Retirement plan participants express greater concern for their health than in the past. What steps are these investors taking (if any) to live a healthier lifestyle?
Are 401(k) participants trying to be healthier than they were in the past? Somewhat. But perhaps the best way to determine whether the trend line of 401(k) participants and other retirement plan participants is on the upswing is to compare their current behaviors to the past and to the population in general.
In a survey with retirement plan participants conducted by Spectrem Group in the past few months, about 9 percent of plan participants indicated that they are more concerned with their health than they were five years ago and a whopping 20 percent indicate that they see a doctor more often than they did five years ago. It may be that because the average age of participants is increasing, it is more likely that they are seeing doctors, or it could be just an increasing awareness by the population of health related issues.
One-fourth of plan participants indicate they are exercising more than they did 5 years ago. This is a positive behavior change, however, experts indicated that most Americans still are not working out enough. An article in the Boston Globe on April 13, 2013 indicated that recent federal health data shows a steady climb since 2007 of U.S.. adults meeting weekly workout goals. The minimum goals are 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. The study indicated that 49.7 percent of individuals surveyed in the federal government study were meeting the weekly goals. That's almost half of Americans. Yet only one-fourth of plan participants are exercising more... perhaps another one-fourth was already exercising regularly so they didn't respond affirmatively to the research?
According to Reference.com, about 67 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. How do plan participants fare? While participants were not asked for their weight and/or blood pressure, 12 percent indicate that they are monitoring and trying to control their weight more than five years ago. Additionally, 9 percent indicate that they eat more healthy foods than they did five years ago. While this may not be an overwhelming number for purposes of solving the national obesity dilemma, it is an encouraging starting point that shows average Americans are paying attention to these issues.
Overall, 17 percent of plan participants indicated that they have worked in the past five years to eliminate some bad health habits such as smoking. Any movement towards healthier practices helps employers, insurers and taxpayers as the country struggles to control, health care costs.
So are plan participants more attuned to health issues than the general public? Probably not. There are definitely some slugs among plan participants just as there are among the general populations. In fact, many of us struggle every day to try to fit in exercise and eating right as part of our daily habits. The data shows that plan participants are exactly the same as the general public, and that's probably because that's generally who they are.
Catherine S. McBreen is President of Millionaire Corner. McBreen plans and develops content for Millionaire Corner. Catherine balances editorial content to meet the informational needs of both new and seasoned investors. She designs special monthly surveys on topical issues affecting the economic environment.
McBreen has a B.S. in speech communications from Northwestern University and a J.D. from DePail University College of Law. She is a member of the American Bar Association, the Illinois Bar Association, and the Chicago Bar Association.
Well-known for her expertise in the affluent and retirement arenas, McBreen is a frequent speaker at industry conferences. She has been quoted widely by the financial media, including The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Research, Private Asset Management, On Wall Street, Reuters, Bloomberg News, The Dow Jones Newswires and Worth. Cathy has appeared as a guest on CNBC Closing Bell, First Business Morning News, Neal Cavuto at Fox Business News, ABC and CBS radio.
McBreen is co-author with Spectrem President George H. Walper, Jr. of the book "Get Rich, Stay Rich, Pass It On: The Wealth-Accumulation Secrets of America's Richest Families" (Portfolio, January 2008)
Catherine is the mother of four and is involved in many school and community events.