High school and college graduates are likely thinking about their next step this time of year.
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Healthy, wealthy, and wise….And the most important of these is, (you fill in the blank).
For me, it’s health. Those that have read my prior blog posts know I’m in that nefarious “over age 50” category. Physically, it’s true. Mentally, possibly but it’s debatable, especially If you know me! I believe being healthy deserves a closer look – it is closely tied to our financial freedom in many ways, and it deserves a post on our bank blog!
Our bank just completed a two-year health & wellness Get Fit Program. Health-conscious team captains were asked to lead employee teams that included family members. We kept track of healthy things that got our heart rate up from walking and running to playing volleyball just to name a few. Getting an annual physical (yes, men, this means you, too!), keeping a nutrition log, even coaching a child’s sport team earned us points. Our employees focused on doing healthy things hoping some of those things they did would become habits. Prizes were awarded a few weeks ago and our winning team will get some extra paid time off, cool logo wear, and the ‘bragging rights’ for this year’s event culmination.
Not only did we create new, healthier habits, we put up some pretty fantastic results too. At week 26 this year, we had 8 participants who had lost 10% of their total body weight and 4 more that lost 20% of their body weight. One employee stopped smoking, and 10 employees reduced one prescription (under physician care) previously needed due to health issues. Those are winning statistics, for me, and much more important than who won.
We will all have to seek ways to continue our healthy habits. I know the bank will support endeavors to keep this mindset at the forefront. We are generally a sedentary workforce, so any efforts can only bring positive results.
From the financial side of things, how can being healthier help? Let’s see, that former smoker is saving money they formerly spent on cigarettes, right? If they smoked 1 pack a week, that translates to $260/year in savings. If they smoked 1 pack a day, that equals $1300. It does start to add up. Similarly, the folks that were able to reduce one prescription medication as a result of being healthier gained back some financial rewards, too. I cannot analyze the numbers on that, but the facts prove the healthier lifestyle puts money back into the pockets of our employees.
As one of 80+ million Americans in the age 45-64 category (U.S. Census, 2010), health has become more important to me. Hindsight is indeed 20-20, and I only wish I had paid more attention to my health when I was younger. Now, I have to reduce weight, increase & maintain regular healthy activity, and pay much more attention to my eating habits. Had I done this as a 30-40 year old, I might be sitting differently. There are more people in my age group, 31% more according to the U.S. Census, 2010, than in 2000 and we account for more than a quarter of the US population. When our large demographic gets ill, or when we fail to take good care of ourselves, that can be detrimental in cost – of health care, to name just one.
Getting back to “just me”… I’m thinking more now about retirement and wanting to have fun when I do retire. I’m putting money into my 401(k), trying to pay down debt, preparing for ‘the teenager’s’ college expenses by contributing to a 529 plan and keeping some amount of ‘nest egg’ cash available to me for emergencies.
I look forward to both taking it easy in my “golden years” and enjoying travel time, family time, volunteer time and of course one of my favorites - future fabulous (old) girls’ trips. I won’t be able to have much of that fun if I’m overweight, tired, out of shape, and fighting more possibilities of disease that run in my family – diabetes, heart issues, cancer. Keeping myself healthier – er, getting myself healthier now can pay off for me when I get to retirement. Excuse me, I need to get up and get moving before it’s too late!
It’s back-to-school time. Early August, really? Back in my day (aka “old geezer comment coming next”), we didn’t start school until after Labor Day! What is it with the here and now – it’s changing faster than ever, and it is simply hard to keep up! (Especially for us geezers, right?)
I’ve shared with you that we have a teenager in the house. She will be actively driving come next spring. She is polishing up her defensive driving skills in the meantime. I am asking my teen to put some money away to purchase a car at some point. I will help, but I certainly won’t be buying that Porsche she has a photo of on her smart phone.
Chances are good, that if we become a three-car family, there are some options we will look at – saving money for an old clunker (after all, I drove a 1963 VW bug back in 1979), seeking out a car loan for a little newer vehicle (also possibly translated as a “safer” vehicle), and my lender recently even enlightened me that I could roll a vehicle loan into my mortgage loan – for convenience, of course. I have a little time to consider the options, and see how well my teenager is saving money for her future transportation.
College expenses are going to be hefty, also, though we have a few more years. Finding money to set aside to help our daughter – go get those scholarships, young lady! – is tough. The 529 College Savings Plan is there to help us, help her. She will also need to have some “skin in the game” for school – it’s no longer “like it was, back in the old days.” But we will do what we can, by taking advantage of setting aside some money, and planning – for her future.
Also creeping up on me is my own retirement. While it is off on the horizon just a bit, I need to be accountable to have set aside enough money so I can live a retirement lifestyle I’ve dreamed of – you know, traveling with spouse, family, and friends! I want to live that dream, and so I have to prepare. I do my best to set aside money and contribute to my employer’s 401(k) plan. By putting some money there, my company matches me, in essence, giving me “free” money on top of my own contributions. But is it enough? That’s hard to say, so I, on occasion, I also talk to a financial adviser.
I encourage my spouse, who works in a small family business, to set aside some money in an IRA. We cannot rely on Social Security, if it will even be there, and so, it is important we spend time planning for our financial future. The future. It will be here before we know it. My goal is to be a financially prepared, old geezer.