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Staying Healthy In Early Retirement

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Staying Healthy In Early Retirement

I never thought staying healthy would be my biggest challenge in early retirement. Before I quit working full-time, I expected money would be my biggest challenge. I figured we wouldn’t be able to save much and our net worth would slowly decline. Instead, we continue to save over $50,000 per year and our net worth has increased by over 50% since 2012. Luckily, our income has been better than I expected and the stock market was on a tear for 10 years. So we did pretty well on the financial side. On the other hand, I haven’t done nearly as well on the health side.

Why did I think staying healthy would be easy? When I was working, I used to go to the gym at lunch almost every day. I had been working out consistently since I was in college and I thought I could continue with no problem. Needless to say, it wasn’t that easy.

Staying healthy should be everyone’s priority no matter what age you are. It should be easier when you have more time, right? The schedule is wide open and you can dedicate more time to staying fit. Here is my plan to stay healthy for the next 30 years.

  1. Exercise
  2. Eat a healthy diet
  3. Control your weight
  4. Minimize stress
  5. Manage your long-term conditions

*Originally written in 2016. Updated 2023.

Exercise

Going to the gym didn’t work out for me. It was much easier to go to the gym when I was working because it was convenient and I scheduled it into my work days. When RB40Jr was young, I joined a gym with childcare. That didn’t work well because something always came up. Eventually, I canceled the gym membership and tried to work out at home.

Working out at home worked for a while, but the pandemic put the kibosh on it. Mrs. RB40 and Junior were home too. I didn’t have enough privacy to work out. Our home is too small.

This year, I’m starting over. My goal is to average 7,500 steps per day. That was pretty easy when I was in Thailand because I walked everywhere. At home, it’s more difficult. I need to take 2 walks per day to accumulate enough steps. This is tough to do in the winter. I’ll just have to walk more when the weather is nicer to bring up my average.

My steps dropped off after I came back from Thailand.

Eat a healthy diet

This one is difficult for a lot of people and I’m no exception. Well, I think we eat relatively healthy. We usually cook at home so our meals aren’t calorie bombs. I cook mostly Asian cuisines and that’s generally healthy. I don’t deep fry and I make sure to include vegetables with every meal. We need to eat more fish, though.

Drinks – We rarely drink soda pop and other sugary drinks. I usually drink tea or water. I rarely drink beer and wine these days. Alcohol is bad for my triglycerides level.

Snacks – I think this is my downfall. We have cookies, crackers, and chocolate around the house now because RB40Jr loves them. It’s tough to not snack when there is junk food on the shelf! I need to pick up some healthy snacks and wean myself from processed junk food. I just picked up some organic baby carrots today, but they don’t look appetizing at all. At least, we like fresh fruits and eat them regularly.

*Update – This year, my goal is to cook at least one vegetarian/pescatarian meal per week. Also, I’m buying way less junk food than previously. They are so expensive! Inflation is crazy.

Control your weight

I’ve been pretty good here. My weight has been stable at around 131 lbs for years now. I’m getting softer around the edges, but at least I haven’t gained weight.

Minimize stress

Here is one that I’m doing very well in. I was very stressed out before I left my engineering career and it was negatively affecting my health. I had headaches all the time. My shoulders were painfully tight. My eyes were blurry from looking at the computer screen for 10+ hours every day. My back hurt from sitting too long. To top it all off, the stress was causing panic attacks and depression.

These days I feel much better. Being self-employed isn’t completely stress-free, but it’s a lot better than working a corporate job. We’re doing pretty well financially so that helps with the stress too.

Manage your long-term conditions

It’s inevitable to pick up a few long-term conditions as you get older. About 15 years ago, I went in for a routine physical and the blood test came back with a very elevated triglyceride level. Triglyceride is a type of fat (lipid) in your blood that can increase your risk of heart disease and other health issues. My triglyceride level was over 500 mg/dL and that’s way higher than normal. I got it down to a more reasonable level with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.

I also have a mild form of mitochondrial disease. It’s a genetic mutation that limits my ability to exert myself. I can’t sustain intense activities like running for more than a few minutes. So intense programs like cross fit won’t work for me. That’s why walking is a good exercise for me. I can pace myself.

Lastly, my blood pressure is creeping higher as I get older. My doctor prescribed a med to help manage it. I don’t want to take more pills, but it seems inevitable.

Easier said than done

It should be easy to stay healthy when you have more time, but that isn’t always true. I’ll be 50 this year and staying healthy is more important than ever. The key is to exercise and eat more vegetables. Once the habit sets in, it should be easy. You can have all the money in the world, but life won’t be enjoyable if you’re sick. 

What about you? What are you doing this year to stay healthy?

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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