If there's one aspect of retirement that tends to worry working Americans and seniors alike, it's the need to cover the cost of healthcare. After all, you can keep your housing expenses down by living in a modest house, and shave money off your food bills by clipping coupons and dining at home. But healthcare is the one thing you really have no control over.
You never know when you might get hurt, fall ill, or encounter an unexpected medical issue that's more expensive than you could've imagined. And since skimping on healthcare generally isn't advisable (nor is it an option in most cases), it's no wonder the idea of paying for it in retirement has so many folks stressed. Throw in the fact that the average healthy 65-year-old couple today is projected to spend a whopping $400,000 on medical costs throughout retirement -- not including long-term care, mind you -- and it's a clear recipe for an unwanted dose of financial anxiety.
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Given that medical care is an expense all retirees will eventually face, coupled with the fact that a good 70% of seniors will end up needing some form of long-term care in their lifetime, one thing is clear: It pays to retire someplace where healthcare is affordable and easily accessible. GOBankingRates recently compiled a list of the best and worst states for senior care, and here are the ones that stood out.
Best states for senior healthcare
There's no avoiding healthcare in retirement, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't aim to keep your out-of-pocket costs as low as possible. Here are 10 states where medical care doesn't have to cost you a fortune:
Not only do these states offer relatively affordable healthcare to seniors, but they also sport a low cost of living overall.
Worst states for senior healthcare
While healthcare is only one factor to contemplate when deciding where to retire, you wouldn't be crazy to rule out certain states based on the cost of medical care alone. Here are 10 states where healthcare is more likely to eat up a large chunk of your nest egg:
Not surprisingly, the bulk of the worst offenders are East Coast states, which are notoriously expensive to live in. And while seeing North Dakota up there is unexpected, it stands to reason that medical care would be pricey in Alaska and Hawaii, since everything else is.
Prepare for the costs that lie ahead
While retiring in a state with lower-cost healthcare can help keep your expenses down as a senior, you'll still need to prepare for those costs during your working years so that they don't overwhelm you in retirement. You can start by building the largest possible nest egg to increase the amount of income you have available as a senior, and the earlier you begin setting money aside, the better.
Here's an illustration of what your savings might grow to depending on when you first begin funding an IRA or 401(k):
As you can see, waiting until your 40s or 50s to start saving for retirement can really hamper your long-term efforts and results. On the other hand, if you give yourself a sizable savings window, your nest egg will benefit in the long run. Case in point: Saving $400 a month for 40 years will leave you with $958,000 -- and at an out-of-pocket cost of just $192,000 to boot.
Another smart way to plan for medical expenses in retirement is to sign up for long-term care insurance when you're younger. Not only will this increase your chances of getting approved, but you may qualify for a health-based discount that makes your premiums far more affordable. In fact, over 50% of applicants aged 50 to 59 end up snagging lower rates based on their health, but that figure drops to 24% among folks who apply in their 70s.
No matter where you choose to retire, be sure to put some thought into the healthcare costs you'll eventually come to face as a senior. Even if you enter retirement in the best possible shape, there's no avoiding medical expenses as you age, so the more prepared you come in, the better off you'll be.
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