Staying Healthy Pays Off

financial well-being healthy longevity place Jun 05, 2024

Our society is obsessed with longevity. Peter Attia’s book Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity has sold more than one million copies, entrepreneur Bryan Johnson has invested millions and made headlines with his success reducing his biological age, and high-end gym chain Equinox has launched a $40,000 annual membership for its new longevity program, which features regular tests and customized coaching. Eying the opportunity, investors are pouring in dollars to help fuel this longevity trend.

While most of us don’t have the financial resources to invest in our longevity like Bryan Johnson, there is a business case for investing in your health. One of the overlooked reasons is that good health saves you money.


Staying healthy has obvious benefits, such as a high quality of life, but less obvious is that it saves money


Good Health Pays Off

Financial advisors are increasingly finding themselves in the business of longevity planning. This is a challenging exercise with people living longer and with fewer and less generous defined retirement benefits than in prior generations. For example, with the move from defined benefits to defined contributions among corporate retirement plans and with the qualifying age of social security benefits likely to increase (plans are in process to increase the retirement age in several European countries), more responsibility falls on the individual to be financially secure across an increased lifespan.

One way to improve your financial well-being is to stay healthy. If you stay healthy, you are less likely to face large healthcare bills, need long-term care, and delay or avoid living in healthcare settings.

Consider care needs. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 70% of people turning 65 will need some long-term care services in their lifetime. On average, women need care longer (3.7 years) than men (2.2 years). However, the average doesn’t fully capture the risk: 20% of people aged 65 and older will need care for more than five years.

Care can be really expensive. According to the 2023 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the national median cost of in-home care and assisted living is approximately $6,000 per month and nursing home care is nearly $10,000 per month. Of course, these figures are much higher in certain markets. The annual cost of nursing care in NYC is approximately $150,000 and care costs tend to increase at a rate greater than inflation. 

Those who stay healthy comprise nearly one-third of today’s 65-year-olds and are expected never to need long-term care support. Those savings will boost wealthspan, the number of years in good financial health.


A simple strategy to stay healthy is to find people to do activities, such as playing tennis


Keys to Achieving Good Health

Genetics play only a minor role in longevity – at most 20%. Our lifestyle decisions are far more important: balanced diet, regular physical exercise, adequate sleep, mental health, preventative health care, hygiene and safety, and a positive outlook, among other factors. For example, people who adhere to the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet, which is a variant of the Mediterranean Diet and focuses on eating whole grains, berries, vegetables — especially green, leafy ones — olive oil, poultry, and fish, have been shown to have a decreased risk of Alzheimer disease. Exercise, particularly if done regularly with some levels of intensity, improves cellular health, rebuilds muscle, elevates strength, and wards off cognitive decline.

Cultivating strong social connections may be one of the most important elements. The Harvard Study of Adult Development is considered one of the world’s longest studies of adult life, having started in 1938 during the Great Depression and still active today. Its director, Dr. Robert Waldinger, has given a TED talk with over 44M views and recently co-authored a book on key insights from the study, The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness. One of his key conclusions: the stronger our relationships, the more likely we are to live happy, satisfying, and overall healthier lives. In fact, the study reveals that our connections with others can predict the health of our bodies and our brains as we go through life.


Places that have easy access to green spaces provide a number of health benefits


Don’t Overlook The Role of Place in Staying Healthy

Environment plays a key role, too. Access to healthcare, access to healthy foods and exposure to air pollution, chemicals and toxins all can impact aging, for example. But it’s more than that. Where we live shapes our sense of purpose, social connections, health and financial well-being. This one decision has an outsized impact on the trajectory of our health at any stage in life.

In this regard, it is important to consider the role of home beyond its four walls. It is the foundation for healthy longevity. This doesn’t mean you should overspend on housing, but looking at it too narrowly may have negative long-term implications for your health and financial well-being.


Investments in Health Don’t Need to be an Obsession, Nudges in the Right Direction Can Be Powerful

There will likely be more Bryan Johnsons who obsess about their biological age and invest millions to improve their healthy longevity. There will likely also be more bestselling books on the subject and other gyms that mimic Equinox’s offering.

We don’t have to be obsessed or sign up for outlandishly expensive programs to make meaningful improvements in our health. Efforts to be healthier on the margin, such as finding a walking group or tennis buddies, can help across multiple dimensions. And keep in mind these incremental efforts will likely also improve your financial well-being down the road.


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