Too many people don’t realize that taking care of themselves physically leads to better financial tomorrow.
Planning for retirement should start in your early twenties, if not before. Why? Because you develop good health habits early and health governs the quality of life long before retirement, and certainly after.
Your Future Depends on Good Health
A report from the Institute of Medicine, entitled U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, gives reason for concern. Think about your goals and aspirations. Your future depends on good health, for you, and the people you love and care for. In that context, both personally, and as a citizen concerned about the sustainability of Medicare and other taxpayer-funded government support programs, the report is alarming.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) examined life expectancy and other health data for the U.S., versus other high-income democracies in Western Europe, plus Canada, Australia, and Japan. Compared to the average of peer countries, Americans as a group fare worse in infant mortality and low birth weight, injuries and homicides, HIV and AIDS, drug-related deaths, obesity and diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and disability.
Parents should be concerned about young people’s risky behavior, which reduces the odds that they will live to age 50. Though Americans currently do not smoke as heavily or consume as much alcohol as those in other countries, we are more likely to drive drunk with more alcohol-related accidents – and less likely to use seat belts, consume more calories and drive rather than walk. We have higher rates of drug abuse and more often use firearms in committing violent acts.
For those who do survive to 50, risky and unhealthy behaviors lead to poorer health, impeding job advancement and the asset accumulation that leads to independence. Relative to the 17 countries IOCM studied, the U.S. was dead last in life expectancy at birth.
Healthy at 75
Is there any good news in the IOM report? We do have lower cancer deaths and greater control of blood pressure and cholesterol levels compared to peer nations. Those who do reach 75 can expect to live longer than those in other countries. “Healthy at 75” should be your new retirement mantra.
We cannot write off Americans’ health problems to socioeconomic conditions, although that is a factor in the macro-statistics. Studies show that the “more fortunate” – college-educated, insured, or upper-income Americans – are in worse health than similar individuals in other countries.
Investments in health and healthy living may be as important to financial independence as investment strategies. Joining a gym and showing up on a regular basis, engaging a personal trainer, moderation in eating and drinking, health screenings, and yearly physicals may make a difference in your quest to make it to 75 and beyond, fit and financially secure.
So do wearing seat belts and keeping your car in top mechanical condition, avoiding distractions like texting and phone conversations while driving, and setting a good example for your kids.
Certainly, an adequate insurance program is part of the equation. Life, health, disability, liability, and umbrella liability insurance is de rigueur to asset protection and the well-being of loved ones and potential survivors.
If the worst happens, someone should have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care covering you, and all family members, including children age 18 or older. Without such documents with adequate HIPAA disclosures, medical information cannot be shared.
Good health means you can both accumulate wealth and enjoy it.
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