Get Healthy, Get Wealthy
Here's yet another reason to stick with your New Year's resolutions: It will save you more dough than you ever imagined
By Michelle Andrews

(MONEY Magazine) – As the time for New Year's resolutions approaches, many people will put healthier habits at the top of their list, only to abandon those lofty goals by Jan. 2. But most folks agree that money talks, and these days there are plenty of financial incentives to keep you on the straight and narrow. Don't believe it? Consider how much these healthy moves can save you.

Quit smoking. With the cost of a pack averaging $4 these days, weaning yourself from cigarettes will save you $1,460 a year if you smoke a pack a day. But the cigarettes themselves are only part of the tab. Since smokers are more likely to suffer from heart disease, cancer and other illnesses, their medical costs run $1,623 a year higher than nonsmokers', according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Shed a few pounds. Overweight people are at higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease,diabetes and other health problems. On average,an obese person racks up $900 more a year in medical expenses than a person of normal weight, says Eric Finkelstein, a health economist at RTI International, a research and technology company specializing in health. Slimming down substantially will also help shrink your clothing budget. Regular-size clothing is 10% to 15% less expensive than plus-size clothes for women and those labeled "big and tall" for men.

Drink your coffee straight up. A tall caramel Frappuccino blended coffee with whipped cream at Starbucks costs $3.70 (give or take a few cents, depending on your location) and contains 320 calories. The same size brewed coffee, taken black, costs $2 less and has just five calories. If you average five cups of joe a week, switching to the basic brew will save you more than $500 and, all else being equal, 23 pounds a year.

Requalify for life insurance. Once you drop the weight and your nicotine and fancy java habits, reapply for life insurance, since healthy people pay lower premiums. For instance, a 45-year-old nonsmoker who maintains his blood pressure, cholesterol and weight at healthy levels will pay $770 a year for a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy through The Hartford, or 45% less than his less healthy, nonsmoking counterpart, who'll pay $1,385. Smokers who quit will see their $3,735 annual premiums drop 63%.

Reap the rewards of good health. Many companies offer discounts on everything from gym memberships to Weight Watchers classes to encourage employees to get healthy and stay healthy. Now some health plans and businesses are going a step further with additional enticements like travel discounts, shopping reward programs and cash bonuses. For instance, Blue Shield of California gives a $200 check to members who successfully complete a 35-week exercise, nutrition, stress management and quit-smoking program online. Says Deborah Schwab, director of new-product development for the San Francisco insurer: "In focus groups, people told us, 'Cash is king.'"

Getting healthier, of course, should really be its own reward. Pocketing a few extra bucks, though, is a nice bonus.


We did the math. Here's how your annual health-care savings could add up.