We all want a fulfilling retirement experience, but how we achieve that is not always clear. This article shows you the most common habits upheld by successful retirees, and how they aligned their goals for health and security.
What do you want from your retirement? If you said “health” and “feeling secure” then you are aiming for two of the most common goals for retirees. In our experience, most successful retirees have found ways to align these two goals, while throwing in a splash of fun along the way.
The Association for Psychological Science published a study that found that a person contributing to a 401(k) plan is a strong predictor of that same person taking positive steps to improve their health. This shows that there is a very real psychological connection between planning our finances and managing our health.
So if developing good habits can lead to big dividends down the road for your health and bank account, how exactly can we encourage good behaviors in our day-to-day lives?
The Healthy Spending Quiz
Of all the tools that make up your financial plan, nothing has a bigger and more immediate impact than your spending. How many of these healthy spending habits can you check off?
- I spend less than I earn.
- I set a monthly budget (and stick to it!).
- I "pay myself first" by making automatic monthly contributions to my savings and retirement accounts.
- I pay down credit card debt every month.
- I maintain an emergency savings account.
So, how did you score out of 5?
Score 0 or 1
Don’t panic! It’s always the right time to start implementing more of these healthy spending habits. If you aren’t sure where to start, try looking at ways to reduce spending this week, and gradually grow from there.
Are there adjustments that you can make to some items on this list? A common example is cancelling that club/gym membership you never use.
Score 2 or 3
Good! You’re on your way to developing sustainable and healthy spending habits. Keep up this momentum, and think about how you can add more habits throughout 2020.
How about adjustments that will help you reach your goals in other places, for example, maxing out your IRA contribution for the year?
Score 4 or 5
Fantastic! You’ve managed to create some great healthy spending habits, and you could be part of the one in three Americans that have (and stick to) a household budget.
The 5 Habits of Healthy Retirees
The Harvard School of Public Health studied how five habits affected long-term health. According to the study, women who adopted four of these habits by age 50 lived 34 more years free of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer than women who did not. Men who adopted four of the five habits lived 31 more years without developing these diseases. And both men and women who adopted this lifestyle lived almost 24 years longer than those who didn’t.
- Eating Well.
- Exercising regularly.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Avoiding smoking.
- Drinking alcohol in moderation.
If you’re struggling with a bad habit, or if you’re trying to develop a new healthy habit, we can point you to some material on more effective goal setting. Building daily wins towards weekly and monthly targets could make a big difference to your health in the next 12 months and beyond.
Retire Better and Gain Peace of Mind
The relationship between your money and your health is something we will be monitoring closely once you do retire. Without a monthly paycheck and employer-subsidized health care coverage to fall back on, your nest egg will have to pay for whatever Medicare doesn’t. If you or your spouse have any significant health issues or prescription drug needs, choosing the right Medicare options will be especially critical to keeping your out-of-pocket expenses under control.
One way to keep those expenses low is to improve your lifestyle now. The American Journal of Preventative Medicine ran a study that linked the healthy habits we discussed above to significant health care cost savings for seniors. By controlling things you can control early in your retirement (Seriously, stop smoking!) the money you save on health care could provide a cushion later in retirement if something unexpected happens, or if you or your spouse need in-home nursing or an assisted living facility.
A healthier lifestyle will also give you more options for enjoying the assets you’ve worked so hard to save and grow. Do you want decades of bad eating habits to keep you and your spouse from taking that dream trip to Europe once you retire? If a lifelong lack of exercise creates a serious health problem at 65, the money you earmarked for a move to Florida might have to cover gaps in your Medicare coverage.
Our goal for clients is that they live the best life possible with the money they have at every stage of their lives. Let’s talk about how our Life-Centered Planning process can help you develop habits that will reinforce each other and improve both your life and your finances.
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