Still Dreaming of Early Retirement?

In spite of all your best laid plans, there may be a glitch in your retirement dreams. If you retire early, before you would qualify for Medicare, you may be looking at a costly gap in your health insurance. If you figure you will simply keep the coverage you have from your employer, think again. The nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) recently examined data for private-sector establishments to answer the question: How many employers offer retiree health benefits to early retirees? Here’s what EBRI found:

  • Overall, 444,150 private-sector establishments offer health benefits to early retirees, or about 11.2 percent of the total.
  • Large employers are much more likely to offer retiree health benefits than small employers; 34.5 percent of employers with 1,000 or more workers offered them, compared with 1.2 percent of employers with fewer than 10 workers.
  • Of the 984,697 employers with 1,000 or more workers, the 34.5 percent account for 339,720 employers that offered early retiree health benefits.

While these statistics don’t boost your confidence in your plans to rely on your employer, keep in mind that there is plenty more uncertainty in the mix. As companies cut costs to survive in an increasingly challenging economy, keep in mind that health benefits to retirees could be on the chopping block. Also, it is anyone’s guess what will happen to healthcare reform when the new Congress takes over.

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