Fortune: Gen X is worried health issues will bankrupt them

Recent academic studies and anecdotes show these adults are concerned about health problems crippling their finances

While recent data has illustrated the dire financial situation that many members of Generation X — the cohort born primarily between 1965 and 1981 — seem to find themselves in, a recent story published in Fortune is putting human faces on the anxiety-ridden data.

Members of the cohort are extremely concerned that a severe health issue could cripple their financial situations, amplifying concerns that recent studies have illustrated about the generation’s ability to retire comfortably.

“I have a lot of clients who could retire if it weren’t for health care costs,” financial planner Liz Windisch told Fortune. “Or they’re scared. What if they get cancer at 60? No one wants to be without employer coverage.”

The stories shared by the article’s subjects corroborate that view. A Nevada woman who calls herself “semi-retired” in her mid-50s describes a generally solid retirement outlook based on account balances and debt levels. But she also expresses serious concern about some kind of medical problem disrupting her family’s assets and retirement plans.

“Health care is the biggest, scariest — scary isn’t even the word — it’s terrifying,” she told the publication. “It’s terrifying to think that tomorrow you could get sick, and being sick could ruin you, destroy you, take everything from you that you’ve worked your entire adult life to have.”

The problem is not isolated to those who may already have insecure financial footing, the article said.

“[E]ven those who have amassed at least $1 million are also worried that one major health issue could bankrupt them,” it reads. “In hundreds of emails Fortune received from Gen Xers about their retirement readiness, it was a recurring pain point.”

A 45-year-old Gen Xer who is a French expat in the U.S. credits his current home with a better overall financial situation but laments the prospect of some serious health issue that could threaten his family’s assets.

“I will have a net worth much higher than if I was in France. But there’s no safety net,” the man said in the article. “If we go to France, we’ll be covered by the French health plan. [ …] That will give us some flexibility until we reach 65, when Social Security and the French pension will come.”

Previous data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) described the challenges that medical debt presents for seniors. The reverse mortgage industry often aims to position itself as offering products that can provide financial stability in case of market downturns or health issues, but Gen X is still years away from becoming the predominant demographic that can be served by the Federal Housing Administration’s Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program.

While certain proprietary products are available to some borrowers as young as 55 in certain states, the oldest members of Generation X – those born around 1965 – won’t reach HECM qualifying age until 2027 at the earliest. Some definitions of Gen X begin earlier and certain self-identifying members of the cohort could already qualify for HECM loans.

But some industry professionals have indicated they are looking ahead to the point that more Gen Xers can be served by reverse mortgage products.

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