Various surveys of estate planners and their clients are conducted on either an annual or an ad hoc basis. While they reveal a lot about the nature of financial decisions, one thing they consistently show is that people facing retirement are primarily concerned about health care — both its costs and its effects.
In fact, for many people, being able to pay for health care in their old age is virtually synonymous with saving for retirement. According to the latest annual Merrill Lynch wealth survey, 74 percent of those surveyed say they are worried about having enough money to retire on, while an almost identical number, 73 percent, say they’re concerned about having enough money to pay for their health care costs in retirement.
These concerns don’t disappear just because people are wealthy. Spectrem’s Millionaire Corner surveyed strictly millionaires and found that more than half of them — 52 percent — said they were worried about spending their last years in a care facility. Nearly as many said they were worried about needing someone to take care of them in their old age.
The Merrill Lynch survey broke down answers between people who earned more than $250,000 a year and those earning less than that. Those with more assets actually worried more about paying for the health care in retirement than the less affluent did. While only 37 percent of the lower earners said health care expenses were their prime worry in retirement, 52 percent of the top earners cited them as a primary concern.
When asked what their biggest concern was in regards to living a long life, the most frequently cited answer, given by 72 percent of the respondents, was having serious health problems. When asked what they most wanted beyond core advice from their financial advisor, 75 percent said help with sorting through health care and long-term care options. Clearly, health is the biggest worry that everyone, rich or poor, has in their golden years.
But their health concerns extend beyond their own well-being. Another recent survey, conducted by the National Endowment for Financial Education, found that 70 percent of adults said they found it difficult to talk to their family members about who will be entrusted with making decisions for incapacitated or aged relatives.