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Nothing is worse than outliving your money

Outliving your money makes for a sad ending. Your final years spent scraping and saving. A dream retirement deflated to a life of subsistence. A battle of the bills with you on the losing side. Lucky for you a massive retirement industry is there to save you from that fate and get you sailing off into the sunset like the people in the brochure.

But there is another, ghastlier possibility: What if your money outlives you? What if your good health is gone in your sunset years? Or worse, what if YOU are simply, well, gone? All of that carefully nurtured stash and no chance to enjoy it. Your family and friends left with no chance to enjoy YOU. Enjoying good health throughout our lives is possible with some easy health tips, a decent set of genetics and a bit of effort.

Watch the numbers

The first easy health tip is, well, the easiest. A bit of measuring. One of the wonders of our bodies is that they can report to us on how they are doing. If we know what’s going on, we can know what to fix. Some of the health data is right there for us. Maybe that little muffin top hanging over your jeans has a story to tell. Perhaps that t shirt didn’t actually shrink in the dryer. Ugh. And what if there isn’t actually anything wrong with your scale?

A weekly morning weigh in is a good place to start. Same time of day. Just checking in is a great start. On your next doctor’s visit, review all the numbers together. Take home a copy. What is up or down since your last physical? What can you do to improve the results? Get to know your problem areas. Triglycerides running too high? Is your blood glucose starting to creep up?  Find a way to learn about and track your numbers.

For instance, an app like MyChart will show you all of your test results at your fingertips. Even without a medical degree, it is obvious which numbers are labelled NORMAL and which are HIGH or LOW. Learn about the diet and lifestyle changes you can make to get the numbers back on track. Here in the US, you can actually order your own medical tests to track how you are doing in between doctors visits. Companies like Jason Health, will do the typical annual physical tests for under $50 and email you the results in a day or two.

You only get one body and one life. Get involved. Learn what is going on with yours.

Find a passion

We all need a quest. A passion. Something that gets better with time and effort. Maybe its restoring a ’65 Camaro, learning the piano or perfecting your Salsa. In a perfect world, that passion also happens to be your job. Even better if that passion is something that helps others. Study after study shows that helping others increases our happiness.

That passion can also be the thing that reduces your stress and adds meaning to your life. Can you worry about your mortgage payments while you are playing an Eagles tune on the guitar? Didn’t think so! And if that passion really works your brain, it can help stave off dementia.

If you can fill your life with some activity that helps others, something that fuels your spirit like music, art or religion, something that works your body and something that challenges your mind you will set yourself up for a full life. And when the kids are being brats, you still have time with your violin. When things go sour at work, you still have your family. And when you have a disappointing run, there’s still that next chapter in the book you are reading.

Work your body

We were built to move. Exercise is its own reward. The sweat of accomplishment. That awareness of each muscle responding as you move. The 3 miles that went by while you forgot that you were running. And the joy of finding that free hour to see just how hard you can push it.

Sound ridiculous? Those things NEVER happen at the START of a new exercise regime. Truth is, starting to get some exercise is horrible. Everything hurts. You can’t forget that you are exercising for even a second. Trust me, that will all pass. Start slowly and build gradually. Stretch at the end of your workout. If things hurt the next day, give them a day to calm down. More stretching. Then start again gently and work your way up. Stay with it. Log a month or two before you even think about quitting. Let gamification help you. I follow the little rings on my Apple Watch. Am I standing enough? Did I move around today? Where am I on my 35 minutes of exercise? Fitbit, Apple Watch, heart rate monitor. Get something counting to keep you on track and make it fun.

Over time, you will have more energy than you know what to do with. Insomnia? Gone. Your blood numbers start improving. You look better. Your clothes hang nicely. And you’re adding years to your life and life to your years.

Eat what you need

Some people crave a big juicy burger, a steaming hot plate of fries and an ice cold Coke to wash it all down. Let’s call them Group 1. Others are grazing on their tofu and spinach, paired with an impossibly big water. Group 2. What if the two groups are actually the same and they just started down different paths that became habits? What if they switched plates for a day? Disaster. Group 1 would find the natural foods bland and boring. Left with massive cravings for the fat, sugar and salt of their old world. Group 2 could barely eat their new vittles. Way too salty, greasy and sweet.

But give it a bit of time in a forced regime. Rabbity Group 2 would learn to crave the burgers and fries. And Greasy Group 1 would start to enjoy the healthy stuff. The groups aren’t as fixed as you would think. Try eating what your body needs. Like your new exercise regime, start slowly. As an example, one less spoon of sugar in your coffee on the way to drinking it black. Switch to water as the drink to go with your meals. Gradually swap some high fiber cereal for your Count Chocula. (Let me stress gradually on that one.) Order a healthy side with your dinner out. Invest in a session or two with a dietician. Learn to read food labels.

With food, the easy health tip is to try some simple changes and watch how your cravings change over time.

Give it a rest

Sleep is your body’s chance to restore and heal. Your mind sorts and files all of its memories. You muscles relax and repair themselves. Your daily stresses ease away.

To begin, start noting how many hours of sleep you are actually getting. Most adults need 7 hours. If you are getting less, is it an issue of no time to sleep? Or is it that you can’t fall asleep even when you set aside the time?

Here are some easy health tips to get a full night of restful sleep

  • Get some exercise during the day, to tire you out. Nothing knocks you out like a good workout
  • Tackle the issues you are worried about during the day. Resolve the issue with your boss. Get your report written. Apologize to your spouse. Eliminate the things to worry about all night.
  • Start shutting things down a couple of hours before bed. Read a pleasure book or watch some mindless TV. Don’t struggle with a work problem then climb into bed. Your mind will keep working on it after you turn out the light.
  • Invest in a sleep mask if you need to sleep past sunrise. They are magical. Find one that fits your face and doesn’t fall off.
  • Have a warm shower or bath before bed.
  • Turn down the heat before tucking in.

In Conclusion

It’s time to value our bodies and look after them. Health is the most important thing we have and when it ends, so does everything else. The money won’t matter. Take an interest in your health and learn everything you can about it. Here are some closing thoughts:

First, know that each of the easy health tips above affect the other. As an example, a lack of sleep can lead to some food cravings. Not enough exercise can impact your sleep. A poor diet will impact your energy levels and cause you to avoid exercise. Not having a passion will elevate your stress and affect your sleep.

Second, know that our habits hold back progress of all of these areas. We view those habits as fixed. In reality they aren’t. We can all start with small changes and build them slowly into new, healthier habits

Third, we are playing for the biggest stakes of all. Our lives. Both the length of time we have around and the quality of the life itself. Make great choices and enjoy the beautiful lives we are all given.

What easy health tips do you have? Let me know in the comments.

Photo by Jannis Brandt on Unsplash

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Valuations are stretched! 5 great stocks to grab now! A crash is coming! Inflation will eat our returns! Buy and hold! Well which is it? And how can we protect ourselves if things really do go to hell in a hand basket?

Always fun to compare yourself to others. Are you a spending savant or a spending savage? Let’s find out!

How cool would it be to get free iPhones for life?

Dream with me for a minute. Imagine brand new free iPhones every other year. And hey, if we are dreaming anyway, how about a free cell phone plan to go along with it? Pretty sweet. Since everyone likes free stuff, let’s add in $200 gift certificates from Starbucks, Lululemon, Starbucks and Chipotle. Even better. But is this really possible? And why would these companies give all of this away for free? More important, how can you get in on the deal?

Most personal finance writers would shoot down the idea of new iPhones every other year, fancy coffees, dining out and premium sportswear. I would too, if you actually had to pay for all of it. But what if there were a way to actually get it all paid for…every year…for life?

So what is the scheme and who actually pays for the free iPhones?

Over at Apple there are 147,000 employees. They are all working hard, dusting store fixtures, selling iPads, explaining nuances of iCloud and making all the boxes open slooowwwly. Meanwhile at Chipotle, people are opening stores, scrubbing grills and being incredibly patient while customers fuss over their exact burrito toppings. The Amazon folks are scampering around filling orders and whipping reindeer to get everything to your house on time (kidding on that last one). What are we doing while they are working so hard? Well, frankly not much. And therein lies the elegance of this approach to get free iPhones and other stuff.

As they are busy with all this ceaseless toil, they are growing their companies. Improving sales numbers, opening new stores and making their companies more money. The brands become more valuable and their success continues to snowball. The great products and experience keep the results coming and and their stock prices continue to grow. That stock price growth is what we can use to get their products for free.

Converting stock growth to free stuff

Ok. So far we have companies with products we want. Employees working like the Dickens. Stock prices rising. So how do we cash in and get all the free iPhones and the other cool stuff?

Imagine that we set aside $7,000 five years ago and bought $1,000 worth stock of each of 7 cool companies whose products and services we like. Let’s lay it all out in a table:

free iPhones
An initial investment made 5 years ago

On the left is the company, their stock ticker in blue and an initial investment in yellow. $1,000 per company. Adding up the growth of the stock over the last 5 years, including dividends give us today’s value in green. Finally, the purple column shows the average annual return for each of these stocks. Wow! An average annual return for the group of 34.39%. They are all great companies with big competitive advantages. Will they keep growing like that? I have no idea. And neither does anyone else.  But stay with me!

So our initial investment of $7,000 has grown to over $30,000. Not bad. There are lots of things that we could do with that cash. Usually, my counsel is to keep it invested, especially in an IRA or a 401(k). (TFSA or RSP for you Canadians). But this time, let’s assume that your debts are under control and you have a good start on your retirement savings.

Time for a little fun with our cash

Rather than spend the money in a lump, or invest it for the long term, what if we just pull out each year’s gains after that initial 5 year growth period and spend it on fun stuff. What could we buy and how long could we keep this up? Let’s take a look:

free iPhonesSo we will start with a new iPhone every other year for $1,000, or about $500 per year. Let’s add a cell plan and let it gorge on unlimited 5G data. Tasty. Tuck in a standard Netflix subscription. That adds up to $1,508. Then let’s spend $200 on gift cards from each of Starbucks, Lululemon, Amazon and Chipotle. That all ads up to $2,308 of fun stuff every year. Some nice lifestyle additions. Why those numbers?

They sum to $2,308 or about 7.5% of the value of our stocks. If our stocks grow at about 7.5% a year, we would be able to spend that much and not actually deplete our $30,691. In fact, we could enjoy free iPhones, cell plans, Netflix subscriptions and all those gift cards forever. $2,300 worth of stuff forever, all from a one time investment of $7,000.

But wait, it wasn’t free. We still had to invest $7,000 and wait 5 years.

Actually, you can get that initial investment for free. Or very close to free. Some careful re-shopping of regular bills can easily emancipate the cash for that kind of investment. All with minimal effort. Have a look at easy ways to reduce regular bills like energy costs, home renovations, housing costs, prescription drugs and even vodka expenditures. Want another $13,000 of monthly savings ideas? Check out Cashflow Cookbook.

What about the business of waiting 5 years for that initial investment to grow? Let me answer that with a story. When I was about 27, I started working on an MBA part time. People would often say “Part time? Are you kidding me? That will take you 4 years. You won’t be done until you are 31.” My answer was that I will be 31 eventually. I can either be 31 with an MBA, or without one. Life goes on, tuck away the money, go about your business and check your balance in 5 years. Hopefully you will have a fun account that spits out free iPhones and other goodies for life.

You can, of course set this up with whatever brands you like and nothing says you have to spend the growth and dividend money on the same companies you invest in. The investments are spread across 7 stocks which provides some level of diversification.

We got some free iPhones and some powerful learnings

A few things get reinforced with this example:

  • Compound growth really is the 8th wonder. It can even keep you in iPhones.
  • Great companies have brand power that fuels their growth and investment returns
  • A group of strong stocks can provide an ongoing stream of money to fund a lifetime of expenses
  • This is really a miniature version of the power of long term investing for retirement
  • Invest for the long haul. Markets tend to rise over the long haul, but may rise or fall in the near term

Some caveats

Readers should always do their own research on any investment. This example was for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute investment advice. The author holds positions in Amazon and Apple. Investment results are unpredictable and past results may not be reflective of future performance.

What companies and products would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo credit Douglas Bagg at Unsplash