We’re about to share some statistics with you that often shock our clients, so if you’re not sitting down, find your nearest armchair.

Studies have shown that the average couple who retires at age 65 can expect to spend over $220,000 on health care costs in retirement, including co-payments, deductibles, Medicare Parts B and D premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs.

What’s most alarming is that that figure does not even include long-term care costs. The average 65 year-old person will need three years of long-term care, which will set you back another $250,000. For two people, that’s $500,000 spent on long-term care alone. All told, approximately $750,000 is what a married couple may need to provide for health care costs in retirement.

That’s a large chunk of change. But if you plan now, you may find yourself in a better position to field those costs later. You may even be able to reduce them. Here are a few directives to help guide the way.

Look into long-term care insurance.

As we mentioned above, long-term care is very expensive, and just about everyone will need it. Medicare will only cover a small portion of your long-term care expenses. Unless you have a long-term care insurance policy, you’ll have to pay the rest out-of-pocket. Take the time to work with an advisor to find a policy that meets your individual needs, and make sure you understand all of the options available to you. If you find the right policy, you may find yourself paying far less than six figures for your long-term care needs.

Contribute to a Health Savings Account.

If you are eligible for one, increase your contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA). HSAs are only available to those who have a high-deductible health plan, but if you do have access, contributions made to HSAs are federal income tax-deductible. The best part? Earnings within an HSA and distributions used for qualified medical expenses, including your long-term care insurance premiums, are tax-free. You can save up to $3,350 for an individual and $6,750 for a family in 2016; if you’re age 55 or older, you can save an extra $1,000 on top of that. This added bonus doesn’t last forever, though: Once you are enrolled in Medicare around age 65, you are no longer eligible to contribute to an HSA.

Understand the basics of Medicare.

While Medicare will help with a lot of your medical bills, it’s important to note that it isn’t free. Medicare covers only around 50% of expenses associated with health care; individuals are mostly responsible for covering the remainder. That’s where the $220,000 figure we cited earlier comes in. You should plan to pay for some premiums, co-payments and prescription drug expenses, among other items.

Good financial planning typically has a specific target. Make sure you use these statistics and weigh them against your personal health and family history. Average costs are often a good place to start, but you may find that your specific situation has you planning for significantly higher (or lower!) costs. Your situation may dictate particular needs, and the advice gleaned in this article only takes you so far. Consult a financial advisor for personalized recommendations.

This article originally appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on November 16, 2014. You may view the article here.

Bruce Helmer

Bruce Helmer

Co-Founder, Financial Advisor and Author, Speaker and Host of the "Your Money" Radio Show

Series 7 & 63 Securities Registrations,1 Series 66 Advisory Registration, † Insurance License Bruce has been in the financial services industry since 1983 and is one of the founders of Wealth Enhancement Group. Since 1997, he has hosted the “Your Money” radio show, a weekly program that focuses on delivering financial advice in a straightforward, jargon-free manner. Bruce also hosts with the "Mid-Morning" crew on WCCO-TV each Tuesday morning to...Read More