Sad to say, most people aren’t willing to change until a certain amount of pressure has been applied. For example: you go on a diet when your “fat pants” are too tight, but don’t really make lasting change. Thoughts on retirement are much the same – out of sight, out of mind. Unfortunately, your current health affects the money you will have available to fulfill your retirement plan.
I’m not an expert in financial planning, but I do have a good friend who is. Monica Flores is a financial coach who helps clients make the best decisions to ensure their retirement is all they plan for. Sometimes all the money saved goes to expenses due to poor health.
Because Monica has a unique perspective on this, I’ll let her tell you about it.
One Friday morning, driving down the road, I called my mom. Because my mother loves to talk, it’s not unusual for me to call my mom on long drives. This day was a little bit different. After about 5 minutes of talking with her, she said “Here! Talk to your daddy! I need to finish making his breakfast.”
As my daddy gets on the phone (yes, I’m 47 years old and will always call him daddy), our conversation goes something like this:
Me: Hi daddy, how are you?
Daddy: Fine. Hanging on. Just waiting.
Me: Waiting? What are you waiting for?
Daddy: Oh, just waiting for my time.
Me: Your time? Your time for when Jesus calls you?
We both giggled.
Me: Well, I hope you’re ready to answer the call.
Daddy: Oh, yeah, I know. I’m ready.
We talked a little more and then we hung up.
After hanging up the phone, a tear slid down my cheek. Then another. Because I was about to meet up with other people to help prepare for the gala, I wiped them away and held back from a full-blown cry session.
As I was driving, I started to think about why I was crying. I never cried when I thought about my dad dying. I understand that may sound a bit morbid, but when we would talk about his demise it was in jest and funny. But it was different this Friday morning.
To help you understand this better, let me back up a couple of decades.
After being diagnosed as borderline diabetic in his mid-50s, my dad continued to eat whatever he wanted. My mother would make healthier meals, but he wasn’t having it. She would buy healthier snacks, he wasn’t having that either. Instead, he would sneak out to the grocery store and buy Oreos, Cheetos, and sodas.
I would get on him all the time. Telling him, “Daddy, you need to stop eating that crap! It’s not healthy for you. You can’t continue to eat like you’re 20, your body changes as you get older!” He would say, “It’s okay, I’m only borderline and I’m taking my medication.”
Sadly, not more than 5 years later he became a full-blown diabetic. When I heard the news, I thought, well, good. Maybe this is what he needed to hear so he can change his way of eating.
He didn’t change his ways.
Now my daddy is 77 years old. On dialysis 4 hours a day, 3 days each week because of his diabetes. He also has prostate cancer, and many doctor visits.
Here is why I never cried before that Friday morning, and why I never gave sympathy as his health declined … because it was PREVENTABLE! … It was CONTROLLABLE! I was angry with him for all the wrong choices he made.
You see, my dad worked hard all his life building up savings and a nice retirement account. Honestly, all for what? To be on dialysis and to see his hard-earned money going … to doctor visits, extra gas, parking, home equipment, medications?! It would upset me because it didn’t have to be that way.
My daddy had dreams of his retirement years. Often, I remember he would say he and my mom would go travel around the United States.
He should be enjoying his retirement years, spending his hard-earned money, and traveling with my mom.
I believe everyone deserves to enjoy their retirement years. Everyone deserves to spend their retirement money the way they plan, the way they dreamed, the way they deserve it – in good health!
I want this for you.
Write down what retirement means to you. Everything you know about retirement, write it down. For example, what did it mean to you when you were a child? Write what it meant when you saw your parents retire. Did it mean the same to you when you reached your 30s?
Next, close your eyes and imagine what retirement looks like for you. Where do you see yourself in your retirement years? Imagine where you are living and what are you doing. Get to the nitty-gritty and picture what you are wearing and what your home looks like. Do you have hobbies or volunteer work? Get specific!
Then, write down what good health means to you. With that, list any health issues in your family. Diabetes? Heart disease? Stroke? Cancer?
After that, take note of your current physical and financial health. Make an appointment with your primary care doctor and request a physical with a full blood workup. Obtain your health baseline.
Finally, review your finances and begin planning towards your retirement dreams. Look at your 401(k) and any other savings or assets. Review your estate planning documents (will, trust, power of attorney, medical directives, etc.)
And then, if your parents are still alive, I highly encourage you to do the same with them.
Why do all this?
What do health, money & your retirement plan have to do with each other?
Everything! Think of it like this …
The work you’re doing now, the money you’re accumulating and saving for your future, make it count! Above all, make it count towards your dreams, not towards medical expenses. Make it count towards more time to enjoy life, not towards 4 hours a day, 3 days each week hooked up to machines.
The better health you have today, the better you can enjoy the plan you have for retirement and spend money doing what you enjoy.
Let me end this by explaining why I finally shed tears that Friday morning.
Because it was the first time I wasn’t angry about his unhealthy choices. It was the first time I realized I’m losing my daddy.
Monica Flores is a Life and Financial Coach at Money Management by Monica. She is passionate about helping anyone navigate through the emotional and financial challenges of the “sandwich generation”, the term used for when you find yourself squeezed between caring for your aging parents and growing children.
Visit Money Management by Monica for a FREE Financial Consultation.