How to Avoid One of the Biggest Retirement Mistakes

Written by Danielle Kunkle

There are thousands of baby boomers nearing retirement every day. According to Investopedia, about 75% of these baby boomers admit to being behind on saving for retirement. The other 25% may soon come to realize that they aren’t as prepared as they thought they were.

They may come to this realization because most baby boomers are unaware of the fact that Medicare, although paid for during your working years, isn’t free.

Most new Medicare enrollees are surprised to find out that everything they have been paying towards Medicare was only for one part of Medicare, Part A. Once they calculate their potential costs for all the other parts of Medicare, they conclude that their savings aren’t as adequate as they thought.

So how do you avoid the biggest retirement mistake you could make? Simple, you need to plan. Follow the steps below.

Discuss Things Beyond Money with Your Financial Advisor

Now that you know that Medicare isn’t free, you need to discuss the costs of your healthcare in retirement with your financial planner.

Not only that, but you need to discuss with them how often you go to the doctor, what kind of lab work and tests you get on an annual basis, and anything else that might cause a divot in your savings. This may seem like too personal of a subject to discuss with a financial planner, but it’s necessary.

According to Fidelity, on average, a couple will need $280,000+ in retirement savings just for healthcare costs. Discussing your health status can help you and your financial advisor plan for potential expenses such as needing a Medicare Supplement plan or long-term care coverage.

Be Ready for the Unexpected

Never assume that your health will be in tip-top shape for the rest of your life. Yes, you may be healthy now, but that could literally change within a day. Similar to an emergency fund, set aside money in the chance that you become chronically ill.

Suppose you get diagnosed with cancer. Chemotherapy alone costs tens of thousands of dollars in one calendar year, not to mention the surgeries you’d need.

You’ll want to be prepared for an unexpected diagnosis just like this one. If you become ill, the last thing you will want to worry about is how you will be able to afford to fight for your life. Put the right coverage in place to protect yourself.

Plan for Possible Loss of Employment

We’d like to think that our place of work will always have a spot for us when we get into retirement age. However, ageism in the workplace is no myth. Sometimes, employers see the new, younger applicant walking in as the best person to take over a job you’ve been doing for years.

With more baby boomers planning to continue active work past the age of 65, the possibility of having your position taken away from you grows. Therefore, you should never bank on always having that biweekly check flowing into your account.

Have money set aside to replace your income if you were to lose it suddenly.

Set Up an HSA

An HSA is a health savings account. Having this account allows you to be able to put away money without having taxes being taken out of it. The purpose of this account is to help pay for qualified medical expenses.

As of 2019, the maximum contribution amount for an individual is $3,500, while the maximum contribution amount for families is $7,000. Those who have an HSA and are at least 55 years old is allowed to contribute up to $1,000 extra each year.

Qualified medical expenses you can use your HSA to pay for include but are certainly not limited to, hospital services, long-term care, dental and vision services, and even insurance premiums. You can also use your HSA to cover your immediate family member’s qualified medical expenses.

How to Set Up an HSA

To be eligible for an HSA, you must be enrolled in a qualified high-deductible insurance plan. Once you have that setup, you will be able to set up your HSA either through your employer or a bank.

Next best step is to have money be auto drafted from your checking account to your HSA. This will help you make sure you always have a steady flow of money going into your savings account.

Health Savings Accounts with Medicare

Having Medicare while contributing to your HSA is not allowed. If you enroll in any part of Medicare, you will no longer be legally allowed to contribute to your HSA.

Therefore, to continue to be able to contribute to your HSA past 65, you must delay enrolling in Medicare. The only way you can do this without having to pay a late penalty later is to continue to have creditable coverage.

The most common form of creditable coverage past age 65 is a large employer group health plan. If you continue to work for an employer with 20 or more employees and keep their group plan, you can delay Medicare and continue to contribute to your HSA.

Start Now

The biggest retirement mistake is just failing to plan ahead. If you haven’t been putting enough into savings, start now. Try to start at least doubling the amount you save monthly to try and make up for lost time. The more you can put away now, the better your retirement will be in the long run.