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Health Costs Threaten Retirement Savings: Survey

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NU Online News Service, Nov. 20, 2003, 11:30 a.m. – A survey of U.S. workers finds that 73% say they are either somewhat or very concerned about how rising health care costs might affect their ability to fund their retirement and other financial goals.

More than two-thirds reported an increase in the share of expenses they pay for their health care benefits, says American Express Financial Advisors Inc., Minneapolis, which sponsored the survey.

The survey found 37% of those employees surveyed plan to cut back on the amount they set aside for savings and investing overall as a result of increased health care costs.

“We’re most concerned about employees making abrupt decisions to try and quickly fix their current financial situation, without taking into consideration the long-term impact to their retirement savings,” said Rusty Field, vice president, American Express Financial Education and Planning Services.

Financial advisors need to help employees understand their options to help them handle the higher health care costs without compromising their ability to save for the long term, Field adds.

Among other survey findings:

? 55% are reducing discretionary spending;

? 24% are cutting back on workplace benefits they receive at additional costs (such as contributions to a retirement plan or premium payments toward employer-sponsored life insurance);

?12% are switching to a less-expensive health plan, and 6% are dropping their health care coverage completely;

? 29% say that a significant increase in their health care costs would make them consider reducing their regular retirement plan contributions.