There are several key steps to take as you plan your retirement: dream it, by defining your goals for retirement; finance it by making a plan to save; and protect it, with estate planning. There’s one more important step and that is to stay fit for it, by thinking about your health care needs.

Thinking about your health care needs for tomorrow, really starts with thinking about a plan for taking care of your health today. Why? Because healthier younger adults are likely to be relatively healthier older adults. There are several reasons this happens.

Fitness benefits

First, maintaining a healthy weight, diet and exercise routine when you are younger can help stave off chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, that are more common among heavier, more sedentary adults. Secondly, developing these healthy habits early means you are more likely to maintain them as you age. Lastly, staying fit will not only allow you to enjoy life more, it can significantly lower the amount you might have to spend on health care as you age – from a lower monthly payment for your health insurance plan to years of savings on drugs or treatments that might not be fully covered by your plan.

Staying fit is also important for your ability to work now and in the future. Even if your employer offers generous sick leave benefits, poor health can start to limit the types of jobs you can do or your chance of getting promoted and earning more money. This can be even more of an issue if you want to or need to keep working past a typical retirement age of 65.

Ensure your health with insurance

With all these benefits to staying fit, it’s important to really have a plan for your health now and as you age. A great first step is making sure that you have a health insurance plan that generally suits your current health and realistic future risks. This means thinking about if you are at a high risk for a condition that might require preventative diagnostics or treatment. For example, if you know that you are at high risk for breast cancer, you might want to make sure that your plan will cover you for mammograms starting at an earlier age or at a greater frequency than the general population, and that it will cover you for any further treatment you might ultimately need.

As you approach the age of 65, it’s important to learn more about Medicare, the main health insurance plan for many seniors. The enrollment period starts three months before you turn 65 and ends three months afterwards so make a point of getting to know how the system works when you turn 64. This leaves you enough time to figure out what kind of supplemental coverage you might need and what is the right time for you to enroll in the program.

In addition to your basic health insurance coverage, you can look into maximizing some other health benefits, such as a health savings account. These accounts allow you to save on a tax-deferred basis for health expenses that may not be covered fully by your health insurance plan – eyeglasses are a common use, but some treatments like acupuncture or wellness massages might also be eligible.

Don’t forget a wellness plan

Once you’ve got a plan in place for covering your health care expenses, take some time to think about your current lifestyle. Are you generally eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise and sleep? And don’t forget about managing your stress levels – this is a big challenge for many people. Stress has been shown to have many negative impacts on our mental and physical health so it’s worth some attention to see if there are small changes you can make to reduce stress in your life. Health insurance plans are increasingly covering some portion of exercise expenses like gym or yoga studio memberships, as well as alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, massage therapy or chiropractic treatment. And some stress reducing techniques, such as mindfulness and meditation, are free.

While Medicare doesn’t cover most alternative therapies, you may be covered for some alternative treatments under specific circumstances. At this time, Medicare doesn’t cover massage therapy, even in instances when it’s prescribed by your doctor. Medicare Part B covers adjustments to your spine performed by a chiropractor. If you have a diagnosis of a slipped bone in your spine, you may be eligible for medically necessary chiropractic treatments. According to Medicare’s policies, you’ll still be responsible for 20 percent of the treatment’s cost, as well as your Medicare Part B yearly deductible.

It may help to remember that every step you can take toward your well-being now is likely to pay off in the future by allowing you more flexibility to live your life as you wish while you age and lowering your health care costs at the same time.

GE-5473204.1 (03/2023) (Exp. 03/2025)