Before retirement, give baby boomer employees a crash course in Medicare

By Kayla Webster is an associate editor of Employee Benefit News and Employee Benefit Adviser.  

For baby boomers, the phrase “I’ll be working till I die,” may provoke nervous laughter because it might actually be true. But it doesn’t have to be.

Aged 55 to 75 years old, many baby boomers have either stopped working or are seriously thinking about retirement. Yet, almost a third of baby boomers have no retirement savings at all, according to a report by the Stanford Center of Longevity. Those that do are still worried about medical costs; 57% of Americans aged 45 and over said healthcare costs are preventing their retirement, according to a TD Ameritrade study of 1,500 individuals. But employers are in a good position to guide baby boomers toward their retirement goals.

“As long as [baby boomers] have been in the workforce, they’re very familiar with the process of signing up for benefits — but Medicare and Social Security are a different ball of wax,” says Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at DirectPath, a Massachusetts-based benefits advisory company.

What are baby boomers focused on when it comes to retiring?
They’re kind of all over the place, and I say that as a baby boomer. Many of us are still working; many of us will be working till we die. And many of us are struggling with what I think Gen X is facing — we’re something of a sandwich generation, caring for children and aging parents at the same time.

Baby boomers are either retired or working on it. What can they do to ensure their financial security in retirement, and what role do employers play in that?
Now’s a good time as any to learn how to shop for healthcare, and employers can help by educating workers about their options. The No. 1 thing is don’t wait until the last minute. [They should] start thinking as early as possible about when they might want to retire and they should do their research. Decisions about Social Security and Medicare have repercussions in how much you receive or how much you pay in Medicare. The sooner you investigate your options the better off you’ll be.

I think the biggest fear for people is the cost of healthcare in retirement. I believe the estimate for 2019 is like $285,000 for a retired couple. That’s a big chunk of money to set aside, or plan for during retirement. Anything you can do to set aside money to fund that, and the sooner you can start, the better.

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