Being healthy is never a bad thing … until it makes you financially sick


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How much is that Soul Cycle class, again? It’s an important question to ask given some new research from TD Bank that shows most millennials prioritize healthy eating and staying in shape over saving more and spending less. Of course, a healthy lifestyle is never a bad thing. The trouble arises when you start spending more than your budget allows on things like exclusive classes, nightly smoothies and personal trainers — which is an all-too-easy trap to fall into.

“You could have the fittest body in the world, but if you’re finding yourself strapped by debt or financial insecurity, it doesn’t matter if you can run a marathon or not — your mental state is going to make you unhealthy,” says Kimberlee Davis, managing director and partner at wealth management firm The Bahnsen Group. The good news is that a long run in the park can be just as beneficial as a $40 barre class, and if you have your finances in order, you’re more likely to be healthy in other areas, too. Here’s how to get both your finances and your fitness working in your favor.

Striking the Balance

There’s little debating that being healthy does often require some financial investment in the way of healthy food and exercise. On the flipside, there’s a tremendous economic cost to obesity that can’t be ignored. So how do you strike the balance?

First, recognize that the healthcare costs of being unhealthy can quickly usurp what you’d spend at the gym. In other words, the $40 spin class and vitamin supplements you purchase today will wind up being much cheaper than the doctor’s copays you’ll be saddled with if you develop diabetes, heart disease or any of the other conditions associated with extra weight, says Jillian Cohen, CEO & co-founder of Virtual Health Partners, an online wellness platform that offers nutritionist appointments, live fitness classes, and more. “There’s a cost to you, to society, and to your employer that insures you,” she says. Which is not to say you should be dropping $40 on a regular spin class when you can’t afford it.

While it’s certainly possible to spend thousands of dollars per year on healthy food options, (we’ve all seen the menus with the $20 salad and the $10 burger and fries) you can save money when you cut the bad stuff out of your diet. “Once you’ve made the decision to lead a healthy lifestyle, you’re not going to be eating out every day,” Cohen says. “Making things at home and packing your lunch is going to save you so much money.”

Think Ahead (Or Automate So You Don’t Have To)

It’s difficult for some people to think ahead to their retirement years, which is why many people opt for short-term rewards instead of putting money away for future. That’s a problem. Research from Fidelity Investments projects that a 65-year-old couple will need $280,000 just for non-reimbursed medical expenses in retirement. The easiest way to get yourself to save enough is to automate contributions wherever possible — that includes your 401(k) or other retirement plan, emergency fund and Health Savings Account. “The game is very, very long, but you have to start playing early,” Davis says. “When your money has a 30-year period to mature, it’s going to do a lot more than if it has only a 10-year period.”

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