I met with a client recently who is in her 70’s and currently enrolled in Medicare. Her doctor recently retired, and she could not get her  important prescription medication refilled without her doctor signing off on the prescription. She was given a list of Doctor’s who accept medicare and her medicare supplemental plan so that she could begin searching for a new health care provider.

She called more than sixty doctors to try and find someone who was willing to accept new medicare patients. She said that most of them had said they were accepting new patients until she said she was enrolled in Medicare; then they explained that they are not accepting any more medicare recipients. As you could imagine finding a new doctor was very important because she needed to get her prescription medication refilled. Finally after several frustrating hours she called her insurance company and demanded that they find her a doctor who was willing to accept new patients.

In 2013 Fidelity Consulting estimated that the average couple, age 65, will spend $220,000 in health care costs in retirement. This does not include potential costs for long term care such as assisted living or nursing home costs.

I recently had the good fortune to interview Jean Setzfand for my weekly radio show, Jean is the vice president of financial security for AARP, and we discussed the subject of health care costs in retirement. AARP has recently created a new online interactive calculator that can help you estimate your personal out-of-pocket health care costs in Retirement. This calculator takes into account your age, finances and medical conditions. As your are planning for retirement be sure to take into account future health care costs. You can try AARP’s retirement health costs calculator by visiting  ww.AARP.org/healthcostscalc

Below are a couple of things to consider when getting ready to make the transition into retirement.

1) Find a young doctor who does not plan to retire any time soon. Make sure that you will be able to maintain that relationship as you transition into Medicare. Your retirement will likely last 20 years or more. It would be great if you had a team of professionals whom you trust that will be able to be with you for the long haul.

2) Be sure to fully fund a Health Savings Account. As long as you have a health care plan that qualifies, try to maximize your contributions to your HSA. This not only provides you with current year tax deductions but you can pull money out of this account tax free to cover health expenses in retirement. Once you have retired and are on Medicare, you can no longer contribute to an HSA.

3) Take better care of yourself now. An investment in one of our local gyms, hiring a personal trainer or starting a daily walking group is a small time commitment and small expense when compared with the high cost of poor health. How you live in your 50’s will define who you become in your 60’s and so on. You know the old saying an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. We prioritize what is important. Make this important.

4) Don’t Procrastinate. I’ll never forget the time I met with a woman who’s husband had developed Alzheimer’s. She told me that she and her husband were good savers, and had planned for the future and looked forward to a retirement full of travel. He developed Alzheimer’s before they were ever able to make a trip together. She said to me, “I can’t even leave my house to get an ice cream cone let alone think about travel.”

5) Develop a plan, and take action! Having a retirement plan provides confidence. It helps you to create scenarios and “what if’s” to get a better picture of your financial life in the future. Ultimately a plan allows you to have a greater sense of security.

A retirement plan is not a financial product. It is not an insurance contract. It is not a investment philosophy or an asset allocation. A retirement plan is not five star mutual funds with the lowest expense ratio. A retirement plan is not subscribing to more newsletters, a covered call options trading strategy or another rental property.

A good retirement plan can help provide clarity of purpose. A good retirement plan is flexible and recognized as a living document that will ebb and flow with your life overtime. A good retirement plan creates a greater sense of security and confidence. It takes into account your health and your family. It lets you decide your choices for independence.

Retirement may be within reach. It can be better than you imagined. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know because we haven’t been asking the right questions.