Health cheques

Posted on: 21 March 2016 by Steve Wanless

Steve Wanless questions the rise of health consciousness and ask why we fixate on our physical health but neglect our financial health?

financial health check

We live in a complex world these days. Finance is no exception. At every stage of our life, and even after, there are forms to be filled in and taxes to be paid.

It is small wonder the specialist advice of an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA) is regarded by many as a necessity, not an optional extra, when planning for the future.

A regular recommendation from the experts is a routine financial “health check”, just to make sure your investments are fit for purpose, today and tomorrow.

But what about a normal health check? It’s just as important, perhaps more so, when looking ahead. It’s clear that your physical well-being is having an increasing impact on your financial welfare.

An expert on geriatric medicine, Rudi Westendorp, recently announced: “The first person to reach the age of 135 has already been born.”         

Imagine the implications of financial planning if the time spent in retirement was the same as all that had gone before! Westendorp added there is “something foolhardy about our stubborn adherence to 65 as the pensionable age, as if it had some kind of biological basis.

“This increase in life expectancy has not come out of thin air. It is the result of financial investment, technological development, social engineering, healthcare and innovation.”

There has certainly been a dramatic increase in our life expectancy in the twilight years. The number of centenarians alive in 1983 was just over 3,000 – in 2013 it was nearly 14,000.                             

Interestingly, in 2003, there were 823 female centenarians for every 100 men of the same age; a decade later, that female number had dropped to 586.

But, while we are living longer (and health experts predicted we can extend our lives by up to seven years by 25 minutes of brisk walking a day), there are red lights flashing about our health in the years to come. 

The World Obesity Forum (WOF) has predicted that three-quarters of the adult population of the UK – around 36 million – will be overweight or obese by 2025. Those figures are not that shocking when it is revealed that currently 32m adults are rated overweight, with 12.5m obese. 

The WOF’s report blames the problem on the obsession with snacking, pointing the finger at High Street chains like Marks & Spencer, Boots and WH Smiths.

Dr Tim Lobstein, director of policy at the WOF, added; “You used to go to WH Smiths for books and stationery, now food is offered even at the counter. Boots used to be a pharmacy, now the first thing you meet are the sandwiches and soft drinks. Marks & Spencer used to be just clothing, and now two thirds of what they sell is food.”

Many of us do scratch our heads and wonder why it is so much tougher shedding those pounds than it seemed when we were younger. Now a study, funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research, has discovered that it actually might have been easier staying thin in the 1980s.

They have discovered that people in 2006 - eating the same number of calories and exercising for the same amount of time as their 1988 counterparts  - measured on average 2.3 higher of the BMI (Body Mass Index). 

The report stated: “Results suggest that if you are 25, you’d have to eat even less and exercise more than those older, to prevent gaining weight. Ultimately, maintaining a healthy body weight is now more challenging than ever.

“It also indicated there may be other specific changes contributing to the rise in obesity beyond just diet and exercise.”

Lifestyle and environment changes, including medication used, environmental pollutants, genetics, timing of food intake, stress, gut bacteria and night-time light exposure, are also believed to play a part.

One of the authors added: “There’s a huge weight bias against people with obesity. They’re judged as lazy and self-indulgent. That’s really not the case.”

Just as with our finances, we can do something about our health and fitness, often with specialist help. Occasionally, health and finances meet as one impacts on the other.

The advantage of specialist assistance was demonstrated recently when a cancer sufferer (Allan Michie), after intervention, received £176,000 more from his pension fund than the £85,000 originally offered – and the entire amount was tax free!

Such generosity by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) only applies in the most serious of circumstances.             

A financial adviser pointed out: “Under HMRC’s ‘serious ill-health’ rules, a person may be able to take their entire pension pot as a tax-free lump sum if life expectancy is less than a year.

“A tax charge applies if they are over 75, or have more than £1.25m in pension funds. There is no need to wait until age 55 to take the pot in this manner.”

The pension above was a final-salary one; generally, it is not recommended as sensible to give up the benefits of such schemes, expect in exceptional circumstances and after much discussion and thought.

This was one such case; others can include the need to clear substantial debts or the fact that you have no wife to benefit or, perhaps, helping family members on the property ladder.                             

The specialist financial assistance in the above case can do nothing about the inevitable, but it has given Mr. Michie real peace of mind. “I’m delighted. It’s meant I can spend money on myself now and leave something meaningful to my two children.

“And if my experience is helpful to other people in this situation, I’d be even more pleased.”                        

For a free, no obligation initial chat about your individual finances, call us on 0800 0112825, e-mail or take a look at our website


Edited March 2016

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