A Healthy Retirement

A few years ago I had a meeting with a financial advisor. He asked me the main question most financial advisors ask “how much money do you need to retire on?” I think he was shocked with my reply. I can’t remember exactly how much I told him, but I believe it was around $40,000 a year in todays dollars – that’s $5000 above the old age pension in Australia. That means if I retire with $100,000 in superannuation, it will last me over 20 years with the age pension. Of course, being a financial advisor he was from the school of “you need a million dollars to retire on.”

So his next question was “how did you come to that figure?” I said “its easy – take away things like car costs for driving to work, clothing costs, work expenses like tools etc and what’s left is what I need.” He was still not impressed and told me that what I didn’t spend on work expenses anymore, I’d spend on doctors. Even though I laughed it off at the time, I can now say he was exactly right (on these costs at least)! My spending on doctors has suddenly taken off. I just spend a few days in hospital – the doctors part of that was around $3000. I did get around $750 back from my health insurance – Medicare, but the costs to me were still significant. And it’s not over yet. I have to visit another doctor today and will probably enter into a new phase of treatment and costs.

Of course, most people don’t realise that retirement exaggerates your current habits. So, if you spend lots of time watching TV from your favourite chair, if you prefer tasty food with lots of fat, or just love lazing around, retirement will provide much more time to practice those habits.  That’s why it’s important to take as much notice of your health as you do your wealth. The best legacy you can give your family is a healthy you for a long time. So, make sure you monitor your health numbers like your:

  • Cholesterol level
  • Blood sugar level
  • Weight
  • Blood pressure
  • Prostate size (or PSA level)
  • Heart rate

Measures of health like these, are important because it’s easy to let exercise and proper eating habits slide once you retire. Of course, I’m not suggesting you don’t deserve to take it easy after working for 40 or 50 years, but it’s important to balance that with healthy activities.

All of this brings to mind some advice I read somewhere a while ago. That advice was – “as soon as you retire, do whatever you can, as soon as you can, because the poor health train is coming your way”. You can put off its arrival but sooner or later it will catch up to you. We don’t like to think about this and for some, the train may be a long way off, but as I have recently discovered, health issues can come very unexpectedly and very quickly.

Therefore, wherever you are in your retirement, today would be a good day to change your diet, go for a long walk, then work out what you really want to do and plan to do it. Don’t procrastinate any longer because when your diagnosis comes it effects a lot of things.

One thing is travel. If you’re a regular reader of retiredblokes you will know travel features a lot in our blogs. That’s because we like to travel and see new places and meet new friends. However, when the bad health train pulls up at your door, even if you have no symptoms, your travel health insurance will be affected! They will usually exclude any pre-existing conditions and not only the condition itself, but anything that they can possibly link to the condition. Some of the travel health insurers will cover you for a pre-existing condition but you must be honest with them and they will charge a special fee to cover your condition. Of course, even if you can’t get cover for all your conditions, it doesn’t necessarily stop you travelling, but it does mean the risk is higher. You can always (possibly) catch the next plane home or to another country with a reciprocal health care agreement. The governments of the UK, Italy, Sweden and New Zealand (and another 7countries) have agreements with the Australian Government to provide access to public funded health care in those countries. See here for a full list of countries.

And depending on what condition you have, bad health is most likely to make you feel weary more often. So that effects how long you can handle boring meetings and how easily you can put up with waiting for another plane or train and how far you can walk. Still, travel is possible but you may have to set a less demanding schedule.

Then, I’m not sure what happens if you need some serious medication while you are away. I imagine you can take most of it with you. I seem. to be able to get 2 months supply from the Chemist when I needed it to travel. But crossing the boarder with controlled substances may be a bit tricky.  They say you should take your doctors written list of medications you require with you.

So whatever your health situation today, it’s time. Time start maintaining your health. Time to start planning your next move before your health deteriorates because it surely will. And time to find something happy to read next time!


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