Fidelity Investments predicts a typical 65-year-old couple that retires this year will need about $215,000 just to cover out-of-pocket costs for acute medical care costs in retirement. That figure does not include the cost of long term care.
Researchers at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Washington, estimate a typical affluent couple will need $295,000 to pay for lifetime access to employer-sponsored retiree health benefits, if the employer requires the couple to pay the full cost of the coverage.
But what if an advisor’s boomer client uses expensive hearing aids, or expects to have a major organ transplant, or has four grandparents who still clip their own hedges even though they are 110?
Boomer advisors have many tools they can use to predict how boomers’ investment portfolios might fare under various conditions, but they have fewer tools to predict how boomer clients’ medical expenses might vary.
Today, though, “it’s the number one area that baby boomers are concerned about,” says Ron Mastrogiovanni, president of WorldCare North America, a unit of WorldCare International Inc., Cambridge, Mass.
Many boomer advisors simply look at the Fidelity and EBRI cost averages and add a fudge factor for clients who appear to need unusually expensive care or appear to be likely to live for an unusually long time.
Getting more accurate acute medical care cost information could be helpful, retirement planners say. As of now, they explain, there are no insurance products or savings products linked to catastrophic insurance products that are aimed at prudent, affluent boomers who want to take care of post-retirement health care costs before they retire.
Instead, planners say, consumers must use conventional savings products, Medicare and supplemental insurance products with prices that change at an unpredictable rate each year, and other products to fund post-retirement health care on an ad hoc basis.
WorldCare is one of the companies trying to give boomers, and their advisors, more information about how much boomers’ medical care might cost.
The firm has hired actuaries, financial services experts and others to develop a short questionnaire and software program that can predict how much boomers are likely to spend out of pocket each year on taking care of their eyes, ears, teeth and prescription needs.
The resulting forecast “is not a generic number,” Mastrogiovanni says. “It’s a very specific, personal number.”
WorldCare is marketing the health cost forecasting system to insurance companies, securities and brokers, and other financial services firms and companies can customize the system to incorporate assumptions based on the types of products those companies actually sell, Mastrogiovanni says.
Advisors can adjust many different product assumptions, such as assumptions about investment returns, to accommodate concerns about the stability of Medicare, but the current version of the system assumes the Medicare program will continue to operate in the future about how it continues to operate today, Mastrogiovanni says.