More than half of elderly married couples and nearly 75 percent single retirees depend on Social Security for the majority of their income in retirement.
"Women disproportionately rely on Social Security in retirement," said Nancy Altman, co-director of Social Security Works, which advocates for the expansion of the program. In fact, roughly two-thirds of Social Security beneficiaries age 85 and older are women.
In the Nationwide's bleak scenario, the man collects a monthly benefit of $1,543 and the woman collects $1,171 per month. (The average monthly benefit for a retired worker is $1,350, according to the Social Security Administration.)
Nationwide projects hefty health costs for the hypothetical couple.The man would pay $214,278 in medical costs in retirement and the woman would pay more than $289,682, because of her longer lifespan. The forecast includes what the couple would have to spend on long-term care at a nursing home or in an assisted living center.
Though medical costs often greatly increase toward the end of life, the expenses average out to $776 per month for a man and $928 per month for a woman in Nationwide's estimates.
By comparison, Fidelity Investments estimates a 65-year-old couple retiring in 2016 will need $260,000 to cover health care expenses and $130,000 to pay for long-term care for a total retiree medical cost of $390,000.
No matter what your exact health care costs are in retirement, you can take steps now to reduce them: