December 13, 2016 – VALDOSTA – Finances and physical wellness go hand and hand. Financial problems can be overwhelming and consuming and lead to stress, especially during the holidays. Stress is a known contributor to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and stomach disorders, among other conditions. Part of this may be due to the fact that many people engage in unhealthy behaviors to cope with stress, such as drinking, smoking and overeating. In fact, a study published in the British Journal of Psychology found that drinking, smoking and obesity were all associated with debt and financial problems.
Taylor Insurance Services brings you “12 days of health and financial wellness tips” to promote healthier behaviors and attitudes in all aspects of life- yielding a happier, healthier and more financially secure you.
Day 1: Eat Healthy. Your body needs the right vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to stay in good shape. A healthy diet means you are eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk products, fish, poultry, lean meats, eggs, beans and nuts. Stay away from cholesterol-laden items, excessive sodium and added sugars. It is also important to avoid trans and saturated fats.
A healthy diet can protect you from heart disease, bone loss, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers, such as colorectal cancer. Making small changes in your eating habits can make a big difference in your life. Here are some tips and tools to get you started:
- Plan ahead. If you plan your meals for the week, you can save time and money.
- Shop smart at the grocery store. The next time you need to go shopping, eat a snack beforehand. Always use a shopping list and choose 100 percent whole wheat or whole grain bread and crackers. Buy a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Read the nutrition facts label. Look at the serving size, and try to keep saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium at 5 percent of your recommended daily value (DV) or less. Select foods that have 20 percent or more DV of fiber, iron, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and C.
- Eat healthy away from home. Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, water or diet drinks. Opt for steamed, broiled or grilled dishes, and ask for your dressing or sauce to be “on the side.”
- Cook at home. This will save you a lot of money—and calories!
Day 2: Avoid Debt. Especially during this holiday season make sure you have a handle on your spending. Try to use cash or just one credit card to manage expenses. A quick tip is to try to keep your debt ratio to 10 percent or less. Total mortgage and non-mortgage debt should be no more than 36 percent of your take-home pay.
Add up what you pay monthly in car loans, student loans, credit card bills, personal loans—everything but your mortgage. Divide that total by the money you bring home each month –this is your debt ratio.
Debt isn’t necessarily bad, but too much debt is. High debt and misuse of credit cards make it tough to save for retirement. Money that goes to pay interest, late fees and old bills is money that could have been contributed to a retirement fund.
Day 3: Get Enough Calcium. One out of every two women and one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone in their lifetime because of osteoporosis. Calcium helps to keep your bones strong and less likely to break. Adults ages 19 to 50 need at least 1,000 mg of calcium daily. To get more calcium into your diet, try the following:
- Eat foods with calcium, such as fat-free or low-fat milk and yogurt, spinach and greens, tofu made with calcium, and orange juice with added calcium.
- Take a calcium pill daily (talk to your doctor before choosing this option).
- Check the label on the foods you buy: the best choices are items that have at least 20 percent DV of calcium.
- Make sure you’re getting vitamin D, which aids in calcium absorption. You can get vitamin D in salmon, milk, some yogurts and vitamin D pills.
Day 4: Plan for Retirement. Once you have reduced your debt and created a workable spending plan, you’re ready to begin saving toward retirement. You may do this through a company retirement plan or on your own. Here are a few of the places where you might put your money for retirement:
- Savings accounts, money market mutual funds, certificates of deposit (CDs) and U.S. Treasury bills. These are often referred to as cash or cash equivalents because you can get to them quickly and there’s little risk of losing the money you put in.
- Domestic bonds. You loan money to a U.S. company or a government body in return for its promise to pay back what you loaned, with interest.
- Domestic stocks. You own part of a U.S. company.
- Mutual funds. These pool your money with the money of other shareholders and invest it for you, making it easier to invest and to diversify your money.
Day 5: Watch Your Weight. To stay at a healthy weight, you need to balance the calories you eat with the calories you burn. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. A healthy diet and physical activity can help you reach your goal. It is also important to eat smaller portions, which can be accomplished with the following:
- Eat small, healthy snacks throughout the day, such as baby carrots or a handful of
unsalted almonds. This will keep you from overeating at mealtimes.
- Serve food on smaller plates.
- If you are at a restaurant, consume only half your meal and take the rest home.
- Eat slowly—this will give you more time to feel full.
- Don’t eat in front of the TV. It’s harder to keep track of how much you are eating.
If you’re overweight, the first step in getting healthy is to make a promise to yourself to eat better, move more, and get support from family and friends. Try losing 1 to 2 pounds per week. Don’t know if you’re overweight? Calculate your body mass index, or BMI, at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/BMI/bmicalc.htm.
Day 6: Establish an Emergency Fund. Life has a way of throwing unexpected financial roadblocks, detours and potholes in our path. These might be large medical bills, car or home repairs, a death in the family, loss of a job or expensive legal situations. Such financial emergencies can derail your efforts to save for retirement.
An Emergency Fund can lessen the need to dip into retirement savings for a financial emergency. Building an emergency fund is tough if income is tight, but every dollar can help. Fund an emergency fund with pay from extra working hours or a temporary job, a tax refund or a raise. Put the money into a low-risk, accessible account such as a savings account or money market fund.
Day 7: Save. Seven easy ways to save on any budget.
- Negotiate a lower credit card interest rate. Simply call up your credit card company and ask for a better rate. If you have an excellent credit score of 720 or higher, you may be able to get a rate of 10 percent or less. If the company refuses to lower your rate, threaten to cancel the card.
- Fill up your car with regular gas instead of premium (unless required by your car’s manufacturer). Premium gas is about 8 percent more expensive, and most cars run just as efficiently using regular.
- Use coupons. Sure, it might be tedious to hunt coupons down, but that 50 cents here and there can really add up. Combine that with the fact that some grocers pair with products to have them on sale that same week, and that minor annoyance just saved you double digits!
- Trust your instincts—not your impulses. It may be tempting to buy that clearance-priced video or ultra-discounted vacuum cleaner, but before throwing it in your shopping cart, take another walk around the store and ask yourself if you really need it. The same goes with Internet shopping, where whims can be satisfied with the simple click of a button. Save your online basket, get off the computer, and come back online a little while later, after you have had time to think about if you really need it.
- Check your tires. It is vital to your car’s health to regularly check the tire air pressure—the recommended amount is once a month (or before any long trip). Tires that are properly inflated may improve fuel economy by as much as 3.3 percent.
- Use your tap. Believe it or not, there was a time when bottled water was not available. At nearly $2 each, this convenience can really put a dent in your wallet. If you are extremely particular about your water, purchase a water filter. You can attach it to your faucet or buy a specially designed pitcher for filtered water.
- Comparison shop. When buying anything—but especially something expensive—do your homework. Look online; there are many sites which will do the comparison shopping for you. Remember, you can often find a used version that is just as good as new—and significantly cheaper.
Day 8: Catch up on Contributions. If you are a 401(k), 403(b) or governmental 457 plan participant, You can make up to $18,000 in elective contributions in 2016 and 2017. Roth 401(k) or Roth 403(b) plan participants can defer a combined maximum of $18,000 in after-tax and pre-tax elective contributions. If you are age 50 or older, you may be eligible to make additional “catch-up contributions” of up to $6,000 in 2016 and 2017. 457 plan participants may make larger catch-up contributions during the three years before retirement.
If you are a SIMPLE IRA or SIMPLE 401(k) plan participant, on 2016 and 2017, you can make up to $12,500 in pre-tax contributions. If you are age 50 or older, you may be eligible to make additional “catch-up contributions” of up to $3,000 in 2016 and 2017.
Day 9: Manage Stress. Many things can cause stress, but the most common include unexpected changes such as having an argument or getting lost; issues such as divorce, discrimination, illness or money problems; or even good changes such as a promotion at work. When people are under stress, they may feel worried, irritable, depressed and unable to focus. Other signs of stress include headaches, trouble sleeping, weight gain or loss and back pain. It is important to manage stress in order to sleep better, improve concentration, get along better with family and friends, lessen neck and back pain, and have an overall feeling of calmness. Follow these tips in order to better prevent and manage stress:
- Plan your time. Think ahead about your day and write a to-do list. Decide which tasks are most important and complete them in that order.
- Prepare yourself. Be ready ahead of time for stressful events like a job interview or presentation.
- Try deep breathing or meditation. Yoga can also help relax tense muscles.
- Get active. Exercise has been proven to lift depression and stress.
- Eat healthy. Give your body plenty of energy by eating fruits, vegetables and protein.
- Talk to friends and family. Many times having a discussion about what is troubling you can help you feel better.
- Get help if you need it. A therapist or mental health professional is trained to help you deal with stress. You can also take advantage of your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if it is offered at work.
Day 10:Get Moving. Build physical activity into your life. Start at a comfortable level, and once you get the hang of it, add a little more activity each time you exercise. You should include aerobic activity as well as strengthening exercises (sit-ups, push-ups and weightlifting). Physical activity increases your chances of living longer; helps control your blood pressure, blood sugar and weight; raises your “good” cholesterol; and can prevent heart disease, colorectal cancer and Type 2 diabetes.
Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of activity each week. If you don’t have time for 30 minutes of exercise at one time, get moving for shorter 10-minute periods throughout the day. Check out these great 10-minute workouts! – http://bit.ly/7Jxp3c
Day 11: Budget for Groceries. Eating healthy doesn’t need to break your budget! In-season fruits and vegetables are fresher, cheaper and better for the environment! Do your research about what produce is in season before you shop!
In addition, you can cut food costs by eating more meals at home and by making sure they feature some of the healthiest foods from your supermarket — foods like whole grains, vegetables, and beans. We all know we should eat healthy, so here’s a list of inexpensive, nutritious ingredients to make it a little easier on your wallet!
Day 12: Calculate Your Net Worth. Look at your current financial resources. This is important because your financial resources affect not only your ability to reach your goals, but also your ability to protect those goals from potential financial crises. Income, savings, retirement savings, marital status are all resources you will draw on to meet various life events.
So how do you calculate your net worth? This isn’t as difficult as it might sound. Your net worth is simply the total value of what you own, your assets, minus what you owe—your liabilities. It gives you a snapshot of your financial health. Read the full article “Saving Fitness – A Guide to Your Money and Your Financial Future” from the U.S. Department of Labor publication to help outline steps for a strong financial future.