we plan to live long, healthy lives (a potential glitch not withstanding), which is why we spend so much on healthy groceries, to the dismay of frugalites everywhere. we think: why bother retiring early and getting back all of these years of your life if you aren’t going to prioritize your health and do everything you can to make sure that your quality of life is top-notch? besides, being unhealthy is one of the most expensive ways to live, while staying healthy is good and affordable.
while our financial assets are what will enable us to quit working in a few years, today we’re talking about what we see as our most important asset: our health. that includes both physical health and mental health, since both are super important, and both are destroyed by modern work. (okay, maybe “destroyed” is overstating things, but the modern pace of work is definitely detrimental to most people’s health.)
right now, our work schedules make staying healthy especially tough. we both have fancy senior-level titles, and are expected to work a lot of hours each week, as well as stay accessible on evenings and weekends. this takes a toll physically and mentally, meaning that we’re constantly dealing with the effects of stress: poor quality sleep, headaches, cravings for junk food, neck and back pain, the desire to lay on the couch after work instead of getting outside and exercising. then there’s the every-single-week travel, which makes it hard to get into a solid workout routine, and we all know how perilous it can be to try to eat healthily on the road. most days, the best we can do is take heart that this too shall pass, and soon we’ll have control over our days and our habits. but we have big plans to change things up after we retire in two and a half years.
of course, lots of being healthy is absolutely free: getting outside to exercise in the fresh air, choosing not to smoke, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding toxic people. and we do all of that stuff. but we also spend out on our health in some big ways, and plan to do even more when we’re retired. some of these expenditures may not seem health-related, but we see them that way, and that makes them worth it to us.
how we plan to spend on our health:
health insurance. we’re currently insured through work, but plan to switch to a not-bare-bones plan in retirement. we all know the stats: those who get preventive care have better health and health outcomes than those who only get care when they’re sick. we don’t want to be the sick ones, we want to be the healthy ones. we care about access to health care so much that we’re shaping our entire retirement budget around the affordable care act subsidy limits, as outlined brilliantly by justin at root of good. everyone has to figure out their own preferences, but for us, if we know that the office visit copay is high, we’re less likely to go to the doctor than if the copay is lower. so we’re planning to get a gold or silver plan with this feature, not a bargain basement bronze plan. and if obamacare goes away one day, we’re not averse to becoming expats in another country with cheaper but excellent health care.
gym membership. where we live, the gym isn’t cheap. and right now, we don’t get to go there much, so we don’t currently pay for the gym. (it helps that we have trails pretty much right out our front door.) but once we retire, we plan to join the gym again, and will be able to benefit from the off-peak membership, which will let us work out during midday for less than the cost of a regular membership. we see a lot of people, in an effort to save money, cut out the gym, and we think that’s not always a good decision. sure, it’s possible to workout without a gym membership, as we currently do, but we’re missing out on weights and classes that would challenge us in different ways. especially as we get older, we know that lifting weights and doing other load-bearing exercises will be even more important to avoid losing bone density, so this is a priority spending area for us.
healthy groceries. groceries are our single biggest expenditure each month, and we’re totally okay with that. organic, unprocessed foods cost more, and they’re important enough to us that we’re willing to suck it up and pay the difference.
destressing. while we anticipate feeling a lot less stress in retirement than we do now, we aren’t naive enough to think that stress will ever go away entirely. heck, maybe we’ll find ourselves stressing about money in ways that don’t affect us now. either way, we plan to continue some of what we do now to deal with work stress, namely devoting time and money to yoga and relaxation, and splurging on the occasional massage. we aren’t big yoga spenders ($15+ a class?… come on!), but have been known to go to an occasional retreat or seminar. and a few times a year, we treat ourselves to massages, especially if the local spa is running a special. (a couples massage at the spa is our favorite way to celebrate our anniversary.) we’re sure that “spa day” doesn’t fit into most frugal vocabularies, but as long as we plan for the spending, we think it’s totally worth it.
gear maintenance. we moved to the mountains so that we could enjoy all of the recreational activities here. those activities are both a means and an end — they keep us healthy, and we want to stay healthy to be able to keep doing things like mountain biking, skiing, backpacking and paddling. the downside is that most of these activities require gear, and most of it is pretty expensive. tempting as it might be to upgrade skis every few years or get the coolest new backpacking stove, we’ve accepted that we need to buy less gear if we want to have our financial freedom. but what we do need to invest in is maintaining the gear we have. that means keeping our skis tuned (something we can do ourselves most of the time, but we still need the occasional $50 base grind), keeping our bikes maintained (we’re learning to tune up our bikes and can cover the basics, but sometimes pro service is still needed), and keeping our outdoor equipment clean so that everything works properly (those goretex pores need to be nice and open if you want to avoid the sweat fest — this is not always a diy task).
classes or groups to keep us in touch. we pondered a while back if retiring early will accelerate our aging in the form of getting out of touch with society. while we don’t know the answer, we’re willing to spend money on classes to learn new skills or technologies, or join groups to help us keep in touch with what the kids are up to these (future) days. we hope we don’t need this one, but we’re open to it, because we see staying mentally flexible as an important component of health.
travel to visit family. research shows that strong family bonds are incredibly beneficial to health, and we’re committed to staying close to our families. (we also happen to like them a lot — so that helps!) ;-) once we quit our jobs and have our camper rig figured out (we’re hoping to convert a sprinter van or use a light fiberglass trailer), we plan to camp out in front of relatives’ houses for extended visits. so consider yourselves warned, family!
investing in our relationship. another big boon to health: having a healthy marriage. we’re lucky that we have a pretty darn great relationship, but if it ever falters, we’re not above doing some “touch up” counseling. we did some relationship counseling before we got married, and think it was one of the best things we ever did, even if it cost more than $100 a week. it helped us communicate better and avoid repeated conflicts, and we’re open to going back if we ever need to. (knock on wood!)
long-term care. if all goes to plan, we’ll never need long-term care. we hope to stay active and independent into our 90s, but in our 30-plus years on the planet, we’ve learned how rarely things go as planned. right now we have long-term care insurance through work, but we plan to shell out for it after we quit. just as a medical problem could eat through our hard-earned nest egg in no time, so could long-term care. and that’s the last thing we want.
how do you plan to look out for your health long-term? do you have anything special in your budget that may not be frugal but will keep you healthy? any expenditures you’ve found not to be worth it? please share your thoughts!