Healthy lifestyles need healthy savings accounts

August 29, 2011

| MoneyRates.com Senior Financial Analyst, CFA

What's the relationship between health and savings accounts?

People often talk about their financial condition being healthy or unhealthy, and in that sense it's just a metaphor. However, there actually is a relationship between a person's physical health and their financial needs, and that relationship is not what you might think.

While getting sick can be costly, it turns out that being healthy may be even more expensive.

Good health puts a strain on savings accounts

A reporter from CBS MoneyWatch recently tested a new tool which projects lifetime medical expenses according to a person's health. For example, a smoker can expect to pay $85,294 in lifetime medical expenses. A hefty medical bill probably comes as no surprise in that case, since it's well known that smoking can cause a variety of medical problems. What is surprising is that the projected lifetime medical expenses for a healthy person are considerably higher, at $121,862.

You may have guessed what's going on here. Unhealthy people live shorter lifespans, which limits their lifetime medical spending. For example, a 65-year-old man who is in good health can expect to live 23 more years. However, if that man is a smoker, he should only expect to live 16 more years. Those seven fewer years of life expectancy account for the lower projected lifetime medical expenses.

Healthy fiscal and physical lifestyles

In one sense, then, physical health and fiscal health are at odds--the healthier you are, the longer you'll live, so the more money you'll need in retirement. In another way, though, healthy fiscal and physical lifestyles go hand in hand.

After all, good health and sound finances depend primarily on a lifetime of consistent habits. You can't make much of a long-term change in your physical condition with a short-lived health kick, just as a brief period of economizing won't do much for your long-term savings needs. If you develop good physical and financial habits day in and day out, you should find you develop both the good health to live a long life, and the retirement savings to afford it.

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