There's been a call to action by the Financial Planning Association, Women's Policy, Inc., and Aetna concerning the importance of health and benefits needs in retirement. This apparently stems from a new national survey of Americans ages 45 to 75.

Some 20 percent say that they have spent "no time" in the past year actively planning for retirement and more than 30 percent don't even know what to anticipate for health care needs. Moreover, 40 percent say that they have spent less than an hour in the past year even planning for health benefits in retirement.

According to the survey, when Americans plan for retirement they concentrate on finances, spending virtually no time on health benefits. This lack of attention, the survey says, may be because Americans are vastly underestimating health care expenses in retirement. In fact, 52 percent of those surveyed expect to spend less than $300 a month on out-of-pocket costs and health-care related expenses...less than half of the $640 a month the average retiree actually spends.

Interestingly-enough, in a sign of changing times, the survey also revealed that the balance of responsibility for financial planning is shifting. Among those who are already retired, 65 percent of men took the lead in retirement planning, compared with 39 percent of women. In contrast, pre-retired men and women were equally responsible for planning, with 54 percent of men and 48 percent of women leading the charge.

Of course, all of this lack of retirement planning may not be so unusual. Retirement planning usually takes a back seat to other priorities such as planning for a child's education, but the Aetna people say that 63 percent of survey respondents claimed they are confused about health benefits. This is not good.

For example, it cites the fact that 83 percent could not correctly identify Medicare Part D which provides Medicare beneficiaries with coverage for their prescription drugs starting in January of next year and that 31 percent of pre-retirees would rather clean their bathrooms or even pay bills than plan for retirement.

Yet, strangely enough, some 53 percent would choose health benefits, if they had a choice between receiving health benefits (paid for to supplement Medicare) or a pension in retirement.

As a result, Aetna and the FPA created the Plan for Your Health public education program to aid consumers in making smart financial and health benefits decisions during life's pivotal moments. The site has been enhanced with a section focused on retirement that features personalized tips, tools, and articles developed to change the way consumers approach retirement planning. Take a look at it on

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