I STILL KEEP IN touch with three high school buddies. One of them, Brent, isn’t doing well. He has high blood pressure, poor eyesight caused by glaucoma and creaky knees that make it hard to get around, and he’s recovering from heart surgery.
My other friend, Robert, is a diabetic with poor vision, suffers from neuropathy pain in the foot, needs a cane to walk and is on medication for various ailments.
Burt, my third pal, smokes, loves to drink beer, is overweight, doesn’t exercise and sits on the couch most of the day watching sports. Oh, by the way, Burt has no physical ailments and is strong as an ox.
Luckily, all three of my friends are retired. But if they had to go back to work, Burt—the smoker and drinker—would be the only one healthy enough to do so.
We can’t all be lucky like Burt. That’s why we need to see a doctor for regular checkups—and not just because our life may depend upon it. It’s also a good financial decision.
The biggest threats to our retirement portfolio aren’t just poor investment choices, high fees and a brutal bear market. It’s also poor health that prevents us from working and hence saving for our financial goals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 61 million adults—equal to 26% of the adult population—live with a disability. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that, among those ages 16 to 64, just 30.4% of those with a disability were employed, versus 74% of the population without a disability.
I’m sure you wouldn’t go to Las Vegas and place your retirement money on the roulette wheel’s color red. If you have health insurance, why gamble on your health by not getting an annual physical? Seeing your doctor on a regular basis puts the odds more in your favor, especially when working late in your career is necessary to meet your financial goals.
You can also lower risk by living a healthy lifestyle. According to the CDC, “Adults living with disabilities are more likely to be obese, smoke, have heart disease and diabetes.” Improving access to health care would reduce the risk of developing a disability.
Why do companies provide health care for their employees? It isn’t just because it’s part of the compensation package needed to attract employees. It’s also because they know a healthy employee is a productive employee. If you’re healthy, there’s a good chance you will perform at your highest level. That not only helps your employer, but also can create career opportunities for you, leading to better compensation.
Companies are always looking for ways to be more efficient, because it reduces costs, improves quality and creates more profit. That’s one reason businesses are becoming more automated. They know a robot will always show up for work, but Ted or Mary might not.
Try to be like that robot and show up to work every day—by seeing your doctor regularly and embracing a healthy lifestyle. If you do, you’ll enjoy life more and you’ll have a better chance of meeting your financial goals.
Dennis Friedman retired from Boeing Satellite Systems after a 30-year career in manufacturing. Born in Ohio, Dennis is a California transplant with a bachelor’s degree in history and an MBA. A self-described “humble investor,” he likes reading historical novels and about personal finance. His previous articles include After You, Improving With Age and Summer School. Follow Dennis on Twitter @DMFrie.
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I worked for an insurance company (2,200 employees). We didn’t have a health plan until 1974. It’s amazing how much you appreciate something when you haven’t had it.
Health care has been a struggle since I left my corporate job. I pay almost $2000 a month for not great coverage for myself and my family. But staying healthy is important and I am looking forward to a nice Caribbean tropical vacation soon.
It’s a shame that someone in your position does not use his platform to advocate the kind of solutions that would alleviate the problems that you are highlighting here. Currently about 35 to 40 million people do not have health insurance. Prior to Obamacare it was perhaps at least 60 to 70 million. That is a lot of people who are not getting the care they need because they do not have fair access to proper healthcare(in a financial sense, that is). Gee whiz I wonder why we spend so much on obesity and diabetes? Of course, part of the solution is more personal initiative to take better care of oneself. However, that is not going to go very far in really solving the problem. The US needs some type of universal care insurance so that we all have the chance to at least access to a health system that begins to address our needs. It is easy enough for people like you and I who have always had relatively easy access to health care insurance to criticize others who do not take full advantage of our modern medical system. And, oh by the way, it would be cheaper for the society as a whole if the health insurance system was more SOCIALIZED like in the rest of the world. Yes, I guess I’m a LEFTY. And, no I’m not advocating for the nationalization of the entire economy. Just the portion that has so much effect on our very well being. A health system based entirely on free market capitalism does not work for everyone. It only works for those who can pay for entry to the game. Principally, it is not a problem of personal responsibility! As an ex corporate guy you know very well that the success of a corporation is most dependent on its leadership, as well as great employees like you. I bet you would agree that a good portion of your financial success in life is due to the fact that Boeing’s leaders did their job so that you could hold that job on a continual basis in order to build your financial net worth.