A few days ago I got a terrible toothache and rushed to the dentist. Turns out I accidentally fractured my crown and would need surgery and meds. And let me tell you, the only thing worse than being in that pain would be the stress of not being financially planned for it. I’ve been trying to build an emergency fund that has a minimum of 3 months of my salary. I achieved that goal two months ago and it completely came in handy when I had to get this emergency surgery.
When it comes to money, investing and increasing wealth takes all the attention. And why wouldn’t it? As twenty-somethings, health isn’t the first thing that crosses our mind when we begin saving. But as someone whose day-to-day social interaction is with people in their mid-thirties, I know one thing for sure - At 25 you don’t ever think regular migraines and fatigue are going to be an issue, a decade later you’re Googling why you’re tired all the time.
All I’m saying is that budgeting for your health should top your financial priorities. I know that it’s super important to start investing early, but it’s equally important to cover your bases before you begin investing. Why? Because you never know what risks lie out there and you want to be covered in case something happens.
For something that serious, budgeting for health is overlooked quite often. Want to know how you can start? Dive in -
This one always surprises me because I think “Duh, who wouldn’t prioritise their health?” But it’s a tad bit more complicated than that. Paying for health is seen as a one-time thing. What we don’t realise is that getting out of bad health and illness-related emergencies takes quite the toll, physically and financially. Prioritising your health shouldn’t be limited to just eating well and working out. You should prioritise it in your budget as well. Having a separate health savings account is great but might not be for everyone. Instead, consistently have health in your savings list for a few months. If you’re saving towards a trip, try to save a smaller portion keeping the possibility of getting ill on the trip.
Don’t restrict yourself to physical health either. Include therapy and mental health in your priority list if needed.
The best way to begin is by jotting down an estimate of what you need to budget for your health. First, break it down to the categories you need money for on the usual. For example, I need regular eye checkups. After this, try to create an estimate for the possible, yet manageable issues. These are your flus, infections etc. If you want to have another deeper category based on underlying issues of you or your family, give it a shot.
Look into what issues and tests your current insurance covers. Based on it, create a portion of savings for your regular treatments. Create another bundle of savings to cover your insurance and any add ons to the plan. Lastly, save a portion to add to your emergency fund. Having an emergency fund ensures you’ll land on your feet if things go wrong. Try to have two major components in yours - bad health/accidents and job loss. More than 6 months salary saved in an easily accessible account is ideal, but you can experiment a bit there.
On the face of it, Health Insurance is a simple way to keep yourself secure. But the nuances of what is covered and in what capacity can get confusing. Make sure to check what all your health cover includes.
If you’re insured through your company, get in touch with your insurance provider and don’t hesitate to take their time to know what exactly is covered by the insurance, how you can customise the plan, and when insurance isn’t applicable. If you aren’t covered or are thinking of buying insurance, ensure that it reduces the pressure on you to save separately for health in some capacity.
Before you start your investment journey, make sure that you sort a few contingencies out. These majorly need to be related to job loss and illness if you don’t have dependents.
To add to this, don’t miss your routine checkups. Most of us think of good health as a want and not a need, and that’s where we go wrong. Being healthy is as important as being able to pay your rent. Routine checkups identify any existing problems before it becomes a full-fledged illness and in the long run, are the smarter way to save and budget for your health. This doesn’t mean you need to stop investing if you’ve begun without creating a health safety net. Just do your estimations and know how much you’ll need. Based on that, decide how much you want to keep for emergencies and insurance and cash it in.