No matter how much you plan for retirement, there are certain things that will always remain unknown –such as the types of health issues you may face later in life and the health-care costs you will incur. While it is impossible to predict the future, there are things you can do to minimize the burden of future health-care costs. One way is to maximize the benefits you realize from Medicare.
Following are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to how Medicare will factor into your retirement plans:
- When it comes to Medicare, the magic number is 65, which is the age that you are eligible to begin receiving benefits. For individuals who aren’t yet collecting Social Security, there is a seven-month window during which you are able to enroll in Medicare. That window begins three months prior to the month of your 65th birthday and ends three months after the month in which you reach 65. Make sure not to miss this enrollment window, as doing so can open you up to penalties.
- Individuals who are still actively working at the age of 65, or who have a spouse still actively employed, do not have to enroll in Medicare during the enrollment period surrounding their 65th birthday and can, instead, continue relying on employer-based insurance coverage. Once you or your spouse stop working, however, you have eight months to enroll in Medicare, starting the month after your employer-based insurance terminates.
- For individuals who are already collecting Social Security at the time of their 65th birthday, Medicare usually kicks in the month that you turn 65.
- If you fail to enroll in Medicare during the window around your birthday or retirement, you will need to wait until the next annual open enrollment period, which runs from January 1 of each year until March 31 – a mistake that could leave you without coverage for several months if you aren’t careful.
If you are planning to retire before your 65th birthday, and will not have health-care coverage from your spouse’s employer-based plan or a private insurance plan, make sure to factor in basic health-care costs – as well as the likelihood of unexpected emergencies – into the amount you are setting aside for retirement. Typical costs to consider include not only well and sick visits and dental and vision care, but also costs for long-term care and assisted living.