Factor health-care costs in retirement planning
Focus on diet, exercise, and budget during all stages of your working life.

IN a recent Jamaica Observer report, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton was reported as saying that stroke is the leading cause of death in Jamaica and represents "13.62 per cent of total deaths in the country".

The majority of stroke patients are over age 50 and up to 15 per cent of stroke patients are between the ages of 18 and 50 years old. These statistics should be of real concern to the nation. The working age starts primarily at age 18 and if young adults are diagnosed with strokes at this early stage it can have an impact on their earnings, productivity in the workplace, and the economic growth of the country.

Since planning for retirement should begin from the first pay cheque, no longer should young adults ignore the cost of funding health care, and since the propensity of being diagnosed with diseases increases with age, then health-care costs must be considered when planning for retirement. If the trend continues, the country will see more working adults being forced to retire due to the onset of diseases like strokes. How equipped are our working adults to take early retirement due to health conditions? Seniors may also be forced to retire earlier than planned. If health conditions worsen during the working years, especially if they are a few years from retirement, some seniors would love to stay longer in the workforce to maximise their savings and investment for the retirement years.

It is, therefore, important to focus on diet, exercise, and budget during all stages of the working life. Health insurance that covers non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and life insurance should be included in the financial plan. But more importantly, saving and investing early should be underscored. When employees leave jobs, especially prematurely due to illness or disability, oftentimes there are not enough funds saved to continue paying insurance premiums. If the premiums go unpaid, policies are prone to lapse, worsening the financial situation. Having a diversified financial plan consisting of assets that increase in value such as stocks, bonds, and real estate is important. Some people make the mistake of having all their investment funds in insurance-linked policies. This can prove a fatal error if job loss occurs, leading to extended periods of unemployment, which cause policies to be terminated due to non-payment of premiums. Investing for short-term and long-term goals should be a priority when putting a financial plan together. Some workers don't compute the long-term health-care costs of diseases and the impact it will have on their retirement lifestyle. The costs to treat these diseases are prohibitive and in-hospital rehabilitation is limited and costly.

Traditionally workers become concerned about their retirement when approaching their 40s. But it can become horrific for workers in their 40s and 50s to apportion a significant percentage of their income to NCDs that may set in during this phase with little or no savings allotted for retirement. NCDs can hinder the growth of pension contributions, but working adults and seniors can boost their income by availing themselves of online jobs. Social media has created opportunities for job creation.

Diabetes, cancer, and strokes are the main NCDs. Research shows that it's 20 per cent more likely for men and women with at least two NCDs to retire early. Therefore, retirement planning becomes even more important for all employees. Health and financial education should be twinned. The impact of healthcare costs on household income and savings can be severe. An Organization of Economic Development and Co-operation and Development (OECD) report revealed that women with diabetes are "12 per cent less likely to be employed, compared to women without diabetes". In Jamaica, 42 per cent of households are headed by females and females have a longer life expectancy than males, so you can understand the dilemma when that woman who heads her household is unable to work because of illness. The prevalence of NCD, meanwhile, is increasing at a faster pace for Jamaican women versus Jamaican men.

As the population ages, the growth of NCDs will increases rapidly. Financial literacy and a healthy lifestyle are the way forward to enjoy the retirement years."Retirement is wonderful if you have two essentials —much to live on and much to live for" — unknown.

Grace G McLean is financial Advisor at BPM Financial Limited. Contact her: gmclean@bpmfinancial. and visit the website: www.bpmfinancial.com. She is also a podcaster for Living Above Self. E-mail her at livingaboveself@gmail.com

Do you think about illness in your retirement plan? You should.

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