Health Is Your Most Valuable
Good Health Is the Most Important Factor In Your Retirement Happiness
Retirement planning advice is almost always focused on how to save and grow your financial assets to ensure your retirement dreams come true.
And that approach is spot on.
But we believe there’s one critical non-financial asset missing from the conventional advice: your health. And retirees agree.
A Merrill Lynch survey showed that 81% of respondents said having good health is one of the most important ingredients for a happy retirement. For perspective, only 58% said the same for being financially secure.
This is an instance where the wisdom of those who are doing what we aspire to do – enjoying their retirement – are certainly worth listening to.
Not actively focusing on health as part of building a happy and secure retirement is a tragic oversight for several reasons:
1. Regardless of how much money you have, if you’re plagued by poor health, you won’t enjoy the retirement you worked for and deserve.
2. Guarding your health for the valuable asset it is can be achieved with little cost, and the benefits are priceless.
3. Poor health can pose significant financial impact both before and during retirement.
BAD HEALTH CAN PREVENT YOU FROM ENJOYING YOUR RETIREMENT
With so much focus on the financial side of retirement preparation, it’s easy to overlook the need to also be proactive about one’s health.
Our health status is partially dependant on our genetic luck of the draw, over which we have little control.
However, research increasingly shows that our lifestyle often plays a much larger role in our health than genetics. And the great news is that we have absolute control over this area.
How sad would it be to work and save hard during your pre-retirement years, attain financial security, yet be too sick to enjoy our golden years?
The first step in solving any challenge is to acknowledge it exists.
The second step is to put in place and execute an action plan to produce the results you desire.
Especially in your 20s and 30s, it’s difficult to fully grasp the health limitations you may face in 30 or 40 years.
This makes it far too easy to put off committing to regular physical exercise at least 3-4 days per week.
Or to quit smoking, limit alcohol intake, and get the right amount of sleep. Or to make the lifestyle adjustments our doctor recommends in order to avoid or manage potentially debilitating conditions like high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
But addressing these issues to guard our health as a key retirement asset is just as important as properly funding our retirement accounts, controlling our spending, and carefully managing our investments.
There are many reasons to delay getting proactive about your health.
Long work schedules get in the way. Raising kids. Running the household. Helping your parents.
But there is one really good reason to get proactive about your health: all your efforts to prepare for a financially secure retirement can be flushed down the drain by a health condition you may have been able to prevent or reduce in severity.
If you need a reminder, take a careful look at the retirees in your life who now suffer the ravages of poor health.
Do you want to be in that position?
Many wish they could go back in time to make changes so they could create a different retired life for themselves. You have the chance to be proactive. Take it.
GUARDING YOUR HEALTH COSTS LITTLE
While health is your most valuable retirement asset, the good news is that the majority of steps you can take in maintaining it cost little or nothing.
Most experts agree the key tenets of maintaining good health include: regular exercise, healthy eating, maintaining a healthy weight, annual physical exams to catch and correct problems early, no smoking, no or light drinking, getting enough sleep, and controlling stress.
Every item on this list of good health habits is either entirely free or low cost. Yet the return on the effort invested is potentially massive.
Some may choose to take things a step further and buy organic food, home exercise equipment, or other services or equipment that help them pursue maximum good health.
While some may consider these expenditures excessive, if it’s within your budget and helps you meet your health goals, then your return on investment will be strong, so go for it.
POOR HEALTH CAN IMPOSE SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL IMPACT
While maintaining your health is inexpensive, the costs of poor health can be substantial in three ways.
First, poor health during your working years can severely impact your earning capacity due to distraction, inability to perform at your peak, or from lengthy stretches of disability.
Most serious health conditions undermine one’s ability to give their career their best efforts.
Many conditions have a physical side that can affect energy and stamina. Frequent medical appointments can take time away from work.
And all serious medical conditions create the worry factor.
Worry about the future. Worry about the impact. Worry about it getting worse.
The worry alone can be the most debilitating part of the condition.
Second, health issues at any point in your life can pose substantial costs for medical bills and related costs.
Insurance can help reduce the impact, but as deductibles escalate, chronic health conditions can have a real negative affect on your finances.
Long-term diseases like diabetes may not destroy your financial health, but they have a cumulative impact because you’ll incur treatment costs for the rest of your life.
Fortunately, medical experts believe the majority of diabetes cases are avoidable or reversible with lifestyle changes.
For certain conditions that require expensive pharmaceuticals the financial impact can be catastrophic. Many of the most expensive-to-treat diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis or MS, don’t yet have a clear approach to avoidance.
But if there’s a lifestyle component to any disease you face or are likely to face, taking action will pay large financial dividends if you’re able to avoid or reduce the financial burden of medical bills.
Third, the biggest price can be your overall happiness and enjoyment of life if your heath problems are severe.
Happiness is what we humans seek throughout our lives. It has a very high value. But health conditions can make overall happiness elusive.
In making the effort to guard your health, just remember you’re simultaneously working to increase your overall happiness. That’s certainly a worthy goal!