Health: Your Most Valuable Asset for a Long and Fulfilling Retirement

Health: Your Most Valuable Asset for a Long and Fulfilling Retirement

March 18, 2024

Recently, I read two fantastic books that resonated with me, and I think they have valuable lessons for all of us as we plan for retirement. I want to talk about something that goes hand-in-hand with financial planning: your health.

The first book, "Outlive" by Peter Attia, dives deep into how we can take control of our health and potentially reduce future medical expenses. It's all about making smart choices today to invest in a healthier tomorrow. Think of it this way: instead of a slow decline into ill health and mounting medical bills as we age, what if we could stay active and vibrant throughout most of our lives?

Here's why this matters for your finances. By prioritizing healthy living through diet and exercise, we can potentially avoid the big four: metabolic syndrome including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's. These conditions not only take a toll on our well-being but also come with hefty medical costs. 

David Blanchette, a financial researcher who specializes in retirement, has studied the costs that retirees face. He coined the term “Retirement Smile” to describe the costs that the typical retiree faces: higher in earlier years (the go-go years), dipping down in the middle years of retirement (the slow-go years when travel and leisure activities are cut back), and “no go” years where health care and long term care costs start increasing steeply due to both more expenses and the fact that these costs tend to outpace regular inflation by 2-3% per year. This highlights the importance of planning for rising healthcare costs throughout your retirement.

This brings me to the second book, "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande. This book, written by a physician, explores the decisions we face as we age – from long-term care options to treatment choices. It's a wake-up call that health isn't guaranteed forever and that big decisions about our care, or the care of our loved ones, may lie ahead.

So, what does all this mean for you? Here's the key takeaway: Your health is your greatest asset.

Here's how a healthy lifestyle can benefit your financial future:
Lower medical costs: By avoiding chronic illnesses, you can significantly reduce your out-of-pocket expenses in retirement.
Delayed long-term care: Good health can delay the need for assisted living or in-home care, which can be a significant financial burden to both you and your family.
Maintain work during your prime earning years: Staying healthy helps you avoid disability and continue working while you can maximize your earning potential. This is especially important for women who often take on caregiving roles, potentially derailing their careers.

By focusing on your health now, you're essentially building a strong foundation for a secure financial future. Here are some actionable steps you can take:

Educate yourself: Learn about the impact of diet and exercise on your health. There's a wealth of reliable information available online and at libraries. For those interested in a deep dive into metabolic syndrome, read Ben Bikman’s book on “Why We Get Sick” and Dr. Jason Fung’s books on Diabetes and Cancer.
Schedule regular checkups: Don't wait for symptoms to appear. Preventive care is key to early detection and treatment of potential health issues.
Develop healthy habits: Prioritize nutritious meals, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. These lifestyle choices will pay off in the long run.

Remember, taking charge of your health is an investment in yourself. It's about enjoying a long, fulfilling retirement with the energy and financial security to do the things you love.

Let's chat! If you have any questions about incorporating funding for health considerations into your financial plan, don't hesitate to reach out. I'm here to help you navigate the path toward a vibrant and secure future.