I work with clients to create plans for spending, saving, investment, taxes, insurance, estate, and all the other items that, if managed, can lead to financial security and peace of mind. Often, after all the planning, I get the question: What else can I do to help my financial situation? While a good plan can help mitigate the ups and downs of the markets and the economy, it still can lead many to feel like they have little control over their situation. This question often stems from a sense of not feeling totally in control of your financial situation because of volatile markets, the economy—and recently, a global pandemic.
One area I have started to introduce to my clients as a financial strategy is to consider doing an evaluation and plan for their physical and mental health. The estimated average healthcare costs for a couple in retirement is $285,000. This figure can include Medicare supplement premiums, deductibles, drugs, co-pays, dental, vision, counseling, and other care services. Over the past 30+ years as I have been working with clients, I have seen firsthand how these costs are becoming an increasing burden to retirees as inflation in the healthcare industry is very much outpacing increases in incomes.
For many, chronic conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and auto-immune diseases are a big burden physically, mentally, and financially. My story was typical of a lot of people I see. Busy family life, high pressure jobs, and the stresses of life slowly add up. Late in my 40’s, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and started taking medication. I thought I was in pretty good shape and didn’t give it much thought as my mom had high blood pressure all her adult life, and I thought it was hereditary. As I got into my 50’s, my cholesterol and triglycerides started steadily increasing to unhealthy levels. Like many, I ignored the slow decay of my physical and mental health. Denial was strong. I would get flashes of trying to stem the aging “tide” but would eventually fall back to poor exercise and eating habits. There were always more important things to do than focusing on my health. Between feeling the aches and pains of nearing 60 years old and waking up to the knowledge of the effect my health would have on my retirement finances, I became acutely aware that I needed to seriously focus on my health. My motivation of wanting to feel better physically and mentally was boosted by the fact that I wanted to use my retirement savings for better things than healthcare costs.
In late 2018, I got to work. First, I did an inventory of my state of health. To do this, I consulted with professionals, gathered tools and health data, and did a deep dive into educating myself about nutrition and mental wellness. I also examined my consumption of food and alcohol, my utilization of exercise, and my stress levels and other facets of improving my emotional health. Second, I set aside feelings of ego, guilt, and pride to create a realistic road map to improving my health. One of the main things I learned right away is that there is no quick fix. To reverse years of poor habits and choices, it takes a long period of time. It definitely is a marathon and not a sprint, as to do it the right way involves lifestyle changes and not diets or boot camps.
I’m eating less with mostly plant-based meals, exercising consistently, and addressing the stresses I face on many fronts. It has been fabulous! My energy levels are much higher, and I have a much more positive attitude about life in general. For many years, I felt anxious about the state of my physical and mental health and that I couldn’t get the motivation to execute a good personal healthcare plan with consistency. I’m glad the added boost of seeing improved health as a financial strategy has motivated me to create and execute the beginnings of a sound personal health plan.
We all live with the genetic lottery, and predicting our future health is difficult, but it would be ridiculous for me not to do everything in my power to live healthily and potentially not spend my hard-earned money on healthcare. I encourage everyone to create and execute a health and wellness plan to feel great physically and mentally. It also is a good financial strategy.
Written by retired Merriman Wealth Advisor Eric Jonson
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