Read these 10 Health And Your Money Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Health Management tips and hundreds of other topics.
It doesn't matter if your insurance is paid by an employer, the government, or out of your own pocket. You have choices that will profoundly affect your personal health and long-term finances. This book will help you understand your current health, the choices that you face in the short term and the long term, and the influence you can have on your long-term health and your long-term wealth.
Return to the checkbook analogy: you make money, you deposit the paycheck into your bank account, and you withdraw money to pay for food, home, electricity, school, car, and so forth. Now use that analogy for your health checkbook: you see your physician and you follow his or her advice. You don't make unplanned withdrawals from your health checkbook, and the money draws interest—you get add-on benefit by fewer withdrawals for less and less sickness.
It doesn't matter if you work in sales, service, education, labor, professional management or home management. Regardless of your chosen profession, your health is your business. Your personal health drives your financial health, and it's up to you to stay profitable.
A total investment strategy for financial improvement considers putting saved dollars into a financial portfolio. You can translate that strategy to a Health-Wealth Portfolio, by saving unintended costs for poor health now, and investing those saved dollars into a savings account, too. By improving your health, right now, you begin to create health savings that can be used later when the need arises. Spending all of your health dollars now, through inappropriate actions that result in inappropriate use of healthcare resources, is a expense strategy; it has no return on the dollars spent. Getting a positive return on dollars spent, which is an investment strategy, increases wealth through savings gained when unexpected health expenses are not incurred..
When we change to the asset/investment mind-set, then we get ahead of the reactive health decisions that have drained our resources. When we consider the methods, the behaviors, and the outcomes that bring us better health, and we change the ones that don't, we can increase our ASSETS by not draining our investments, not having health expenditures—because we manage our conditions, rather than experiencing acute flare-ups or worsening. When we increase our INVESTMENTS, we increase our HEALTH-WEALTH PORTFOLIOTM. That means we are planning for a long-term, healthy and managed lifestyle that allows us to achieve the performance and the joy that we all deserve.
As innovative American consumers, why shouldn't we use the same thinking for our own health management? Why shouldn't we consider what we are investing in our health assets (deposits) and what we are spending (withdrawals) in a systematic, proactive way? It's time for us to make INVESTMENT decisions in our health that increase our total value, much like the CEO does.
Therefore, here are the key points that can re-focus our thinking and actions. These 3 points can actually make us healthy, wealthy and wise.
1. WE are the most important shareholder in our personal health.
2. WE make the decisions that influence our shareholder value.
3. WE make the investments in our health-wealth portfolio, increasing our personal wealth.
When you act on these 3 key points, you are actually creating a health bank account that can deliver dividends to your future. You are taking the responsibility for the actions today [fewer unplanned withdrawals] that will result in more cash available now and later [invested actions, like cash, increase the value of your health investments]. Think of it this way: you are wise to invest in your 401K for future spending dollars. You are also wise to invest in your personal health so that less dollars go out in the near-term, and more are available for those times when, as you age, you may need it.
The decisions you make for better care can support a much more productive, active, and quality-filled life. Consider it from the perspective of your car: You change the oil and rotate the tires in order to keep the car running well (healthfully) for as long as possible. IF the red light comes on, you take the car for service almost immediately. Why, because you don't want to be caught without brakes on the highway, or overheated on a country road.
The same is true of your health. You need to consider the investments you are making into your personal health account. What are you eating? How much are you moving? Are you following doctor's orders for managing any health risks or conditions so that they don't get worse? Are making those INVESTMENT decisions that keep you out of the hospital or physical therapy?
If you are the most important “item,” then you must spend a bit of time tending to the “important item.” You must consider a new focus of putting health investments into your health bank account. It's time for you to invest in your long-term health so you don't make unplanned withdrawals from the health account, preserving the “wealth” of your account for the future. You save health now, let it increase, and have it available for later in life, when there are, usually, more repairs needed. Just like the older car…..
Just as employers are beginning to focus on “value-based decision making”- a plan that systematically lines up total benefits with corporate goals—you must also adopt a value-based method for health improvement. . What does this mean? In the employer world, it means that CEOs no longer equate the “cost of care” with the “cost of treatment,” such the cost of pills or physical therapy. Instead, they now add in the missed worked hours and days, the total costs of disability, and the unscheduled absences due to mismanaged or under-managed conditions. They are checking to see if their benefit design—the process for appointments, the costs of co-pays, the total number of EAP and mental health visits—are actually getting in the way of better health. They are realizing that sometimes the insurance plans they put into place are prohibiting the best care and the fastest return to work. And they know that when employees are healthy and focused on their work, they are more productive, leading to healthier bottom lines for the company.
Not surprisingly then, the employer is focusing more on ways to keep the employees and their families healthy. Why? Employers recognize that their employees (human capital) are an asset to be supported and that, when employees are present and focused on their work, productivity goes up and expenses, including health care and absenteeism, go down. This is an INVESTMENT strategy, one in which the employer measures return on investment (ROI) from different perspectives. While it may cost more in the short term, CEOs making INVESTMENT decisions understand the process for increasing WEALTH. They understand that the health of the workforce is the health of an ASSET, and that ASSETS have value. We see Value-Based Health Designs as a quickly-growing corporate strategy of successful CEOs.
The traditional suppliers of health care are changing how they look at health, too. Employers, physicians, insurance companies, and others in the healthcare arena are experiencing cost increases that, in some cases, overtake their profit lines. Therefore, while they value their employees, they must also value their shareholders and minimize the costs of poor health. They are searching, just as you are, for ways to increase their return on health investments—the monies they put into health insurance benefits, absenteeism and disability coverage, and accidents. They are checking out their “health investments,” and they are shifting some of the responsibility to you, the ultimate decision maker for your health. They are putting systems into place that will protect your health, such as healthier food in the company cafeteria, and flu shots, and coverage for prevention activities such as annual physicals. They are also creating incentives for you to manage your health better, such as Health Savings Accounts and flex-cash for stop-smoking classes. They see these as investments in the health of their companies, and you are integral to that health.
You, too, must check out the investments you are making in your health. Medical science will continue to improve our length of life, but it won't always be covered by your employer. You must take more of the responsibility in determining where you want your health dollars to go—into a savings account for those unexpected incidents? Into prevention and well-family care that will catch early risks and give you a chanced to intervene before they get out of hand? Into the medicines that manage your asthma or diabetes so that you don't require inpatient—expensive—services for acute flare-ups? That's the power of investing: managing the small bumps and doing the best you can at everyday health improvement actions.
The landscape of American health will continue to undergo change in the future. Our society is aging, and with that comes more chronic health issues including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and even depression. At the same time, there is an ever-growing generation of Americans in childhood and teen years suffering from acute health issues such as earaches, sinus infections, flu, and increasingly, obesity and diabetes. The threat of more international health epidemics has never been greater as people travel further, carrying diseases with them, and home again.
Your focus on your health is critical to the life you want to lead. The fresh look tells us that our health is integral to the quality of life we lead. How much time do we want to spend with our families? How much time having dinner with friends, or going to sporting events? And, how much time do we want to spend in doctors' offices, hospitals, and pharmacies, managing illness, managing insurance costs, and generally feeling bad?
Consider the short-term and long-term WEALTH consequences if you don't plan for a healthier life. Faith in our ability to plan for an optimistic future has been a central core component of the American culture. But changes in pensions, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid may put our abilities to manage our health into our retirement in jeopardy—unless we become more involved. Planning for a better, longer life, with money to do the things we enjoy, requires also planning to manage our health better. If we manage our health, devoting the same time and resources that we would devote to managing our investment portfolios, we can plan for less health expenses and more dollars in our pocket. If you are spending less on health care costs, AND you are taking good care of yourself, following fitness and nutrition advice, seeing your doctor regularly, and treating conditions as prescriptions for improvement, then the total costs of your health will not escalate past your allotted resources. Yes, accidents do happen, but we can each manage to avoid unexpected medical expenses by being more involved in our everyday health management. Limiting those unforeseen expenses means we have more dollars to use for other life activites.
“If you have your health, you have everything.” Fundamentally, we all believe that a life with poor health is a life of lesser quality. Think of how good health, versus poor health, affects our typical day's events. Our lives are packed full of business meetings, carpools, caregiving, investment decisions, retirement plans and even dinner plans. If our health is poor, if we are “under the weather,” think of how much more difficult and strained the day is.
How strange, then, that the most profound decisions we make– the ones that influence our daily performance and long-term quality of life – are usually made on the fly. We devote little, if any, consideration to alternatives, side effects, or impact and outcomes, all of which have direct influence on our financial health. We make decisions on care, treatment, outcomes and costs only when the condition gets bad enough to go to our doctor. Yet, with planning, we can control decisions in a way that puts the money into our investments—increasing our wealth while we maintain or improve our health.
The fact is: responsibility for healthcare in the US today is shifting. Each of us has to play a larger, more assertive and more accountable role in our personal and family health. Health is what supports our lives, our productivity, and our future. We stand to gain—or lose—the most by how well our health fares. It's a major contributor to how well we age and the success with which we achieve our life goals. So we ask you: How are you? Think of how good health, versus poor health, affects our typical day's events. Our lives are packed full of business meetings, carpools, caregiving, investment decisions, retirement plans and even dinner plans. If our health is poor, if we are “under the weather,” think of how much more difficult and strained the day is.
Now think about how, when you are ill, the costs run up. Sometimes there are unplanned trips to doctors; other times, there are prescription medications or special services (eye exams that are not routine, for example, or extra trips to dentists), all of which run up the costs. Don't forget to add in the time off work, or the missed lunches with friends, or the inability to put more money into a retirement plan because of the cost of unplanned medical interventions—and you begin to see how closely your health is related to your wealth.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|