Thankfully for many, holiday spending is behind us. Come January, the bills — and the New Year’s Resolutions — will start rolling in.
When reflecting on habits you’d like to break in 2011, it’s important to take a look at your personal finances. Common problems such as being overweight, smoking and carrying credit-card debt could be costing you and your family thousands of dollars.
To help combat such negative trends, consider this excerpt from the new book “The Real Cost of Living: Making the Best Choices for You, Your Life, and Your Money” by personal finance expert Carmen Wong Ulrich:
Resolution #1: Lose weight
Obesity is becoming the norm in this country — a very dangerous and expensive norm. We’re being super-sized at such a rate that experts say that in 20 years, more than half of American adults and the majority of children will be overweight. The first and possibly most expensive costs of obesity have to do with direct and indirect health-care costs and complications. Being overweight can contribute to many diseases and chronic conditions, including some cancers (breast and colon), diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol and stroke, and this list contains four of the top six causes of death in the United States. As of 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that health-care costs in this country were around $147 billion to cover health complications from obesity — more than 9 percent of the nation’s annual health-care budget. If you break down that price tag, obese Americans pay $1,429 a year more in medical costs than someone who has a body mass index (BMI) below 25; that’s 42 percent higher health-care costs for an individual. If you’re overweight or obese, you’re also much more likely to take more medication than someone of lower BMI.
Your paycheck also pays the price. Wage discrimination exists as well as hiring discrimination. The majority of respondents in one recent study said that they’d always choose the thinner individual when deciding between two similar job applicants. Employees who are overweight, on average, make $1.25 an hour less than a low-BMI colleague, adding up to a six-figure loss over a career. Women get hit the hardest when it comes to paying a high price at work for being overweight — obese women can make up to 24 percent less than an average-size women while even slightly overweight women make around 6 percent less.
Obesity price tag: $6,454
Add together the higher annual costs of health care and medication ($1,429), wage discrimination ($2,500), travel costs (a conservative $25), and other lifestyle costs such as mobility and clothing ($2,500), and the cost of being overweight is around $6,454 a year, or $538 a month. Over a lifetime (40 adult years), that’s more than $258,000. And had you instead put that $538 a month in your retirement account, earning a moderate average of 6 percent interest, you’d have $1,082,675. But that’s without diabetes or complications. Consider those pricey add-ons, and you’re looking at $19,454 a year in total costs — that’s $778,160 over a lifetime and over $3 million if that money had been invested.