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Health and wealth a good combo

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Good news from a Boston College study
Fewer people are smoking today; only about a quarter of the nation's adult population smokes, whereas in 1960, 40 percent were smokers.

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That's just an incidental statistic released in a study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College that addresses a bigger question: "Will people be healthy enough to work longer?"

It's not a question that I care to dwell on. But let's look at what the study reveals.

The median age for retirement in the mid-1960s was 66, while today it's 63. That's too early for many people to retire today, the study's authors maintain. Regular Social Security benefits kick in at a later age and our 401(k) balances on average are low. So the study seeks to determine whether Americans are healthy enough to work longer since they're at risk of outliving their savings.

Its conclusion: "The bulk of older Americans" are in good enough shape to work into their mid-60s. Whew! What a relief, huh?

In fact there's irrefutable evidence "that the health of the older population has been improving" since the early 1990s, say the authors, due to environmental factors such as better medical treatments, reduced occupational hazards and higher educational attainment, among other factors.

But there's a note of caution about our nation's youth: The growing obesity problem among children raises questions about whether the trend of improving health will reverse for today's younger generations as they get older.

Take up the challenge
It's a good reason to involve the kids in a "Small Steps to Health and Wealth" challenge, a six-week commitment to change that would enable them to learn about the benefits of eating healthy and preserving wealth. The six-week indoctrination can introduce habits that last a lifetime.

Employers can encourage teamwork at the office by challenging their workers to make commitments toward improvements in their health and wealth, too. In the competition, team members are awarded points for their accomplishments and the team with the highest score could be treated to fruit smoothies or maybe a pizza -- not an unhealthy meal among fast food options.

Make a commitment to walk for 30 minutes during lunch hours or evenings until it becomes your daily constitutional. Enroll in your 401(k) plan or arrange for automatic deposits into an IRA. Once it's set up, you don't have to think about it anymore.

Then you can enjoy both health and wealth by shedding pounds and amassing a small fortune. This you can do by taking small, but very deliberate, steps.

Longtime financial journalist Barbara Mlotek Whelehan earned a certificate of specialization in financial planning. If you have a comment or suggestion about this column, write to Boomer Bucks.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: March 14, 2007
 
 
More stories by Barbara Whelehan
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