As I enter an online competition to win a copy of Chelsea’s new cookbook, my 13-year-old rummages through a ‘Meat-Free Monday’ cookbook and occasionally holds up a picture of something he believes I can ‘throw together’ for dinner. It does look good and fits in nicely with all my past promises to myself of portion control, frequent salads, and after dinner walks.
However, making healthy choices are a tough road. Balancing healthy diet requirements and enjoyable (less-healthy) meals (often on cheat days and Friday nights), as well as fitting in around kids and busy lifestyles, many times it is simply easier to grab a chook salad from Kilim, or a pizza from the local Italians.
Despite the temptation of easier, yet less healthy options, keeping on top of diet, exercise, and mental health, is hugely important to me. Thankfully, every streaming service around has a plethora of industry-shaming documentaries that have in some unconscious (and maybe conscious) way helped curb some unhealthy habits for both myself and my family. The media certainly turned the eldest in my house into a vegetarian for a few years (but bacon brought him back).
For us, having a planned menu on the fridge, and shopping for the week, has reduced the ‘junk food’ that we buy, and we are wasting less food. Healthy meals are just a part of the overall balance (for me) and are part of the cornerstone of having a sustainable, healthy life.
Making smaller, healthy choices works better for me than one massive, short-lived NY overhaul
I’ve mentioned in blogs gone by, that I no longer subscribe to New Year’s resolutions (I was terrible at keeping them anyway. They would only last a few days, and then I felt bad). As an alternative, I identify positive things that I have done during the year, including new hobbies, new foods, new habits– and strive to roll them over into the New Year instead (as the wise Yoda says, “Do or Do not, there is no Try”.)
This year it’s been about taking small steps – trying for that minimum 10,000 a day (tricky on some days with a desk job), focussing on being present and enjoying the moment, tasting new foods, saving money for rainy (and lockdown) days, becoming a student again for my financial qualifications, and teaching myself meteorology, so I can predict when to put the longboard on the car and head to Lyall Bay.
These good habits I’m employing in my life have a whole lot of great spin offs
For me personally, the BMI struggle has been a life-long one. Happily, small, incremental changes like cutting back on sugary drinks and carb-loaded meals has unsurprisingly seen my belt buckle slide up another notch, and the benefits continue. I have also enjoyed a welcome spin-off to all this good stuff, in that I have seen a lift in my overall mental wellness. And that is definitely a win worth chalking-up in my books.
So, as well as the wonderfully positive physical side-effects of taking these small, healthy steps, there is also another big carrot – more affordable insurance premiums.
Nowadays, insurance companies are putting in place incentives for good lifestyle choices
Everything from Apple watches to petrol vouchers, are being used as tempting incentives for policy holders to make healthier choices to improve their overall wellbeing, thus becoming less of a potential liability to the insurance companies. Even the resources that insurance companies have at their disposal when you claim for assistance in getting back on your feet (or at your desk), has never been better.
Now, I am not going to tell a smoker to stop, nor a drinker to cut down, nor a person to stop drinking sugary energy drinks. And I’m certainly not going to tell you to go for a walk. Like me, you are “adulting” completely unsupervised, and you have only yourself to answer to, for the things you decide to do (or not do), and the choices you make in your life. But, if you need to save a chunk of money, and need some incentive, have a look at your insurance policy and premiums.
The bottom-line is, insurance premiums cost less when you are healthy
The bottom line, when it comes to all insurance companies setting your premium, is that they will charge you less if the answers you give to a bunch of health and lifestyle questions indicate you’re of ‘less risk’ than the next person. Your past, and present, health history has an impact on your premiums, as does your smoking status, and your BMI.
Insurance companies are not all the same, however. Some thresholds vary, and they’ll underwrite based on different criteria, even offering different rates and outcomes based on the same condition. This is where your insurance broker can really come in handy.
Your current health snapshot determines how insurance companies will assess you for cover. For example, they will check if what medications you are on, or if you are due for surgery.
A big one today that catches people out is mental health
In insurance applications you can expect to answer questions around whether you are experiencing stress, fatigue and depression. If you answer “Yes” on these questions, then often a blanket mental health exclusion is put in place on the policy. This is not a concern if you have Life Cover (it doesn’t matter what mental condition you are in if you have passed away), however if the policy also includes Disability Income (Income/Mortgage)protection, that can be a big deal. For example, if you have disclosed that you suffer from depression, which then results in you needing time off work, a blanket exclusion for mental health on your policy means that your income is not protected for that reason. Ouch.
The good news here is that insurance companies will come to the party and reduce your premiums to celebrate your wins gained through healthier choices too
Now here is some more welcome news. If you can drop some kilos (and keep it off) and it has been 12 months since you smoked (or vaped), you can expect a dramatic reduction in your insurance premium.
“It was a few years ago now, but I still remember a call to my insurer on the day of my one-year anniversary of giving up the ciggies. The guy on the phone whooped and clapped and told me my insurance premiums were going to be almost halved, due to the changes I made.
That felt SO good.”
If you are making some changes, then more power to you. The efforts you make to improve your wellness will have far more valuable outcomes to your health, than just saving money on your insurance. But every bit counts, right?
Setting yourself attainable wellness goals, such as getting enough sleep, starting a new hobby, improving at an existing hobby, eating better, going for a walk - whatever it might be – just take a moment to think about how you want to feel as 2022 kicks in, and whether now is the time for you to launch living your best life.
Hi, I’m Simon a Financial Advisor here at Velocity Financial. I enjoy working with my clients to help demystify all of the Mortgage, Insurance and KiwiSaver fine print, and help get them to where they want to be. I am dedicated, thorough and offer professional advice that works for you. I like to help people on their journey and be a trusted person to guide them through really important events in their lives such as the home buying process. I help my clients collaborate with valuers, builders, lawyers and real estate agents to ensure a seamless experience. That satisfaction of reaching the goal with the least amount of stress for my clients is hugely rewarding. I navigate unique scenarios and tailor lending solutions for individual circumstances to save money and time. As a proud father of two and avid supporter of all my children’s endeavours, I know just how precious that time is. On the weekends you’ll also find me mountain biking, surfing, or checking out NZ’s great walks.
Simon O’Neill is a Registered Financial Adviser with Velocity Financial. No investment decision should be taken based on the information in this blog alone. Read Simon's disclosure statement on our website.