Monday, May. 04, 2009

Invest in Your Health

One way to long-term wealth is through long-term health. The costs associated with preventable chronic issues are staggering. Obese people, for example, spend a third more than fit people on health services and three-quarters more on medications, according to Rand Health. Exercise and diet are keys to avoiding high blood pressure and heart disease, which together account for average annual out-of-pocket costs of $606, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Medicare spending on chronic sufferers is four times greater than on healthy people. Why not use your refund to join a gym or buy an elliptical or treadmill? Good equipment costs $4,000 and up if you buy new; but you can find reliable stuff on Craigslist for half that. If you need encouragement just look around for trainers, books and support groups. The $2 billion wellness industry has something for everyone, including programs to help you stop smoking, reduce stress, lose weight and exercise. You may be able to get more bang for your buck by running this expense through a flexible spending plan at work. If you've lost your job use your refund to extend your medical coverage for up to 18 months through COBRA or to buy coverage if you are not insured. You may even benefit by using your refund to see the dentist. One study found that women with good teeth, on average, earn 4% more than those with bad teeth.

See 10 things to buy during the recession.