For Mark Roberts’ Use: You expect to retire around age 65, perhaps even later, but sometimes things don’t work out as we had planned. In fact, 7 of 10 current retirees stopped working before they reached their 65th birthday. Sometimes an early retirement is intentional, but often the decision is forced upon us by illness, disability, or a poor job market. And since you’re not eligible for Medicare until you turn 65, an early retirement could leave you without healthcare coverage.

Once upon a time, large companies provided healthcare benefits to retirees. But like pension plans, retiree healthcare benefits are rapidly disappearing due to rising costs. Only about half of large companies currently offer these benefits, and the numbers are dwindling each year.

With retiree healthcare benefits going the way of the dodo bird, you could find yourself in a bit of a pickle if you need to retire before the age of Medicare eligibility. You can shop for your own health insurance policy through the exchange established by the Affordable Care Act. However, you should remember that your premiums could vary wildly depending upon your state of health, and your retirement plan should take these expenses into account. Plan carefully to pay insurance premiums, plus deductibles and co-pays, for the years before you reach age 65. Keep in mind, too, that premiums generally rise a bit each year.

If you’re considering an early retirement, watch your mail closely for notices from your company’s human resources department. If your company does drop retiree health benefits, you should consider that change when creating your retirement budget. And as always, give us a call if you have any questions about retirement. We can help you create ways to bridge the Medicare gap, or discuss solutions for any other dilemmas you face.