Researchers at Fidelity Investments, Boston, say boomer couples retiring without employer-sponsored health benefits will need more than $190,000 in savings to cover the cost of out-of-pocket medical expenses.
A survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Washington, found that 63% of boomer workers ages 45 to 54 have given little or no thought to the topic of paying for health expenses in retirement.
The obvious conclusion is that advisors who work with boomers have to go beyond persuading boomers to save enough to cover the cost of ordinary living expenses.
If you are a financial advisor serving moderately affluent baby boomers, how do you help them understand that, despite the existence of Medicare, they may have to save up enough extra cash to buy a second home just to pay retiree medical expenses?
If you are selling health insurance or retirement services to employers with large populations of boomer employees, what do you tell those employees?
Patricia Wiley, a partner in the New York office of Ernst & Young L.L.P., who helps write retirement planning guides, says the key is to respond to the natural evolution in attitudes that will occur as the younger boomers age.
“As boomers shift to over their 50th birthdays, there are more people who are interested in hearing about all kinds of retirement planning,” Wiley says.
Wiley has developed strategies advisors may be able to use to counter 5 common objections to retirement health savings recommendations.
1. “I don’t want to address the topic.”
When boomers simply don’t want to talk about retirement health issues, “you have to understand where they’re coming from,” Wiley says.
Some boomers who stick their heads in the sand may still think they will live forever, but others may be afraid of thinking about sickness and death, she says.
For financial advisors who work with couples and families, the best approach might be to start conversations between husbands and wives and between parents and children, Wiley says.
For employers, she thinks providing personalized health information may be the best strategy.
2. “I don’t know where to begin.”
To help boomers with this attitude, “give them a tool,” Wiley says. “A guide. Tell them where to begin. There’s a lot of information out there.”
3. “I don’t have enough money.”
Advisors never can deny boomers’ analyses of their situations, but advisors may be able to help boomers who would save for retirement health expenses if they knew where to get the cash.
Many boomers would be wise to reduce debt loads before embarking on ambitious new savings projects, but others, in better financial condition, could start by putting cash from raises into accounts earmarked for retiree health expenses, Wiley says.
Finally, giving health advice is never easy, but Wiley says advisors should look for tactful ways to encourage clients to lose weight and eat their vegetables.
“Taking care of yourself is an important part of financing and budgeting,” she says.
4. “I just have other priorities.”
In many cases, boomers who talk about “other priorities” are talking about the need to pay for their children’s education, Wiley says. “Most boomer parents don’t want their children to have any debt when they get out of college.”
In some cases, Wiley says, boomer parents should be asking children to shoulder some of the debt.
5. “I would act, but I’m uncertain about what will happen with Medicare, the federal tax system and other outside factors that could turn everything upside down before I retire.”
“Most people throw up uncertainty as a barrier,” Wiley says. “But the biggest barrier of all is not starting some place.”
For the youngest boomers, Wiley says, starting with contributions of as little as $10 per week could build a big retirement health nest egg.