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Resolution 8: Get healthy
One action plan, multiple ways to save
December 13, 2005: 11:39 AM EST
By Cybelle Weisser and Alison Stein Wellner, MONEY Magazine
Do it now: 10 resolutions

NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) - These days the classic New Year's get-healthy resolution -- shed those extra 10 pounds, kick the nicotine habit, dust off the old gym membership card -- has been joined by a new one: Lower those out-of-pocket health-care costs.

In this case, one action plan will help you reach both goals, since adopting healthier habits throughout the year should automatically trim your medical bills as well.

1. Take small steps (But lots of them)

A classic mistake and a sure path to failure for all get-healthy resolutions: setting the initial bar too high. Instead of pledging to, say, hit the gym every day or lose 25 pounds this year, commit to a few relatively minor changes and build from there. Examples:

Drink light Switch from whole milk to skim in your morning cereal or midday latte. Your savings: 100 calories a pop.

Take it straight Or give up the fancy brews as a matter of habit. A grande Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks contains 290 calories; the same-size version of its Americano coffee has only 15.

Step up Boost the number of steps you take -- pace while you're on the phone; use the stairs, not the elevator; park farther from your office. The goal: 10,000 steps a day.

Puff less Eliminate your afterdinner cigarette for two weeks, then cut one more smoke a day the following two weeks and so on.

2. Get free help

To keep their own health costs down, a growing number of companies are offering new benefits to help keep their workers out of the doctor's office. So check with your human-resources department to find out what free health help might be available to you. Some possibilities:

Free checkups Nearly half of large employers now offer free health-risk assessments to head off potential medical problems.

Behavior modification programs About 30% also sponsor weight-loss classes, quit-smoking clinics and similar programs.

Fitness discounts A growing number of big companies provide discounts on sports and gym equipment, spas, fitness classes and similar activities that promote a healthier lifestyle.

Financial incentives Signing up for healthy-behavior programs may qualify you for a modest cash bonus (typically $100 or less) or for lower premium contributions and co-payments on your health plan.

3. Reap the rewards

Once you've dropped the pounds and kicked the nicotine habit, try reapplying for life insurance. Healthy people routinely pay lower premiums:

For example, a 45-year-old healthy man can expect to pay $650 to $750 a year for a $500,000, 20-year term policy vs. an outlay of $2,500 to $2,700 for a 45-year-old smoker who is overweight.  Top of page

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