THE BLOG
12/03/2013 04:58 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2014

3 Steps Women Can Take to Stop Stressing About Health Care Costs

I'm the worrier in our household. I worry about money, the future, my retirement and my family's health, including my own. And (as if those weren't enough to worry about already), as the national conversation about affordable health care continues, I have now added paying for healthcare in retirement to my list, too.

I have a feeling I'm not the only one who worries about affording health care. But perhaps, like many of our other anxieties, we have good reason to be concerned; health care as we age actually costs women more than it costs men. A 2012 study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) revealed that retired women spent an average of $152,000 on healthcare compared to $124,000 spent by retired men -- a $28,000 difference. On top of that, women are more likely to need long-term care, an expense only partially covered by Medicare.

While we can't control how long we live, which conditions we may develop or exactly what our healthcare will cost, there are some steps women can take to reduce this worry. Clarity about costs, having a plan and understanding and seeking preventative care can help you feel more in control.

1. Research and understand health care costs. Understanding your true future expenses -- health care and otherwise -- is one of the first steps to a solid retirement plan. While health care expenses may be a moving target, calculating a reasonable ballpark figure to plug into your plan and saving for this goal specifically can help give you peace of mind. Also research Medicare so that you can understand what will and won't be covered after you leave the workforce.

2. Include health care expenses in a financial plan. Once you have an idea of what your future out-of-pocket healthcare expenses might be, address your savings and insurance needs now and in the future. Adjust your budget to help save as much as you can for retirement (health care costs and otherwise), and think about how you may tweak your retirement plan to accommodate for medical costs. Consider Long Term Care insurance as a way to help fund some potential expenses that may arise in the future.

3. Take care of yourself. While certain health conditions are bound to occur as you age, taking preventative action early on can help you reduce your healthcare expenses and needs over the long term. You've heard this advice before, but you may not have thought about the positive impact good health can have on your personal finances; a good diet, regular exercise, plenty of sleep, and a low stress lifestyle can pay off financially now and in the future.

Worrying about our future and the people and things we care about is human nature. But there are ways you can take control. Stop stressing and start taking small steps toward getting a handle on affording healthcare costs in the future.