No one wants to get sick, but the fact of the matter is that as we grow older, our bodies become more susceptible to serious and chronic illnesses. Depending on how we lived, where we lived, our genetic predispositions, and, sometimes, plain old luck, a good portion of the population eventually deals with a serious illness after age 50.
Thankfully, due to modern medicine and technology, we're able to live much longer than our grandparents from only 40 years ago, but with that advancement comes a cost. The price of medical cures and treatment have grown astronomically, and in many situations, the cure can financially be much worse than the original sickness one came down with. Many seniors and even older working persons face the very real possibility that an illness can wipe out all their savings, even pushing them to bankruptcy when the treatment costs hit. That said, there are things you can do to lessen or potentially avoid the hit before the illness occurs.
1. Health Insurance
A solid, comprehensive health insurance plan is a must. If you're still working, your employer is probably providing for that plan as part of your benefits. Even so, you may want to research and confirm how to take it with you into retirement. All of us are required to shift to Medicare at a certain age, so you will want to research how your plan or options will change when this shift occurs.1 In any case, insurance is a must and the primary safety net to offset most costs. Keep in mind, though, that it won't cover everything and may limit treatments that might otherwise be more effective.
2. Long-Term Care Insurance
If you have the option to sign up for Long-Term Care (LTC) insurance, you might want to consider it. This is a true contingency health plan, as many may never have a need to call on LTC support. This coverage provides for care and support outside the initial treatment. For critical accidents and illnesses that may incapacitate a person for a long time, this is a second critical piece in the financial puzzle that folks can secure at a younger age since costs are usually far less than when trying to sign up at an older age. And there's an added benefit: the costs of LTC may be tax deductible.2
3. A Health Savings Account
A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a tax shelter that allows you to take pre-tax money each year and save it for medical expenses.3 If the expenses are valid, the HSA money saved goes directly to covering out-of-pocket costs from co-pays for pharmaceuticals. This is a key tool people need to use when dealing with the gap between out-of-pocket expenses and when Medicare coverage kicks in each year.4
4. Workplace Disability and Social Security Benefits
If an illness renders you disabled, you may be eligible for government and/or employer-paid benefits, so use them.5 Many people don't, feeling embarrassed that somehow they will become welfare recipients. This is baloney. You paid for these benefits out of your payroll withholdings, so you have every right to claim these funds when you're sick.
5. Save, Save and Save Some More
Despite all of the above, there will still be medical expenses that slip through. You don't want those to go on a credit card, the common debt-creating alternative most people use in a panic. Plain old cash savings and investments are the glue and gap-filler that give you the ability to deal with all the miscellaneous costs that arise when you are sick. They also protect you from having to raid your retirement accounts for the same reason. Just saving regularly for 30 or 40 years builds a nice nest egg and safety net that you are in full control of.
Illness and sickness happen; it's a predictable consequence of human aging. But you don't have to be a train wreck financially when it is time for treatment. Follow the five tips above, and you've fought half the battle before your sickness ever shows up in that first doctor's visit.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.