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Even if you're on the right track, an unplanned event can interrupt those plans and force you into an unexpected retirement. For example, what if an illness or job downsizing forces you to retire early, an adult child moves back in, or you become a caregiver for an elderly relative?

The real question may not be if one of these potential unexpected disruptions take place, but when. A study by the National Endowment for Financial Education revealed that 96% of Americans experience four or more income shocks — such as job loss, sickness, or divorce — by the age of 70.

But if ignoring these "what if" scenarios isn't helpful, neither is getting anxious about them. The answer is to build enough flexibility into your retirement saving plan to be able to adapt to the challenges.

Here's how to handle three common retirement plan disruptions and protect your retirement dream.

Forced Early Retirement

The Employee Benefits Research Institute's 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey found that 48% of retirees had stopped working earlier than planned, with more than 40% of those citing a hardship such as a health issue or disability, and 26% naming changes at their company as the reason.

Consider now what adjustments you might make in case of an unexpected retirement before your target date. What items could you cut from your budget if it needed a drastic scaling back? Could you make up for some lost income by finding a part-time job or starting your own business? Could you afford to step up your retirement and emergency saving now so that the financial impact of a forced early retirement would be less devastating?

The ideal solution would allow you to delay collecting Social Security benefits until you reach your full retirement age, to avoid tapping into your 401(k) to cover living expenses. Alternatively, you can consider supplemental income strategies such as putting your expertise to use as a consultant or turning your hobbies and interests into a means to earn cash through apps or websites. While spending time with your significant other and a financial advisor to determine how to alter your dream retirement plan.

Interrupted Saving

An unexpected financial setback or obligation can curtail your ability to set aside money for retirement. But, with a little forethought and planning, you may be able to get back on track at a faster rate after such an interruption.

For instance, while you're still working, make sure you understand the rules for what happens to your 401(k) or other workplace retirement plan if you lose or change your job. Look at your retirement plan's summary plan description and your individual benefit statement and determine how much of your employer contribution you may actually walk away with — based on if the contributions vested immediately, on a cliff schedule, or a graded schedule. The summary plan description outlines how you can collect your benefits or roll your old plan into another one at a new employer or into an individual retirement account. As you consider rolling over your plan, be careful not to accidentally trigger the withholding tax. Likewise, don't abandon or neglect your account — not only can you not use money in your old account as a basis for a loan, but it's easy to lose track of how well, or poorly, your investment is doing.

The key to weathering a sudden financial storm is to have another plan for your budget and lifestyle, allowing you to cut expenses and get back to saving for retirement as soon as possible.

Higher Retirement Living Costs

Even if you retire on schedule after reaching or surpassing your savings goal, what comes next can be full of surprises. While many expenses, including clothing and transportation, usually decrease after you retire, others accelerate.

The biggest potential runaway costs are those for medical and long-term care. In a 2017 report, HealthView Services, a company that produces healthcare cost projection software, projected that a 65-year-old couple would pay $404,246 in total lifetime healthcare costs. Genworth's latest long-term care cost report showed that in 2017 the median monthly cost of a private room in a nursing home was $8,121. The cost was $3,750 a month for an assisted living facility.

Don't rely on just Medicare or Medicaid to cover your health care related costs. Medicare only covers 80% of health costs, while you're responsible for the other 20% and it doesn't cover all health services. Examples of services not covered by Medicare include hearing aids, eyeglasses, and dental services. Make sure you know what health services Medicare does and doesn't cover and that you obtain Medigap insurance to help fund the costs that are your responsibility.

Additionally, you'll want to research the senior living centers you may be considering and check how they rank on the CMS Five-Star Quality Rating System. Understanding the different ratings and what kind of quality you can expect should be a crucial factor in your decision-making process.

To defray the costs of a long-term care event, you may also want to consider purchasing long-term care insurance. There are a variety of long-term care insurance products available today. You will have to consider what premiums you can afford and add some sort of inflation protection rider into your policy.

Talk to a Key Investment Services® professional about ways to ensure your retirement planning includes contingencies for unexpected retirement plan disruptions.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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