Investing In Our Health

One of the biggest variables that’s going to affect when and how we retire is health care costs. Recent research done by Fidelity shows that healthcare spending in retirement costs an average of $240K, and sadly that is a value that gets underestimated too often by those approaching retirement.

So, with those costs (along with a desire for a long, happy, healthy life) in mind, Mr. PoP are trying very hard to invest in our health now, with the hope that we can be on the lower end of healthcare spending as we age (hopefully gracefully).

How do we invest in our health?

Fitness, for starters.

Make no bones about it, neither Mr. PoP nor I, will be on the Olympic team this summer. Nor is there any chance that we’ll be winning trophies like this one anytime soon.

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Accurate Representation of Mr. Pop. No, really!

But we work pretty hard to stay fit and healthy despite sitting in desk jobs for 40-60 hours a week. And we’re willing to put our money where our mouths are there, as well. We currently spend about $80/month on fitness memberships so that we both have a place to work out and shower near work and near home. And if we stop using them, we will definitely cancel them. But for the time being, Mr. PoP really likes having the facilities to do weight lifting that we don’t have the space for in our house, and I really enjoy the group fitness classes, yoga, and being able to get a work-out in at lunch during the work week. In addition to the gyms, we run outside for cardio, and just generally try to stay fit.

By trying to keep our cardiovascular health in good shape and by lifting weights to keep our muscles and bones strong, we hope to stave off some of the more common conditions that tend to affect people as they age like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure.

Eating healthily.

For a while, this was a bit of a struggle for us. I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly 15 years now, and Mr. PoP was raised in a very “meat and potatoes” family. So instead of cooking meals together, we would tend to buy prepared foods so we wouldn’t feel like we had to cook two separate meals all the time. (It didn’t help matters that neither of us had a whole lot of desire to spend time at the stove.) It’s not like we were eating candy and popcorn all the time, but in hindsight, we definitely had a lot of salt, sugar and preservatives in our diet.

Recently, we’re really trying to cut back on the prepared foods (cut back, not cut out entirely… we are human), and to figure out how to make more meals that we know EXACTLY what goes into. And, Mr. PoP being the wonderful husband that he is, has started eating more tofu so I don’t always have to feel like I need to cook two versions of every meal (You mean I save money and never have to cook for myself again if I just become a vegan? Done! -Mr. Pop)

The thing is, eating healthier is not always conducive with bargain hunting at the grocery store. We buy greek yogurt without any sugars or flavorings added, and that’s not always the stuff that’s on sale. Reduced fat cheeses always seem to be sold in smaller packages than the full fat versions. Fresh fruits and vegetables seem to get more and more expensive every year.

Could we eat cheaper? Yes – after seeing my father shop with coupons for 18 years, I know that you can feed a family of 5 very cheaply… if you’re willing to buy a whole lot of over processed junk food (or just beans and rice). And that’s not really a sacrifice we’re willing to make right now. I’d guess we spend $100/month more on food than we would if we ate fewer fresh ingredients, or more processed versions of the food we like to eat now.

Getting regular checkups.

Mr. PoP and I both have decent health insurance through our jobs, so we use it.

  • Teeth cleanings at the dentist every six months (
  • See the eye doctor for new prescription glasses every year
  • Get checked by the dermatologist for mean looking moles every year
  • See the lady doctor for yearly “well woman” visits (well, Mr. PoP doesn’t do that)
  • Go to the doctor if we’re sick – not for every tummy ache, obviously, but if we’re sick and not fighting it off, we go get checked out!

I realize that health insurance is not a luxury that everyone has, but if you do, don’t be afraid to use it, especially for preventive care. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and all that.

I’ll never forget that when we were about to lose our dental coverage when I was a kid, my mom took all of the kids in for one last visit to the dentist, where he cleaned our teeth and then put some sort of preventive coating on our molars to help prevent cavities. It worked. None of us got cavities until much later in life, and I’m sure my mom saved money in the long run by paying a bit extra for that preventive service when we had the insurance coverage.

Last year we paid around $800 out of pocket for co-pays and co-insurance on various doctors visits and prescriptions. I expect that’s about standard until our health or insurance changes dramatically.

What are we spending every year?

  • Fitness: $80/month = $960/year
  • Eating Healthy: $100/month = $1,200/year
  • Medical Care: $800/year
  • Total: $2,960/year

How do we know the investment is paying off?

Unlike when you sell house or a stock, there’s no way to really tell if this investment in our health is paying off until we’re dead. And then it’s really a moot point, huh?

In the short term, it’s paying off for our quality of life. When we exercise and stay healthy, we both tend to deal better with the stress of jobs and everyday life, which is a dividend unto itself every day.

And in the long term, I’m inclined to believe it’s paying off. There’s a website called RealAge* that allows you to enter your health and lifestyle information, and (supposedly) uses its own proprietary statistical analysis to compute your risk factors for various diseases and then presents you with your “real age”, as opposed to your biological age. While I’m not going to take my “real age” as an absolute truth, when it came out significantly lower than my current age, I figure that I’m doing at least something right.

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RealAge *thinks* I’m at least a decade younger than my current age. While flattered, the baby crows feet starting to grow around my eyes makes me think that’s probably an exaggeration.

So dear reader, what are you doing to help prevent medical expenses in your future?

 

 

 

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