Realistic thinking and an ounce of prevention can give you a happier life. If it sounds simple, it actually is. It’s harder to change one’s mindset than it is to take the actions that are needed.
Most Americans, and certainly older ones like me, grew up with several assumptions about how our lives would play out.
(1) Income will increase over time. Taking on debt now is OK, because you can pay it off with increased earnings in the future.
(2) Housing is an investment. The value of housing will increase. Buy as much as you can afford now, and make money when you sell. Take on an equity loan now, and the growth in value will enable you to sell, cover the loan and still make a profit.
(3) Kids will do better financially than their parents. In your old age, your kids will be able to help you if needed.
(4) Social Security is there to cover basic expenses in retirement.
(5) You will be able to retire and enjoy yourself in your later years.
Like the Easter Bunny, these are wonderful myths. However, trying to live as if they were true is a quick path to what some analysts call, “money depression.”(1) That in turn is linked to problems with relationships and health.(2)
That’s the deadly spiral: money problems can trigger depression, which can trigger health problems, which can add to money problems.
The blind faith in the future is what enables people to spend everything they earn and dive into debt. It’s why almost half of Americans admit they would have trouble handling even minor financial emergencies, like a $400 medical bill.(3)
The new era of “living within one’s means” requires three things:
(A) Realism about the lifestyle one can afford
(B) A realistic budget
(C) Resources to deal with “the inevitable unexpected”, so that these don’t siphon off money you need for other things.
Item (C) is where supplemental insurance fits. No one expects to get sick or have an accident, but the average American spends over 9 years of his/her life dealing with illness or injury.(4) No one expects to have an accident. Most cancers in the US are now attributed to environmental rather than genetic factors.(5) You simply cannot plan on staying well. That’s not something you fully control.
Supplemental insurance works by providing cash to those who are hurt or ill. The cash is paid to the insured rather than to healthcare providers, and can be used to meet health insurance deductibles and copays, as well as to pay living expenses while ill.
Supplemental insurance makes sense for most people because it is very low cost. Policies start at less than $20 per month for individuals, and less than $40 per month for families.
Financial peace of mind means having a budget that works and knowing that you are protected to the extent possible against the “inevitable unexpected.” Once you achieve financial peace of mind, you’ll find you have the time and energy to tackle other challenges in your life.
(1) Williams, Goeff. “7 Steps to Defeat Money Depression.” US News. 6 Aug 2014.
Harding, Anne. “When Money Ruins Your Mood.” Health.com. http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20541338,00.html
(2) Crown, WH, et. al. “The impact of treatment-resistant depression on healthcare utilization and costs. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
(3) Gabler, Neal. “My Secret Shame.” The Atlantic Monthly [may 22016: 52-63]
(4) The World Health Organization gives the health life expectancy for US citizens as 69 years, as compared to a current life expectancy of 78 years.