When we reach 60, 70 or 80 we are surprised we got here so quickly. We meant to make investment plans and take better care of ourselves along the way. What happened to the last 40 years? It’s scary, this aging thing.
Besides time moving so quickly, we have fears about our future – especially about our health and our money. There’s no question the two are intertwined. 15 million Americans under age 65 will burn through their savings to pay medical bills. In fact, medical bills are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy.
When I ask people if they want to live to be 100, as part of my 100th Year Project, the most frequent qualifiers I hear are, “Not if I run out of money,” and “Only if I have my health.”
In their book Age-Proof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip, Jean Chatzky and Michael F. Roizen, M.D. explore that the healthier we are as we age, the more money we’ll hold on to. It’s a fun book that made me look closely at my own fears.
Good habits today mean healthier years ahead. Walking, clean eating and stress management can save major medical expense down the road. But there’s no teacher or parent to prod us to healthier habits. It is entirely up to us.
Even with health insurance, about 10 million Americans have medical bills they can’t pay. Until I read this, I hadn’t studied my own health insurance policy to check for lifetime caps and big gaps in coverage.
Now is a good time to review your health insurance. Yes, better coverage or supplemental coverage may cost more. I’m self-employed and health insurance is one of my biggest expenses. But I can’t imagine a medical catastrophe chewing up my savings and jeopardizing my long, happy life.
We can’t count on society taking care of us. Governments are overburdened with obesity, smoke and alcohol addictions and health care for the very poor. It’s up to us to take responsibility for our own health and manage the money we will need to live decades longer.
No matter where we stand financially, or how healthy we are, these are difficult issues. We overlook our overspending or put off doing our taxes. We procrastinate scheduling a colonoscopy or calling the doctor about a nagging chest pain. Sometimes we ignore issues until they become urgent.
Not facing facts is a form of stress. Sometimes we deal in healthy ways: a soak in the tub, a long walk or a yoga class. Sometimes we opt for less healthy ways to deal: a cold beer and a bag of Cheetos or buying another pair of shoes and matching handbag we don’t need.
I love this line in the Age-Proof book, “Ain’t no bubble bath going to pay off your Visa.” I doubt Cheetos or a nature hike will get the doctor’s appointment scheduled either.
Grabbing control of our health and our wealth can be empowering. Living within a budget is disciplined. Daily exercise and scheduling wellness visits a year in advance is proactive. Once we do the groundwork, we free our minds for the fun stuff.
For me, the first step was checking for holes in my health insurance. The next step was scheduling periodontic work I’d put off for years because I didn’t want to spend the money.
I learned oral health problems cause inflammation which leads to heart problems, maybe even Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s time to stop procrastinating and invest in my future health.
Now I’m going to tackle a budget to see how much money I actually spend and how much I need to live on. Then I’ll face my biggest fear: what if my health doesn’t allow me to work any longer?
Will I have enough money to live comfortably for the next 35 years? I have every intention of celebrating my 100th birthday – in new shoes with a matching handbag.
What are your biggest health fears? Your money fears? What can you do today to make the first step toward better health and wealth? Please join the conversation below.