Healthcare Spending And Retirement

Karen is a lady I take care of who is facing a terrible dilemma.  She is in her late 60s and has some medical problems.  She is diabetic and has high blood pressure.  Recently she’s had to have some testing on her heart and found an unexpected complication after the testing.

She can’t afford to stay retired.

She has to go find a job, because her health care is costing more than she thought it would when she first planned out her retirement.

This is a huge problem and is going to get worse.  As reported in US News And World Report in 2013, healthcare spending in retirement is going to be a BIG chunk of the budget.  On average, estimates are that for folks who were 70 in 2012, 8% of their incomes went to healthcare costs.  But for those who are in their 20s and 30s now, healthcare spending at age 70 is projected to take up to 28% of their income.  And that’s the average.  Sicker seniors can be expected to spend much more.

With the current move in healthcare, led by the government and health insurance companies, to shift more of the cost of healthcare to the patients, it is more and more important that people start NOW to get and stay healthy in an effort to decrease their healthcare spending and protect their savings and income and ability to maintain their lifestyle in retirement.

How can we do that?  There are 3 main ways to impact your health.

Fix your diet

It is estimated that 80-90% of illness is directly related to what we choose to put in our mouths every day.  More and more research points to a whole-foods plant-based diet as the healthiest diet for humans.  Even the head of the American College of Cardiologists, Dr. Kim Williams, writes that the science behind the health benefits of a whole-foods plant-based diet is compelling.

If you aren’t ready to ditch animal-based foods like beef, pork, chicken, dairy and eggs altogether, you can make positive steps in that direction by reducing portion sizes and experimenting with meatless meals.  Don’t fool yourself by thinking chicken is better than pork or beef.  It’s not.

I am also a big fan of smart supplementation, given that the American food supply is substantially less nutritious than it was 50 years ago.  Ask yourself, do you get 5 servings of different fruits and vegetables every day?  Do you eat whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes?  If not, you are likely to be missing out on important nutrients and would benefit from a good-quality multivitamin (more on that later).

Get the weight off

Obesity is the number-one risk factor for so many chronic diseases in the United States.  Diabetes.  Heart disease.  Stroke.  Cancer.  Name a disease, and I bet obesity increases the risk.

The purpose of this blog is NOT to tell you how to get the weight off.  There are lots of options and you can click the “Weight Control” category link in the right sidebar for some ideas.  You can also check this link for my personal recommendations and information on the program I personally recommend and use to maintain my weight.

Move your body

People tend to think that the purpose of exercise is to lose weight.  This is not true.  Weight loss and weight maintenance are 90% dependent on what goes in your mouth.

The purpose of exercise is to have your body do what it was DESIGNED to do.  Our bodies evolved to move.  To walk 20 miles per day, finding food along the way.  To work in the fields like early agriculturalists did.  NOT to sit in front of a computer for 8 hours, then come home and sit in front of the TV for another 2 hours before going to bed.

It is clear from scientific studies that people who move more are healthier and have lower mortality.  The simplest and most accessible form of exercise is walking.  The more you walk, the healthier you are.  This holds true for people of all ages.  Even if you’re older and unwell, get walking, it’s never too late to start!

I recommend that folks new to exercise get a pedometer (a good one will cost about $25 at WalMart or a sporting goods’ store) and start the 10,000 steps per day program.  Here’s a good article on how to get started.  Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and the last thing you want to do is hurt yourself.  Start slow!  Anything you do today that is more than you did last week is a step in the right direction!

I want you all to be as healthy as it’s possible for you to be, for as long as you can.  I want you to feed your body healthy food and move your body in a way that you enjoy.  I want you to be free of cancer, heart disease, joint pain, poor sleep and all the other ills that obesity brings.

I want you all to live long and healthy lives with a happy, stress-free retirement.  That starts NOW with the choices you make today.

QUESTION:  How close are you to retirement?  Do you worry that your savings and retirement income won’t be enough to support you due to healthcare expenses?



One thought on “Healthcare Spending And Retirement

  1. Hi Dr. Jen and thanks for the excellent suggestions on how to stay healthy as we advance in years. For those who might be burdened by traditional health insurance costs, I’d like to offer an alternative. I cancelled my conventional health insurance several months ago and joined a health care sharing group called Samaritan Ministries. You can learn more about health care sharing at As the title states, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I have peace of mind, feel good knowing that my monthly “shares” are going directly to someone in need and I’m saving money too. I would be happy to answer any questions the you or your readers might have. God bless and take care . . . Jeanette

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