Investor Alert

Nov. 15, 2019, 10:26 a.m. EST

What do Bella Hadid, Lil Wayne and Tom Hanks have in common with each other — and you?

Mortality levels the playing field

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By Mitch Tuchman

TriStar Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection
Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.’

It’s easy to think of celebrities as being above it all. Yet they have human bodies and the same frailties we all face, particularly as we age.

The model Bella Hadid has Lyme disease. Rapper Lil Wayne is an epileptic. Actor Tom Hanks has Type 2 diabetes. The list of well-known people with chronic diseases is surprisingly long.

Hanks, not surprisingly, has a sense of humor about it.

“I went to the doctor, and he said, ‘You know those high blood sugar numbers you’ve been dealing with since you were 36? Well, you’ve graduated! You’ve got Type 2 diabetes, young man,’” Hanks told David Letterman on “The Late Show” in 2013.

“It’s controllable,” Hanks added. “Something’s going to kill us all, Dave.”

Chronic costs

Yes, something does kill us all. Increasingly, it might just be living a long time that really gets us in the end.

That’s because most Americans live long and healthy lives. The current life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.6 years. The reason most of us die are the basic diseases of advanced age: heart failure, cancer and so on.

Yet chronic health conditions also are normal as we age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the vast bulk of national health care budget — 90% of $3.5 trillion in annual health costs — is spent on “chronic and mental health conditions.”

Accordingly, one of the big problems of living longer is the dilemma of how to save enough while working to pay for health needs later on, in retirement.

Fidelity Investments estimates that a couple reaching the age of 65 can expect to spend $285,000 on health care in retirement. This number assumes both are eligible for Medicare and excludes the cost of long-term care.

Fidelity strongly advises its clients to better understand what Medicare will pay for and what it will not. The company also suggests using tax-advantaged accounts to save, defer Social Security and to seek solid financial advising.

Money priorities

In simple terms, you will need to save for retirement anyway, so it pays to get a good grip on what portion of that money is likely to be drained by health costs as you get older.

A good financial adviser can help you prioritize your saving and investing goals early, while you have time to grow your money prudently.

Paying for health care in retirement feels daunting, but remember this: The goal of financial planning is to properly assess your investment plans and get you on the right track. Health spending comes around eventually, so be sure the money you need is there.

Mitch Tuchman brings the low-cost, scientific investment approach used by elite pensions and endowments to everyday retirement investors through Rebalance. The firm manages retirement accounts with portfolios built by its Investment Advisory Board: Burt Malkiel (Princeton professor who wrote “A Random Walk Down Wall Street”), Charles Ellis (past chair of Yale’s Endowment) and Jay Vivian (ran IBM’s retirement funds). Follow Mitch on Twitter @MitchellTuchman.

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