Financial advisers are equipping themselves to help clients plan for their futures as increased health care costs and "corporate cutbacks in retiree health benefits" prompt "anxiety among investors about their retirement prospects," the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, out-of-pocket health care expenses will cost $295,000 for a 65-year-old couple retiring without employer-provided health benefits and living to an average life expectancy. The estimate excludes the cost of long-term care, which can total hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Journal reports. To address health care cost concerns, financial advisers at companies such as Merrill Lynch, Citigroup's Smith Barney unit and Wachovia's Wachovia Securities unit have begun to incorporate health care consulting into their practices. Advisers can help clients plan how to finance and pay for health care, evaluate care options, connect with experts, access information on key topics and draw up financial models that include the cost of caring for a parent. Some financial advisers also have begun to help "a small but increasing number of clients -- mainly doctors, lawyers and accountants -- finance and pay for health care through health savings accounts," the Journal reports. In addition, some companies hire people knowledgeable about health care to answer clients' questions about issues like caring for an ill parent, "a problem many baby boomers are likely to face," the Journal reports. Financial planner Deborah Levenson said that people can be "oblivious" to health care costs when they are working and assume that they will have employer-sponsored coverage in retirement or that Medicare will cover more than it does (Knight, Wall Street Journal, 12/5).

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