Does your retirement catch-up plan include lifting weights?
You wouldn’t normally think of strength training as a part of your retirement plan.
Taken by itself, doing a curl with a dumbbell is inconsequential. As part of a “dramatically improve my health” fitness plan, lifting weights could save you money in retirement – a lot of money.
There are many reasons to improve your health. Money is certainly one of them. Fidelity Investments estimates a 65-year-old couple will have medical expenses of about $280K in retirement. Plain and simple, if you can reduce future medical costs, you’ll have more money to spend on other things.
Wouldn’t you rather put your money where your happiness lies?
Your happy place is usually not at the doctor’s office. How sad to work your whole life and retire without the ability to truly enjoy it.
Don’t let that happen to you. Obviously, not all health problems are preventable but there are steps you can take now to improve your health and prevent illness. Do what you can.
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Dramatically improve your health now to save money in retirement
1. Handle medical procedures now while you are working
Do you have a lingering health issue that needs your attention? Take care of it now instead of waiting.
This is exactly what I did this year. For me, 2018 was “tremendous improvement in my health” year. A lifelong victim of chronic allergies and debilitating sinus infections, I conquered the problem with a comprehensive allergy treatment and rhinoplasty surgery. Now I can finally breathe and I said goodbye to sinus infections.
Knowing I would have extensive treatments and follow-ups, last year I changed my health plan to the more robust plan with a lower deductible. As expected, I reached my deductible of $1,300 early in the year.
So I thought, “What else needs attention?” After hitting the deductible threshold, I paid only a 20% co-pay for my medical expenses (until I reach the maximum out-of-pocket.)
Take away: Your medical insurance is an employee benefit you pay a lot of money for. Use it now instead of waiting until you retire to take care of lingering health issues.
2. Bundle your medical deductions to maximize your medical insurance benefit
For years, I’d avoided bunion surgery due to fear of terrible pain. Advances in post-surgery pain medication changed all that. Pain is now treated locally (in the foot) instead of orally (with narcotics.) I went for the new “pain-free” bunion surgery technique and it worked.
In June, I had the right bunion fixed and paid a 20% co-pay. Then in August, I had the left bunion fixed and only had to pay a total of $300 for everything. With the second foot surgery, I’d hit my out-of-pocket maximum.
My friends were starting to get concerned I was addicted to surgery! Once I explained, my “fix Nancy” strategy was also a money move, they relaxed.
Eventually, I’ll jump into retirement with both feet (pun intended) instead of having a list of medical procedures to take care of.
Review your medical insurance plan from one year to the next to suit your changing needs. Set aside funds in your HSA or savings account to pay out of pocket medical expenses.
Related content: 3 Things To Handle Before You Retire
3. Bundle your out-of-pocket medical deductions to deduct them on your income taxes
Estimate your out-of-pocket medical expenses, you may be able to write them off. If you itemize your taxes by filing Schedule A instead of taking the standard deduction, you could get a tax break.
With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the standard deduction was increased. For married couples filing jointly, it’s set at $24K and for individual returns $12K. Because this threshold is high, many people will use the short form instead of itemizing.
However, if you pay income taxes in your state, have a mortgage and/or give to charity, you may have enough write-offs to itemize your taxes and file the long form. If so, you can deduct any medical costs over 7.5% of your adjusted gross income for 2018. (In 2019, the medical deduction threshold kicks back up to 10%.)
Our friends at Turbo Tax share this example,
If you have an adjusted gross income of $45,000 and $5,475 of medical expenses, you would multiply $45,000 by 0.075 (7.5 percent) to find that only expenses exceeding $3,375 can be deducted. This leaves you with a medical expense deduction of $2,100 (5,475 – 3,375).
IRS Tax Topic 502 breaks it down for you in detail. Expenses that can be deducted include payments to professionals such as doctors, dentists, and psychologists. Medical expenses that can’t be deducted include most cosmetic surgeries (you probably figured that) and over the counter medicines.
Plan ahead if you think you can write off your medical expenses. Consider some add-ons such as purchasing a supply of contact lenses or getting dental work done this year versus next.
This is not tax advice. These are simply ideas to consider! Consult your tax advisor or if you file your own taxes, run an analysis now before year end.
4. Get physically strong
Besides toned arms, strength training has a whole host of benefits from overall fitness to increasing bone density and managing a chronic disease such as Diabetes. Studies show strength training just twice a week helps prevent bone loss which is important as you age.
If you are over 50, you might have noticed you tend to lose muscle as you get older. In fact, a Harvard Health study found that participants lost 3 – 5% of muscle mass per decade after age 30. Ouch! The good news is muscle loss can be countered with strength training.
Check out this book by Chris Cowley and Henry Lodge on how people 50 and over can get functionally younger every year: Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond
After a consultation with your physician, get started with a strength training program to prevent injury, get strong bones and build strong muscles.
Check to see if your employer or medical insurance provides a reimbursement for your local gym. It’s sweet to get in shape and even sweeter when it’s free.
Related content: 5 Benefits Of Learning To Ski Over The Age of 60 (Or Even 70)
5. Lose 10% of your body weight (if you are overweight)
Research shows that even modest weight loss can greatly improve your health. You don’t need to be a triathlete either, the Journal of Comprehensive Physiology study showed 35 health conditions are accelerated by inactivity. A simple walking plan can make a huge difference.
A few years ago, I kept gaining belly fat and I couldn’t figure out why. I ate healthy foods, walked a block to my office every day, went to the gym and did yoga. My husband gave me a FitBit Blaze, (affiliate link) for my birthday and I was in for a rude awakening.
I was eating more and getting less exercise than I thought. Oops.
My FitBit data showed that most days I was not getting enough physical activity. I NEVER hit 10,000 steps. In fact, my steps averaged a meager 2,000 steps a day. Though I walked from the parking garage to the car, it’s not a long way and once I got to my desk, I sat most of the day. My occasional gym workout and yoga class weren’t enough.
Armed with knowledge, technology, and motivation, I started taking a longer route from the parking lot to the office, chose the stairs instead of the escalator and hit the treadmill on my lunch hour. Though I still rarely hit 10K steps, I do regularly hit my personal (and reasonable) goal of 8,500 steps.
Try a step-tracking device such as a Fitbit, or an Apple Watch, to automatically track the number of steps you take and floors you climb. Change your diet to increase fruits and veggies and decrease calories. A few minor changes can make a huge difference.
Check your employee benefits for a company-sponsored wellness program.
Before starting yours, be sure to meet with your doctor for a physical to get her advice on the above.
Planning your retirement takes more than money.
When you are healthy, you can truly enjoy your retirement. Our Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin didn’t encourage people to wake up early to become “wealthy and wise.”
He said, “Early to bed and early to rise will make you HEALTHY, wealthy, and wise.”
Notice he put healthy first.
We should, too.