costs. Less space will generally mean less expense in energy costs as long as a family maintains a home in the same geographic area.

Lower Property Taxes

Homeowners have to pay the government for the privilege of owning property. There are a few states that offer tax abatement for retirees, but most will still have to pay property taxes. By choosing to downsize, the value of the home will go down. Because the property taxes are tied to the value of the home, a less-expensive home will lead to a lower tax bill for retirees. This will allow more flexibility for living expenses.

Lower Insurance Costs

As long as a new home is located in the same general area, it’s likely that a home that’s less valuable will take less to insure on a yearly basis. Downsizing will therefore likely cut property insurance premiums. This cost savings should go into the planning equation for new retirees.

Less Housework

Cleaning can be a hassle for those who work on a daily basis. However, younger people will be better able to take care of a large house and a large yard. As people age, these tasks that used to be easy will start to become more difficult. A smaller yard and a smaller house will likely cut down on the difficulty of these tasks for retirees.

Access To Home Equity

Perhaps the biggest benefit of downsizing during retirement is the fact that it allows you to access home equity. If the bigger house is paid off, it’s likely that buying a smaller home with cash will lead to a nice windfall that could provide some residual income or a cash hedge against a drop in the market immediately after leaving the workforce.

Possible Negatives Of Downsizing

While downsizing can be a positive option, there are some negatives that come with including this option in your planning as a retiree. First, you might lose memories that are tied to a home. Additionally, there may be some hefty expenses that can come with downsizing. These could include some repairs or maintenance that you’ve deferred for a few years. While there can be savings in terms of taxes, utilities, and insurance, there may not be much equity left after paying off an older home so your immediate cash position may not see much improvement.

Monday May 28, 2018

What Keeps You Up At Night?

For millions of Americans, it’s the question of how they will fund their healthcare expenses in retirement, according to a recent poll by Franklin Templeton. With the high costs of care, hospitalization, pharmaceuticals, and nursing homes, these fears are well-founded, though they may be overblown.

With proper planning, healthcare costs in retirement are within the means of average and wealthy Americans, provided they are able to afford a Medicare supplement policy. Those who are unable to save for retirement because of illness or low income will go onto Medicaid. Millions of others will qualify for healthcare services and long-term care through the Veterans Administration, benefits that can go a long way to protecting a nest egg.

Though that should provide some comfort to Americans, planning for healthcare related expenses in retirement cannot be ignored. If a stress-free, comfortable retirement is your goal, you need to prepare for healthcare expenses, and it is never too early to start.

Worrying hurts your health

Stress damages health, so from that perspective, stressing out about healthcare costs runs counter to the whole purpose of healthcare. If you prepare ahead of time, there is little reason to worry about healthcare costs in retirement. But you have to understand how the Medicare system works and what you can expect to pay in out-of-pocket costs throughout your retirement. With the right amount for healthcare costs baked into your retirement plan, you can spend your time and energy on an exercise program instead of worrying about money, a habit that will keep you strong and healthy well into your golden years.

Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D

Part A was the original Medicare. It covers hospitalization. There are no monthly premiums, though a $1,340 deductible applies as of 2018. After 60 days of hospitalization, the patient becomes responsible for a $335/day coinsurance. After 90 days, the coinsurance goes to $670/day. After 60 more days, the patient’s coverage runs out.

The optional Part B covers doctor and treatment costs. Premiums vary based on location and other factors but average $134 per month. As of 2018, patients are responsible for a $184 deductible and 20 percent coinsurance. If you can afford a larger premium, you can consider Part C. Run by private companies, the so-called Medicare Advantage plans provide additional coverage options, such as vision, dental, pharmaceutical, and wellness programs. Part D covers prescription drugs.

Most retirees spend more on healthcare than at previous times in their lives

There’s no surprise here. The older we get, the more care we need and the higher the chances we will fall ill or get severely injured. We are also more likely to depend on prescription drugs.

For retirees who have enjoyed a strong suite of employer health benefits and are unprepared for retirement, the out-of-pocket cost difference can cause an uptick in the blood pressure. For retirement planning to be effective, it must budget for more out-of-pocket costs. With a 20-percent Part B coinsurance, many seniors can expect to pay several thousand dollars or more out of pocket each year. If you have long-term conditions requiring extensive care, it is easy to see how Part A and Part B out-of-pocket costs can eat away even a large nest egg.

Medicare Supplement Policies

To protect the assets you worked all your life to accumulate, you will need a Medicare supplemental insurance policy. The cost of this should be included in your retirement budget. Since a long-term hospital stay or chronic illness could send your medical bills into the five or even six figures, you stand to lose some or all of your assets if you do not protect them with a Medicare supplemental policy.

Since how much healthcare a person needs varies so greatly by the individual, estimating the actual out-of-pocket costs for your retirement years is difficult. Budgeting for Medicare supplemental policies can eliminate some of the guesswork. By some estimates, without a supplement, the average senior could face over $200,000 in out-of-pocket costs between age 65 and 90. For this reason, saving for out-of-pocket expenses and a supplement policy is essential. Also, retirement planning should factor in the costs of medical services and devices not covered by Medicare, such as hearing aids or customized orthotics.

Knowledge is power.  Right now, you likely have time to plan ahead for the “what-ifs” in retirement.  We are here to help you navigate the winding road of retirement planning.

Tuesday May 22, 2018

Retirement & Healthcare: The Fight Is Yours To Win

When you think of retirement, you probably think of a relaxing lifestyle free from the stresses of a 40-hour workweek. Life could instead get more stressful due to rising health care costs, which is one of the most expensive post-retirement costs seniors must endure. The current generation likely doesn’t have access to a union or employer-sponsored health insurance like the previous generation, significantly increasing the individual burden. The Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate, stated that couples age 65 or older need to have $280,000 saved for healthcare costs alone. It’s wise to start planning now, so that you can create a strategy and implement it.

One smart move is to use a health savings account as long as your current insurance plan qualifies you for one. This type of account allows you to add money tax-free and take it back out tax-free for medical and healthcare expenses. Nothing compares for tax purposes. You must have a “high deductible” health plan to have an HSA. The individual plan minimum is $1,350 or $2,700 for a family plan. The most you can put in an HSA is $6,900 for a family plan or $3,450 for an individual plan. Those over 55 are allowed an additional $1,000 in contributions. These limits can change from year to year.

Another option is to wait until you turn 65 to retire instead of at 62 because retiring means losing your employer-provided insurance. Once you turn 65, you’ll be eligible for Medicare to ease expenses. The majority of retirees use Medicare for their health coverage. Medicare Part A, the portion responsible for hospital insurance, is available to most retirees at no cost as long as they paid taxes into Medicare while they worked.

Medicare Part B is for hospital care, physical and occupational therapy, doctor’s services, and home health care in some cases. The costs for Part B coverage is income-dependent and can range anywhere from $109 to a maximum of $428.60 every month.

If Medicare is your only insurance provider, expect to pay out-of-pocket costs for what they don’t cover. Their services are limited. An option many take advantage of is to purchase a Medigap or supplemental policy to pay for services Medicare won’t.

Purchasing a Medigap policy gives you more freedom when selecting doctors and services, but you’ll pay a higher premium in exchange. You will also be responsible for handling cards for both companies and coordinating policies for maximum coverage. An alternative to this is to purchase Medicare Part C, which is essentially an all-in-one plan combining Parts A and B with prescription drug coverage.

If you’re 50 or older and still working, you are allowed to make additional catch-up-contributions to a 401(k) or IRA. The limit is $6,000 per year for retirement plans offered by your employer, or $1,000 for an IRA. Don’t forget that those in this age group are also eligible to add $1,000 on top of the yearly limit to their HSA to maximize tax benefits.

Combine these different options together to create a plan that fits your lifestyle and financial expectations. Planning gives you the advantage of knowing ahead of time what you can expect Medicare to pay, and what costs you’ll be responsible for paying. You can ease the financial burden on yourself by purchasing a supplemental policy, contributing as much as possible to your 401(k) or IRA, and utilizing the tax benefits of a health savings account. Take advantage of the catch-up contribution exceptions if you’re 50 or older to make your dollars stretch as far possible.

There is a lot to think about and plan for when it comes to retirement.  Contact us today to put that plan in place.

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