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Think What You Could Do With Half a Million Dollars in Retirement

Take the Orient Express! Trek in Bhutan! Pay for health care!

The projected tab for an average, healthy 65-year-old couple retiring this year, in lifetime premiums for Medicare Parts B and D and supplemental insurance, is $288,000, according to the HealthView Services 2016 Retirement Health Care Costs Data Report.1 Add in out-of-pocket expenses, including dental, hearing, and vision care, and the bill reaches $377,412.

That's in today's dollars. You want it in tomorrow's? Adjusting for inflation, the report projects the lifetime premium costs at $435,472. Add in deductibles, copayments, hearing, vision, and dental, and it's $567,903.

Millennials and Gen Xers, this means you, too. If you need more motivation to save for retirement, flipping through the 16-page report will do it. You'll find memorable facts2 like these: 

  • A 65-year-old couple retiring this year would need 57 percent of their Social Security payments just to cover their health-care expenses. For a couple 10 years younger, with plans to retire in 2026, that jumps to 88 percent. For a 45-year-old couple, it's 116 percent.3 Younger people can do the ugly extrapolation from there.
  • From 2015 to 2016, retirement health-care costs are projected to jump 7.3 percent, partly because of a 16.1 percent rise in monthly Medicare Part B premiums (for doctors and preventive services) over that period, from $104.90 last year to $121.80 this year.
  • A 30-year-old woman who retires at 65 will face about $119,000 more in expenses than her male counterpart, the report forecasts. That's based on women living until age 91 and men living until 87. The figures, in today's dollars, are $548,098 for women and $429,466 for men.
  • For someone who retires this month, HealthView expects health-care inflation to average just over 5.1 percent annually for the next two decades. But "since supplemental insurance premiums are age-based, future retirees could face an additional annual 4.5 percent increase (or more) for supplemental plan coverage," the report said. 
  • The state you live in plays a big part in your Medicare Part D coverage (for prescription drugs) and cost. HealthView took costs based on the latest projections from the most popular supplemental plan, Plan F. It found, for example, a gap of 49 percent between premiums for the insurance in Hawaii and Massachusetts. The tally in Massachusetts for a 55-year-old retiring at 65 and living to 89 is $116,790. In Hawaii, it's $173,583. 
  • With lowered thresholds for Medicare means testing, starting in 2018, wealthier retirees will face increased surcharges on Parts B and D based on their modified adjusted gross income (yes, the acronym is MAGI). "Since the levels are not currently indexed to inflation," the report says, "as salaries grow over time many middle-class retirees may eventually fall into upper MAGI brackets and face even higher surcharges."      

Well, it's upward mobility, anyway.

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  1. 1 For those who are happily unaware of the different parts of Medicare: Part B covers doctors and preventive services; Part D covers prescription drugs. Supplemental insurance, sold by private companies, helps pay for some health-care costs not covered by Medicare, including copayments and deductibles.
  2. 2 HealthView Services bases its projection on "50 million actual health-care cases and a wide range of additional data sources." The company's data and applications are used by financial advisers to estimate health-care costs in retirement for clients.
  3. 3 Based on the Social Security Trustee's projections of a 3.1 percent cost-of-living adjustment next year and 2.7 percent after that.