Retirement is something we all dream about. We often envision it as a well-deserved reward after a lifetime of hard work. We imagine it as a time of rest and relaxation, golden years of worry-free ease.
The reality is far different for the majority of us. Studies show, for example, 23% of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, while 1 in 3 has no retirement savings at all.
When you have a chronic illness, however, the situation can be even worse. Chronic illness is a tremendous drain on finances. And if you are among the 6 in 10 adults in the US who have one, then your diagnosis can make preparing for retirement that much more challenging.
Why It Matters
The reality is that chronic illness isn’t just a random occurrence that affects an unfortunate few. Studies show that more than ⅓ of all Americans experience what is referred to as “multimorbidity,” which means that they suffer not one chronic condition but multiple.
And the economic impacts of multimorbidity can be profound, especially when it comes to preparing for retirement. Research indicates that people with two or more chronic health conditions spend five times more on out of pocket medical costs than those without a chronic health condition, while those with three or more chronic illnesses face ten times the out of pocket costs.
Those expenses can lead workers to delay their retirement, even if it means compromising their health. For people with multiple chronic illnesses, this decision to continue working can have severe repercussions for their health, leading to complications that not only decrease their overall quality of life but also exacerbate the burden of medical debt.
What Is to be Done?
The problem may be significant, but it is not hopeless, however. Whether you are currently facing one or more chronic illnesses, or you are simply looking to prepare for any contingencies, it is possible to enjoy a happy retirement, no matter your health situation.
The first step, of course, is simply to have a strategy in place. That means stopping the procrastination and starting the savings. Your retirement savings strategy, moreover, needs to include a buffer for the possibility of accident or illness. After all, you don’t know what your future self is going to need. And security often comes through hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
If you have a chronic illness, and especially if you are considering early retirement due to your health, you still have many options. For example, you may qualify to have your medical debt reduced or even forgiven. Research out to your creditors or, better still, contact an attorney to negotiate terms on your behalf.
Likewise, take some time to do your research on other resources that may be available to you. The Social Security Administration can be a particularly helpful resource for understanding your benefits, your options, and the services and support that may be available to you, both before retirement and after.
Living with a chronic illness is challenging in the best of circumstances. But chronic illness does not have to derail your plans for a healthy and happy retirement. It’s important to plan, be as prepared as possible, and take advantage of all the resources that are available to you. After all, you’ve earned it.