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How Rising Health Care Premiums Impact Retirement Savings

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There’s a close connection between health insurance costs and retirement savings among working Americans that advisors may not be aware of.

When health care costs rise, many employees reduce contributions to their retirement savings as well as to other savings accounts, while others withdraw large amounts from their savings or delay retirement, according to a new survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald & Associates.

The online survey of 1,025 workers, ages 21 to 64, found that nearly half reported rising health care costs in the past year as a result of increased premiums or cost-sharing, the latter also known as out-of-pocket expenses.

One-quarter of those employees facing bigger health costs reported that they reduced contributions to their retirement savings accounts while 41% cut back on other savings. In addition, 30% of those workers delayed retirement, 17% borrowed or withdrew funds from their retirement accounts and about one-third withdrew most or all of their funds from another savings account or increased their credit card debt.

“Rising health care costs have implications for financial well-being,” the report notes.

They also have implications for workers’ satisfaction at their jobs.

Nearly three-quarters of employees surveyed cited health insurance as one of the top three most important factors in choosing whether to stay in their job or look for another one. Retirement savings plans and dental or vision plans followed, with 57% and 26%, respectively,  of respondents citing them among their top three job benefit considerations.

The report recommends that “plan sponsors that want to increase worker satisfaction can focus their efforts on helping employees navigate the broader financial pressures arising from health care needs.”

Such efforts can include “strong well-being support” to “help employees adjust for unexpected health care costs based on their personal situation,” as well as “voluntary benefits, such as hospital indemnity, accident insurance, critical illness insurance and cancer insurance.”


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