Until recently, planning for retirement was a privilege most people with hemophilia didn’t get to have. That’s changed, thankfully, now that treatment advances have improved people’s quality of life and extended their lives.
“We used to think we were not going to live past our 40s and 50s. Now, we think we’re going to live long enough to see grandchildren grow up,” says Beth Merz, a social worker at the Johns Hopkins Hemophilia Treatment Center in Baltimore. “If your timeline gets extended due to improved treatments, you’ll need to live differently in all areas — financial life included. It has far-reaching implications.”
Experts recommend planning for retirement early in your career. But what if you are in your 40s or 50s and haven’t done much about it yet?
It’s never too late to start, says Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP, a financial planner and physician in Jacksonville, Florida, who specializes in financial planning for people with chronic illnesses and other health issues.
“When you have a chronic condition such as a bleeding disorder, it’s about much more than just saving for retirement,” McClanahan says. “You also need to make sure that you have good health insurance now; that if something bad happens, you have good disability insurance to pick up if you can’t work; and that when you do retire, good supplemental insurance will cover your medications.”
“The earlier you plan, the more money you can accumulate. But in your 40s and 50s, if you don’t start saving something, you’re going to run into a situation where you may never be able to quit working,” she adds.
Steps You Can Take to Prepare for Retirement
If retirement (or even semi-retirement) is looming large, here’s what
Look at Your Spending and Savings
“The biggest determinant of being able to retire is really how much you spend. If you spend $80,000 a year, that’s a lot easier to support than if you spend $300,000 per year,” McClanahan says, adding that a certified financial planner can help you assess whether you’re saving enough to support your spending. You can even hire someone on an hourly basis to get started, she says.
Divide Your Spending into Needs and Wants
You need a home and health insurance, but you may want to have dinner out three times a week. You may have to eat out less or spend less on discretionary purchases. “Pare back the things that are not bringing much value to your life,” McClanahan says.
Estimate How Much Steady Money You’ll Have Coming In
Assess your Social Security and pension options to see how much cash you’ll generate on retirement.
Decide Where You’ll Put Your Savings
“Contribute to an IRA or put money into a brokerage account,” McClanahan says, noting that if you don’t take advantage of benefits such as employee matching grants and health savings plans, you’re leaving money on the table.
Choose your Medicare plan wisely. McClanahan recommends staying away from Medicare Advantage plans, as they “don’t always cover what you need.”
Have an Emergency Fund
For someone with a chronic disease, she recommends putting aside a year’s worth of living expenses. “People who have illnesses often struggle between spending lavishly while healthy and having money for the future,” McClanahan says. “The good news is that it’s rare these days that anyone is going to die of hemophilia. You have to be prepared for living longer.”