Workers Clueless about Retirement Health Care Costs

May 4, 2011 ( - A Sun Life Financial Unretirement Survey suggests that over nine in ten American workers either have no idea what their health care costs are likely to be in retirement, or underestimate those costs when compared to conservative industry estimates.

Forty percent of those polled claim to have “no idea” what their retirement health care costs would reach, and only 8% estimate that their costs will reach $200,000 or more, according to Flying Blind: How Working Americans View Healthcare Costs in Retirement. Forty-three percent of those polled said they feel “not at all confident” and only 9% feel “very confident” in their ability to meet health care costs in retirement. This sentiment pervades all ages, with half of workers in their fifties “not at all confident” in their ability to meet health care costs in retirement.  

A press release said nearly three-fourths of American workers lack plans to cover health care costs in retirement. That includes workers approaching age 65: Only 30% of workers in their fifties have established plans to meet future health care costs, and 40% of workers in their sixties have adopted plans.   

The survey found that although three quarters (75%) of American workers with more than $250,000 in assets feel some level of confidence that they can meet health care costs in retirement, only a quarter (26%) of those respondents have established any plan for meeting those costs.   

When asked if concerns over meeting future health care costs have prompted them to adopt a change in lifestyle (such as improved diet and exercise, quitting smoking, or reducing stress) over half of respondents (53%) reported making lifestyle changes, with 12% saying they have made “major changes.” These preventative measures transcend age groups with even 45% of thirty-somethings having made health and lifestyle changes to reduce future long-term health care costs.   

Americans with household income over $175,000 (28%) are far less likely to have made such changes than less affluent counterparts (51% for those earning $100,000-150,000).   

The survey report is here.