Health

4 Simple Ways To Improve Your Health And Finances At The Same Time

Your body and your bank account are more closely linked than you may realize.

In today’s world, women increasingly feel like we have to “do it all.” It’s no secret that balancing the many demands on our time—such as career, family life and social life—is a struggle that often leaves one person dead last: ourselves.

For many women, that means that we may neglect two important things: our health and our finances. We’ve all heard that we should prioritize wellness—eat our veggies, go to spin class and take some time to meditate. But what about our financial wellness? The two are more interconnected than you might realize, and taking them both seriously will make for a happier, more balanced and confident you.

If you’re wondering what your bank account has to do with your cholesterol numbers, the answer might surprise you. According to a study done at Washington University’s Olin Business School, people who invest in their retirement planning are also more likely to invest in their physical health.

The study showed that employees who saved for the future by contributing to a 401(k) showed improvements in their abnormal blood-test results and health behaviors approximately 27 percent more often than non-contributors did. The researchers hypothesized that the same factors that motivate employees to prioritize savings for their future self also motivate them to take charge of their physical health for the long-term.

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There is also a strong link between financial stress, and poor physical and mental health. Those who are struggling with debt, wondering how they are going to pay the bills and realizing that they have too few savings know that these worries can take their toll.

And women are bearing the brunt of it. According a nationwide survey conducted by Financial Finesse, Inc., a California-based nonpartisan organization, nearly 30 percent of women reported high stress levels because of money concerns compared to just 17 percent of men. The percentage of women who reported that they are experiencing “overwhelming financial stress” was nine compared to only three percent of men.

And all that stress? It’s wreaking havoc on your health.

“Of the patients that I would attribute their medical problems to stress, the overwhelming majority have money at the root,” Dr. Arta Bakshandeh, senior medical officer with Alignment Healthcare in Los Angeles said in an interview about financial stress and health. “Most commonly, these patients complain of headaches, elevated blood pressure, ulcers, depression and moderate to severe anxiety.”

So now that you know that your physical and mental health are inextricably linked to your financial health, is there anything you can do to get them both on track? Yes! Here are some simple yet effective tips that will ensure that both you and your wallet are in the best shape possible.

1. Schedule “Me” Time

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times. If you consider a healthy habit like a thrice weekly gym session to be an appointment you must keep the same way that you schedule a play date for your kids or an important meeting at the office, you’re more likely to honor your commitment. So go ahead and put it in your calendar. And then actually follow through.

The same goes for your financial “healthy habits.” For example, you could set aside time each month to go over your budget and make any necessary adjustments. Or, just like you’ve been putting off making that dentist appointment, finally set up a meeting with a financial advisor to get a true sense of your complete financial picture and start planning for the future. Getting that date on the calendar is a great first step.

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2. Don’t Do It All At Once

Despite how it feels some days, nobody’s Wonder Woman. If you try to make too many changes at once, such as revamping your whole diet, embarking on an extreme exercise routine and taking up meditation, you’re destined to fail. Instead, take your goals and break them into manageable chunks. For example, first eliminate soda and once you’ve got that down, move onto other aspects like trying that new Pilates class.

Taking charge of your finances can also benefit from a similar incremental approach. You don’t have to increase your contribution to your 401(k), pay off all your debt and figure out how to slash monthly expenses all in one day. Instead, pick one specific financial goal, such as growing your retirement account, and focus on that before moving onto something else, advises Kate Brown, senior wealth planner with Fort Washington Investment Advisors, a subsidiary of Western & Southern.

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3. Knowledge And Communication Are Power

You might have a sneaking suspicion that you’ve put on a few pounds, and maybe your blood sugar or cholesterol levels have suffered as a result. But you’re scared of the facts, so you avoid the scale and blow off your doctor’s orders for blood work. Needless to say, this is not a good strategy. If you don’t know exactly where you stand, how can you put in place a plan of action?

Getting your baselines numbers means you’ll have a better idea of where and how much you need to improve. Once you know where you need to be, don’t go it alone. Hash out a plan with your doctor or enlist the help of a friend to keep you accountable with your workouts or to swap healthy recipes.

When it comes to money, fear can have a similarly negative effect, causing women to ignore and keep quiet about their financial problems, but this is the opposite of what you should do.

“Know what you have today in terms of all of your accounts and assets,” Brown says. “A majority of women hold back when it comes to discussing money. But if you have questions, chances are that your friends and family do too and you can learn from each other.”

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4. Identify Your “Why”

When it comes to goal-setting, if don’t know why you want to accomplish something, it can be difficult to muster up the energy to put in the work to get it done. Instead of identifying a vague goal like “I want to get healthier,” make it more specific and personal, like “I want more energy to play with my kids” or “I want to reduce my stress and anxiety so I can be more present with my family.”

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If the reason behind your goals serves a larger purpose that’s important to you, you’ll be way more motivated to stick to your plan than if you are simply doing it because you think you should.