By Alessandra Malito, MarketWatch
Better health today may lead to a better retirement tomorrow.
Workers who said they are in good or excellent health achieved a higher retirement readiness score than those who said they were in fair or poor health, according to the 2019 Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey, an annual report that looks at participants’ preparation and confidence toward a future retirement.
The paper is part of a series on retirement from Aegon, a Netherlands-based insurance and asset management firm, and the Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing.
Some diseases and disabilities may be inevitable, but they’re also exacerbated by unhealthy diet and exercise choices. Conversely, good health will motivate people to realize their retirement dreams and continue living that healthy lifestyle in old age, according to the report.
“For a realistic planning of life in retirement, people need to be encouraged to think about their health in retirement, as it can enable or impede aspirations for retirement,” the researchers said.
But health and retirement are linked in numerous ways, not just in how prepared someone is for retirement. Health may be the cause of an early or delayed retirement, as healthier workers tend to stay in the workforce longer, according to a 2012 report published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine. People who self-reportedly had chronic health problems said they were less likely to work full-time after 62. (Of course some employees who are healthy and have the financial means may want to retire early or at traditional retirement age.)
How healthy one is will also add to how much he or she spends in health care costs in retirement. A couple retiring in 2019 at age 65 can expect to spend $285,000 in retirement over the course of their lives, and that’s not including long-term care costs, according to Fidelity Investments, the Boston-based financial services firm. The cost of medical expenses rises every year, and there are no indications that will change, according to Fidelity Investments, Fidelity said.
To achieve a healthier lifestyle researchers suggested people change their environment, such as making fruit readily available and easily visible, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
“We should consciously try to create an environment that helps us make healthy lifestyle choices,” Aegon noted.
Companies and office building architects and designers could positively impact workers’ health by creating spaces that encourage more healthy choices, but there are many employees who don’t currently work in those environments. In that case, they have to focus on what they can do while at the office, as well as when at home.
There are five components to good health, and the possibility of extending your life by a decade, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: eating a nutritious diet, exercising 30 minutes a day, maintaining a healthy weight (depending on your body-mass index), controlling alcohol consumption to no more than one 5-oz. glass of wine a day for women and two glasses for men; and never smoking.
Men and women who followed these life choices were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65% less likely to die from cancer compared with those who lived unhealthy lifestyles over the course of 30 years, the study found.