Biggest Shock for Retirees Is Health Care Cost

More than half of middle-income seniors say care cost more than they expected, Bankers Life survey says

For middle-income retirees, health care and the costs associated with it are a major theme in their retirement. A survey released July 11 by Bankers Life and Casualty Co. Center for a Secure Retirement asked retirees what they had learned since they’ve retired, and health care-related issues were a big surprise.

More than half of retirees said health care cost more than they expected in retirement, and 33% said their prescriptions were more expensive. However, it seems many retirees underestimated the cost of basic expenses overall. Forty-one percent said groceries cost more than they thought they would and 38% said transportation costs were higher than expected.

Retirees seem to have a pretty fair assessment of their tax burden, however. Just 2% said they were paying more in taxes than they thought they would when they retired.

Although 55% of retirees said they were paying more for health care than they thought they would be, almost a quarter said they were surprised by how healthy they are. Unfortunately, the second most common surprise retirees said they encountered after retiring was unexpected health issues (18%).

While traveling was most often cited as retirees’ top goal, other goals demonstrate that health and wellness is top-of-mind. Twenty-one percent of retirees said improving their health was a top goal, and 15% said they would like to lose weight or get physically fit. Improving their financial security ranked No. 10.

The survey was conducted in April by The Blackstone Group for Bankers Life and Casualty. The firm surveyed 300 retirees between 55 and 75 with an annual household income between $25,000 and $75,000.

The current survey,“Listening to Middle-Income Americans: Health and Happiness,” is part of a larger series on middle-income retirees. An earlier survey, released in June, focused on advice retirees would give younger generations.

The most important piece of advice current retirees would give to younger generations was to save for the future. Nearly 40% said saving was the most important thing young people could do. However, other tips were more philosophical. The second and third most common tips retirees said they would pass on were to be happy and to live life to the fullest.

Regarding retirement specifically, retirees again stressed the importance of saving. Almost all respondents said young people should start saving early, and 84% said they should contribute to their employer's retirement plan. Just 37% suggested younger generations should get professional advice when planning for retirement.

Other advice included investing conservatively (39%), living frugally (30%) and working for as long as possible (22%).

The high value retirees place on saving is no surprise, considering the topic they wish they knew more about is how to make their money last. One-quarter said they wanted more information about maximizing their returns. Of their top 10 concerns, though, four were regarding health or health-related issues. Health insurance and Medicare was the second most common topic retirees wanted to know more about. Healthy aging was No. 5, followed by health care and health care costs. 

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