The top risks facing retirees and those contemplating retirement are: the cost of health care; inflation’s impact on investments; affordability of long-term care; and, the cost of living, and living longer.

Understanding and Managing the Risks of Retirement: 2007 Risks and Process of Retirement Survey Report, from the Society of Actuaries, summarizes findings from a survey of Americans age 45 to 80.

Pre-retirees are even more anxious about risks than current retirees. But for both, health care is the most concerning of risks. The difference between these groups is that pre-retirees are more concerned about funding adequate health care, versus those already retired who are more concerned about their ability to pay for long-term care.

Instead of taking out risk-reducing insurance products (except for supplemental insurance), older people are trying to mitigate their health risks themselves through maintaining a healthy lifestyle, according to the data. 91% of retirees and 94% of pre-retirees say they are maintaining healthy lifestyle habits.

Another risk-mitigation strategy for consumers is to delay retirement, which many pre-retirees believe will enhance their health security in retirement. When asked, “how much would continuing to receive health insurance from your employer enhance your financial security in retirement?” 77% of pre-retirees said their security would be increased.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: With a decline in traditional defined benefit plans and the emphasis on greater individual responsibility for planning one’s retirement, retirees are increasingly faced with the prospect of managing these risks on their own.

Americans have been notoriously poor savers, and have high levels of health and retirement plan illiteracy. The Society of Actuaries points out that, “In influencing how people act and think, personal experiences make for a much more powerful message than statistics and probabilities.” Here is where we need a national campaign that communicates as well as the best Super Bowl ad the true risks of retirement, and what to do to mitigate them.