Lifetime health care expenses jump for workers retiring in 2019

The costs of living comfortably in retirement continues to rise for Americans – particularly where health care is concerned.

According to a new study conducted by financial services firm Fidelity Investments, a 65-year old couple retiring this year will spend about $285,000 in health care and medical expenses throughout retirement – and that assumes both individuals are eligible for Medicare coverage. That figure compares to a $280,000 Fidelity projection for 2018, and $275,000 for 2017. About ten years ago, Fidelity's health care cost estimate for retirees was $240,000.

For single retirees, health care-related costs for the current year are estimated at $150,000 for women and $135,000 for men.

“Paying for health care – before and in retirement – continues to be top-of-mind for Americans, and understandably so as it’s a cost that can vary significantly by individual and is difficult for many to predict,” Hope Manion, senior vice president for Fidelity Workplace Consulting, said in a statement.

On the plus-side, out-of-pocket Medicare costs have leveled off.

A recent study found that even when people have the option of saving to fund their overall retirement expenses through a workplace plan, they still fall short of target savings ranges to sustain a full-retirement by the age of 65. Researchers found that because households weren’t reaching target goals, some could face a “crisis.”

But for younger Americans, saving the necessary amounts is doable.

A 35-year old couple, for example, could reach the $285,000 health care threshold by stashing away $2,820 each year into a health savings account (HSA) – a strategy recommended by Fidelity.

An HSA is an account where an individual contributes pretax dollars for the explicit purpose of spending those funds on future medical expenses. Money grows tax-free, and no taxes are imposed on contributions or withdrawals (so long as the funds are taken out for qualified medical expenses). HSAs can be used to cover everything from dental, vision and prescription costs to Medicare premiums.

For pre-retirees who need some extra advice, Fidelity recommends the following:

- Learn what Medicare covers – and what it doesn’t

- Maximize benefits to tax-advantaged savings accounts, including 401(k) accounts and HSAs


- Consider delaying taking your Social Security benefits to as close as 70 as possible. That strategy could add up to a lifetime income stream up to 32 percent higher compared with those who don’t wait until 70 to claim.

- Find out what benefits, if any, an employer offers in retirement.

- Consult a financial professional