The Health and Monetary Costs of Always Putting Yourself Last

By Carrie Rattle

Does this sound like you? You put yourself last behind your kids, your partner, and your parents’ needs. You have a demanding job, manage the home, and try to be a good citizen in your community. Then there’s the money issue – it may be hard to find that extra time to truly plan for the long haul.

You always intend to get help or change your behaviors for a healthier lifestyle, but never get to it. When you put off today what you can do tomorrow, there can be a higher price to pay in your body and your pocketbook.

Procrastination Puts You at Risk for High Medical Costs

Experts estimate the cost of individual healthcare from 65 until death can be $200,000 to $1,000,000, not including long-term healthcare.  The Vanguard Report June 2018: Planning for Healthcare Costs in Retirement identifies 12 health conditions most associated with higher medical care. If you have two of these chronic conditions, typically smoke and visit medical professionals often, you are considered high-risk for higher life medical costs.

  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s, senile dementia, and related disorders
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Cancer (colorectal, breast, prostate, lung)
  • Asthma

Many of these chronic conditions start showing themselves in our 40’s because of bad habits like an unhealthy diet, lack of sleep, stress, anxiety, depression, lack of exercise and not seeking preventative help. Those small, daily neglects to your mental and physical health aren’t saving you money – they’re pushing the cost further down the line and increasing them.

The Minimum Costs of Healthcare

The chart below estimates the minimum you need to save to cover medical expenses. Note, this does not include long-term healthcare costs for help at home or assisted living. These costs also vary considerably by zip code and increase substantially if you have chronic conditions listed above.

So how do you protect your health and your finances and keep higher costs at bay?

© 2020. Employee Benefit Research Institute, 901 D St. SW, Suite 802, Washington, DC 20024, 202/659-0670.

Shift Your Mindset Today to Decrease Costs Tomorrow

It is crucial that you shift your mindset from “I can’t afford the time” or “I can’t afford the money” to “Small investments today keep the doctor away”.  After all, if you as the primary caregiver are suddenly down for the count, who is taking care of everyone else?

Here are 5 Mindset Shifts to Keep the Doctor Away:

  • Preventative Checkups feel expensive. But how does this cost compare to what you spend on refreshing your wardrobe every year? You are too important to neglect these.
  • Change eating from a coping mechanism to building a healthy body. Fresh vegetables can be expensive, but do they cost more than the medication you’ll pay for high cholesterol, diabetes, or heart disease? What about the co-pays for multiple doctor visits and time away from work?
  • Get Creative with Exercise. We all learned in COVID that we don’t need to pay for a gym! Walking around the block or to the park, hiking, and curling cans of soup to strengthen your arms are alternatives.
  • Convert Spending to The Gift of Health. We all do it – those automatic-pilot purchases we make when we have a bad day and need to self-soothe, take control, or de-stress. Track the “treats” you give yourself. If they happen regularly, convert some of those behaviors into savings for good health. You deserve it!
  • Become Financially Healthy. It’s time to understand your financial situation. How much do you spend a year on health? How does that compare to your wardrobe, or gifts for the kids? What do you have saved to cover time off work and a health crisis? Can you cover $200,000 in healthcare for retirement? How about $1,000,000?

It’s important to put yourself first every day, in some way for mental, physical, and financial health. They feed into each other. Financial stress can create anxiety, and poor health can create financial stress.  Carving out some time for each in a week will ensure a healthier you.

Carrie Rattle is a Financial Therapist/Coach for professional women and CEO of Behavioral Cents and Stopping Overshopping. She exercises 3 times a week, reviews money with her husband weekly, and is running off to get her mammogram when she finishes this article.


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