MONEY Social Security

The Real Reason Social Security Won’t Be There

Congress won't cut your monthly check to shreds, but rising health care costs may well do the job.

You may be worried that Social Security will disappear by the time you retire. It won’t. Here’s the real problem: In 10 years the typical payment won’t be enough to cover medical bills for most middle-class retirees, according to a recent analysis by data tracker HealthView Services.

This scary prospect is the result of simple math. Healthcare expenses are projected to rise 5% to 7% a year, while Social Security cost-of-living increases are expected to grow just 2% annually, says Ron Mastrogiovanni, CEO of HealthView.

A healthy couple who retires a decade from now will need their entire Social Security paycheck just to cover their healthcare expenses, up from 69% today, according to HealthView’s Retirement Health Care Cost index. In 20 years, it won’t even be enough: Healthcare costs will equal 127% of the typical Social Security check.

HealthView’s calculations take into account Medicare premiums, supplemental Medicare plan payments and services Medicare doesn’t cover such as dental and vision care.

Related: How does Social Security work?

One potentially expensive item that isn’t factored in: Long-term care costs. An estimated 70% of people over 65 will need some kind of long-term care to help with the tasks of daily living, such as dressing or bathing. Long-term care isn’t covered by Medicare, and it can be very expensive—the median cost of a home health aide is $45,000 a year, while a private nursing home room averages $87,000 a year according to the Genworth 2014 Cost of Care survey.

Of course, these numbers are just averages and your actual costs will vary widely, depending on your health and where you live. And there’s no way to accurately predict what your health care needs will be as you age. But there are a few tools that can help you develop a rough estimate. HealthView just launched a basic healthcare expense calculator that you can use to gauge your out-of-pocket expenses when you retire based on your current health status. For a more informed estimate, try the Livingto100.com calculator, which lets you add data about your family history, marital status, income and exercise habits.

Build healthcare expenses into your retirement spending plan, and you won’t have to worry as much about whether Social Security will be enough for you.

 

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