Retirement Planning: Health Investments

Retirement Planning: Health Investments


Now that we have given you a good understanding of your financial retirement responsibilities, it is time to address other vital concerns to help ensure a terrific retirement phase of your life. The first issue is Health, both mental and physical. Without both mental and physical health, all the savings in the world will not help.

When I was twelve, we had a very wealthy neighbor. He had been a successful doctor, had worked hard all his life, and saved even harder while he and his wife were young. After he was finally able to retire, meaning once he had several millions in savings, he and his wife moved into a gorgeous lakeside home, far too big for just the two of them, but it was something that they had dreamed of for years. Within eighteen months, the doctor's wife was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and lived less than a year. The doctor would have willingly spent every penny he had to cure his wife, but no amount of money could help. Then, six months after his wife died, the doctor had a fatal heart attack, brought on by the stress of his life, his lifestyle, and further compounded by the grief at the loss of his wife. Again, no amount of money can buy back health or time.

Rather than always planning for the future, it is good to live a little for today. The doctor's wife had a cancer that could not have been prevented, but the doctor did regret having forced her to live a life of severe frugality and of having to raise their kids alone because of his self-imposed long working hours. He regretted not taking vacations, or even enjoying a family Sunday afternoon drive and picnic; that was the time he usually spent reading his medical journals. The doctor then paid the ultimate price of ignoring his own health and died long before he should have.

In this story, both died early. With improved healthcare in the past several decades, living longer is not as much of an issue. Longevity in the United States increases every year. What does not always match is how healthy those extra years find us. Other reasons for improved health are the available insurances and medical care. Unless provided for by an employer, insurance is often prohibitively expensive, and health care can suffer as a result.

Existing Conditions

Every individual who is nearing the age of retirement has a good idea of how healthy he or she really is. Many of us have pre-existing conditions that already require medical care. Do not skimp on the necessary care or medications. Doing so will only jeopardize your future. In addition, pre-existing conditions can have an effect on the sort of medical coverage that you can purchase after retirement. Be aware of this, and make your plans accordingly.

What to Change Now

For your retirement to be financially secure, happy, and healthy, you need to determine what your ideal picture of health is.

You are in charge of your body, what you put into it, what you require of it, how you rest it. Even though you may have largely ignored your physical condition, it is never too late to make changes.

Target These Immediately

Here are just a few medical issues to target now to help to improve your retirement years.

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  • Stop Smoking.
  • Blood Pressure. Know it and lower it.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight.
  • Cholesterol. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
  • Diet and Exercise.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Stress.
  • Annual Physical.

Your biggest goal is to embark on your retirement journey with your health intact. Poor health with a big bank account will only result in providing an inheritance for your beneficiaries. By following a few sensible suggestions, you can maximize your retirement happiness by being as healthy as possible.


One of the first suggestions and the one with the most affect is to stop smoking. Even if you have smoked for years, stopping now will result in almost immediate benefits. You will spend less, thereby adding to your wealth category! You will have more energy, more endurance, and less chance of serious respiratory complications when you catch a cold.

The reason it is difficult to stop smoking is the powerful addictive influence of nicotine. By recognizing this one factor, you will validate all steps necessary to quit. Here are a few suggestions that may be helpful to you.

  • Cold Turkey is the most effective way to quit. By tapering off, you are only training your mind that it is okay to have "just one more." Moreover, that nicotine addiction is now fed and really hungry.
  • Minimize stress on and around the day that you kick the habit. Stress compels smokers to light up.
  • Clean out all cigarettes and smoking paraphernalia. Get rid of anything you associate with smoking, including any food or drink that is part of a smoking routine.
  • Seek counseling, medical assistance for medications that can help, or hypnotherapy to help you as you quit. Each individual will have a different experience, so be prepared for the unexpected.
  • Exercise. Physical activity will help counteract the effects of nicotine withdrawal. Exercise will also increase your endorphins, which help you feel better as you master your nicotine addiction.
  • Wait out your craving. Usually cravings go away within five minutes.
  • Find something new to do with your hands. By keeping your hands busy, you are less likely to pick up a cigarette.
  • Avoid getting hungry. Will power decreases with the stress of hunger. Small periodic meals and snacks help to balance the blood sugar, which in turn helps to reduce the feelings of stress.
  • Be kind to yourself. Even if you relapse, tell yourself that you are a non-smoker. After all, every second begins a new future.

Blood Pressure

This is often called the "Silent Killer" because the symptoms are impossible to detect, and still damage is being done to your heart, your brain, and all your internal organs.

Here are a few things you can do to lower that pressure.

  • Take your blood pressure daily and find your average. Anything over 120/80 is considered a health risk.
  • Decrease your salt by limiting processed foods and adding no salt at the table.
  • Increase your fruit and vegetable consumption.
  • Lose weight.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Use stress reduction and meditation.
  • If the above measures do not bring your blood pressure lower than 120/80, see your doctor, and get on medication. Just because you start blood pressure medications does not guarantee a lifetime of medication. However, the risks associated with even moderately elevated blood pressure are serious and could severely curtail your retirement plans.

Weight Loss

Obesity is becoming a new epidemic for Americans and as a result a new problem for retirees. Obesity keeps even the most optimistic individual trapped in a myriad of health concerns from arthritic knees to high blood pressure. Statistics show that obese retirees are more likely to end up with serious illnesses requiring hospitalization, or even a life in a nursing home than those people of normal weight.

As with smoking, there are as many ways to lose weight, as there are people who need to lose it. Each individual has to find what works for him or her and then stick with it. Here are a couple of ideas to help get you started if you are carrying a few extra pounds.

  • Concentrate on NOT gaining any more weight. Then focus only on losing about ten percent of your weight. Learn to maintain that loss before trying to lose any more.
  • Give up sugary drinks. This is one of the easiest, because of the sheer number of calories in sweetened drinks. Sadly, this even includes fruit juice. Fruit juice is highly concentrated, and so, too, are the calories. It is much better to eat the fruit than to drink the juice made from the fruit.
  • Exercise. Just getting off the couch and walking around the block is a start. Some people use a balance ball when they watch television. This uses calories, strengthens their core, and helps them to increase their balance. This is easy and simple and has huge benefits.
  • Pedometer. Most naturally, thin people walk about 6,000 steps a day. By getting an inexpensive pedometer, you can easily see how you measure up, and the numbers on the pedometer can encourage you to park further away from the store and walk more, or just get up more frequently and do a small chore around the house. You will be surprised at how quickly the steps add up.


This component of the human body is essential, in certain forms, for appropriate body function. When the bad cholesterol (LDL and VLDL) begins to accumulate, you will do well to take notice. If weight loss and diet are not enough to bring your numbers down, then get in to see your doctor. Cholesterol reduction is the one truly controllable factor in preventing heart disease and stroke. Both of these illnesses can make a previously happy retirement difficult and expensive.

Exercise and Diet

Most retirees find these two, exercise and diet, to be a little easier to manage than prior to retirement. With more time on your hands, it is easier to incorporate sensible eating and exercise into your daily habits. For these to work to your benefit, both must be done daily. Previously, when work filled in nearly eighty percent of our free time, we became what are called "weekend warriors." We tried to get in a week's worth of exercise or outside chores done on a single weekend, rather than spacing the effort out throughout the entire week. Not only is this ineffective, but also it is downright dangerous. Take advantage of your flexible schedule and add daily exercise to it.

As far as diet goes, having a little more time makes it easier to shop for better food, and to take the time to prepare it. Most convenience foods are exactly that, made for your convenience, because you do not have time to cook. Sadly, with the convenience comes a lot of added salt, sugar, and fat. By making more of your meals from scratch, you will add more nutrients to your diet and minimize all the bad things that you have previously eaten.


This disease affects over twenty-five million Americans, most of whom are women. This debilitating disease is largely preventable. The key is to get adequate Vitamin D (preferably from thirty minutes of sun exposure on a daily basis, but check with your doctor about skin cancer concerns first), enough calcium from calcium-rich foods, and lastly from weight bearing exercise.

Weight bearing exercise is something as simple as going for a walk. You are bearing the weight of your body as you exercise. Two of the above requirements can easily be fulfilled with a thirty minute daily walk. Other weight-bearing exercises come from lifting weights. Start slowly and keep in mind that moderation is the key. Many facilities are opening across the country that provide places for women to safely and effectively exercise in a weight-bearing manner; the most well known being Curves. After the age of fifty, get a bone density check to evaluate your risk. Osteoporosis puts you at highly increased risk of bone fracture, some of which can be severely debilitating.

Stress Reduction

This is a very important skill. Most Americans learn to respond to stress in negative manners starting from a very young age. With a lifetime of continued education, stress levels for most people are at an all time high. Such levels of stress contribute to disease, specifically heart disease. Road rage, drinking, substance abuse, and insomnia are all attributed to stress. There are a number of ways to handle stress and you alone can determine just how best to deal with your own stress. Some people exercise, play sports, practice yoga, or learn to meditate. Check out adult education extension programs in your area and explore alternatives to a stressful lifestyle.

Annual Check-up

As we age, the likelihood of an organic system going awry increases. Many illnesses can be stopped or significantly slowed with early detection. Make your doctor part of your retirement plan. By maintaining your health, you will really enjoy your retirement.