MONEY Health Care

4 Health Moves That Can Make You Richer

piggy bank stepping on scale
Jesse Strigler Photography—Getty Images

Better physical health can be a boon to your finances. Follow these steps to stay in shape.

Welcome to Day 9 of MONEY’s 10-day Financial Fitness program. By now you’ve learned how to bulk up your savings, cut the fat from your budget, and boost your earnings. Today, taking care of your health.

Your physical health and your financial health go hand in hand, especially as rising deductibles and increased cost sharing leave you on the hook for more expenses when you get sick.

Plus, your pocketbook takes a hit when you’re overweight: The annual cost of carrying extra pounds—including medical expenses, sick leave, and even gas for the car—is $524 for women and $432 for men, according to a 2010 study by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. And Fidelity estimates that a couple who retire in good health will spend 20% less on medical care than a couple in poor health will.

You know what helps: exercise, sleep, a healthy weight, and regular checkups. Here’s how to make it easier to do the right thing.

1. Don’t Pass Up Freebies

Under Obamacare, annual physicals and a long list of valuable preventive care, from cholesterol tests to colonoscopies, are fully covered by insurance, with no out-of-pocket costs.

2. Be Your Own Doctor

Not quite, but tech has made staying on top of your health easier—especially important with a chronic condition such as high blood pressure. The Health app that’s part of the new Apple operating system unveiled last fall and the Health Tracker app for Android devices allow you to upload, input, and share health and fitness data.

3. Let Your Scale Motivate You

University of Minnesota researchers found that dieters who weighed themselves daily lost an average of 12 pounds in two years; weekly scale watchers lost only six. The once-a-day group was also less likely to regain the weight. Need help? Our sister publication, CookingLightDiet.com, offers healthy eating customized meal plans.

4. Make Tracking a No-Brainer

People who count their steps are more motivated to work out. But the novelty of fitness trackers like the Fitbit can quickly wear off. More than half of owners stop using them, a recent University of Pennsylvania survey found; a third bail within a month.

If that’s you, add a tracking app such as RunKeeper or Moves to your phone instead. “Many people carry smart-phones everywhere,” says Mitesh S. Patel, an internist and researcher at the Wharton School. “If we really wanted to improve the health of the population, smartphone trackers are an easier place to start.”

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MONEY Earnings

The 3 Best Ways to Boost Your Earnings This Year

hand holding dumbbell with coin at the end
Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Getty Images(2)

To pump up your salary, switch up your career routine.

Welcome to Day 8 of MONEY’s 10-day Financial Fitness program. By now you’ve seen what shape you’re in, bulked up your savings, and cut the fat from your budget. Today, add some muscle to your paycheck.

When you hit a fitness plateau, taking a new class or picking up a sport can be the key to breaking through to the next level. The same concept applies to your career. Landing a new job will likely result in a salary 18% to 20% higher than what you’d get via an internal promotion, according to a study by Wharton professor Matthew Bidwell.

Thanks to a rapidly rebounding job market, this is the best year since the recession to get a new gig. More than one-third of employers expect to add full-time employees in 2015, according to CareerBuilder’s annual job forecast, up from one in four last year. Here’s how to stand out.

1. Get the Inside Scoop

Employee referrals generate a full 40% of new hires, according to the JobVite 2014 Recruiting Survey. So rather than scouring the job boards, talk to people you know and ask about openings at their firms. Love a certain company but don’t know anyone there? Reach out to your personal network or tap your LinkedIn contacts to see if anyone can connect you to an employee.

2. Make Yourself Poachable

Employers are increasingly courting passive job seekers, says John Hollon, editor of TLNT.com, which covers HR trends: “These are employed workers who may be willing to switch jobs but aren’t actively searching.” Recruiters like these candidates because they’re successful and valued at their current jobs. Interested? Get on hiring managers’ radar by peppering your LinkedIn profile with keywords related to the type of job you want. You can also sign up with the website Poachable, and get the Poacht app. List your dream job and resume for recruiters to browse.

3. Be Bold

That said, maybe you love your job or just can’t move right now. That doesn’t mean settling for a middling raise. While the biggest bumps do go to top performers, simply asking goes a long way. A new study from Payscale found that 75% of employees who requested an increase got one, with 44% landing the exact figure they asked for. The odds of receiving your requested amount are even better if you’re already a high earner: Those with a salary of $150,000 or more had a success rate of 70%. Before you ask, get a sense of the budget. You have more influence when you show you see the boss’s side, says career coach Lee Miller.

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MONEY Savings

4 Surefire Strategies for Powering Up Your Savings

piggy banks of assorted colors on wood surface
Andy Roberts—Getty Images

You can't count on high investment returns forever. Take control of your future with these savings tips.

Welcome to Day 7 of MONEY’s 10-day Financial Fitness program. You’ve already seen what shape you’re in, figured out what’ll help you stick to your goals, and trimmed the fat from your budget. Today, put that cash to work.

It’s been a great ride. But the bull market that pumped up your 401(k) over the past six years won’t last forever. Even though the stock market is up so far this year, Wall Street prognosticators expect rising interest rates to keep a lid on big gains in 2015. Deutsche Bank, for example, is forecasting a roughly 4% rise in the S&P 500, far below last year’s 11% increase.

Over the next decade, stocks should gain an annualized 7%, while bonds will average 2.5%, according to the latest outlook from Vanguard, the firm’s most subdued projections since 2006.

While you can’t outmuscle the market, you do have one power move at your disposal: ramp up savings.

1. Find Your Saving Target

So how much should you sock away? This year Wade Pfau of the American College launched Retirement-Researcher.com, a site that tests how different savings strategies fare in current economic conditions. He found that households earning $80,000 or more must save 15% of earnings to live a similar lifestyle in their post-work years. While that assumes you’re saving consistently by 35 and retiring at 65, it does include your employer match, so in reality, you may be pitching in only 10% or so.

If you weren’t so on top of it by 35, you have a couple of options: Raise your annual number (Pfau puts it at 23% if you start at age 40) or catch up by saving in bursts. Research firm Hearts & Wallets found that people who boosted savings for an eight-to 10-year period (when mortgages or other big expenses fell away) were able to get back on track for retirement.

2. Think Income

New data show that people save more when they see how their retirement savings translates into monthly income, says Bob Reynolds, head of Putnam Investments. The company found that 75% of people who used its lifetime income analysis tool boosted their savings rate by an average of 25%. To see what your post-work payments will look like, check out Putnam’s calculator (you must be a client to use it) or try the one offered by T. Rowe Price.

3. Take Advantage of Windfalls

Don’t let all your “found money” get sucked into your checking account. Instead, make a point to squirrel away at least a portion of bonuses, savings from cheap gas, FSA reimbursements, and tax refunds. Eight in 10 people get an average refund of $2,800; use it to fund your IRA by the April 15 deadline, says Christine Benz of Morningstar.

4. Free Up Cash

Interest rates remain low. If you’re a refi candidate, you may be able to unlock some money that could be better used. Tom Mingone of Capital Management Group of New York suggests using your refi to pay off higher-rate debt. Say you took a PLUS loan (now fixed at 7.21%, though many borrowers are paying more) for your kid’s tuition: Pay that down.

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MONEY Saving & Budgeting

4 Ways to Hit Your Money Goals

150218_FIT_MOTIVATION
Gregory Reid

It's one thing to know that you need to save more money, find a better job, or pay down debt. It's another thing to actually do it. Employ these strategies to stay on track.

Welcome to Day 2 of MONEY’s 10-day Financial Fitness program. Yesterday, you did a self-assessment to see what kind of financial shape you’re in. Today, we help you find the motivation to take your finances to the next level.

Okay, you’ve checked your vitals, and you’re probably feeling pretty good about your starting point. According to Gallup’s annual Personal Financial Situation survey, 56% of people in households earning $75,000 or more say they are better off financially now than they were a year ago, up from 44% who felt that way in January 2014.

But just as even the most devoted gym-goer can get complacent, your financial confidence could stop you from reaching the next level. “In good economic times people save less and spend more,” says Dan Geller, a behavioral finance expert and the author of Money Anxiety. Keep the eye of the tiger even when you’re doing great. Here’s how.

1. Make a Specific Goal

When you show up at the gym without a plan, there’s a good chance you’ll shuffle on the treadmill for a half-hour and call it a day. Your financial life is no different. To boost your performance, start by zeroing in on a goal. A study by Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University, found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your aims just by writing them down. Indeed, people with a written financial plan save more than twice as much as those without a plan, says a Wells Fargo survey. The more specific the goal, the easier it is to tackle. Rather than plan to “cut costs,” focus on, say, paying off your mortgage five years early.

2. Buddy Up

Much as a workout partner provides motivation to get to the gym, recruiting a family member or friend to hold you accountable is a good way to stay on track. In another study by Matthews, some participants shared their goals with a friend via weekly updates—achieving their aims 33% more often than those who did not.

3. Get a Nudge

Sometimes you just need a reminder. A study by the Center for Retirement Research found that bank account holders who got reminders about their savings goals put away more cash than people who didn’t. It’s easy to set recurring calendar reminders on your PC or phone, or try a service like FollowUpThen.com, which lets you schedule emails to your future self.

4. Stickk It

Need something with more teeth? The website Stickk.com allows you to pledge a sum of money toward a goal, sign a commitment contract, and pick a friend to monitor your progress. Achieve your aim, and you get the money back. Miss it, and you lose the money, which is donated to charity or a friend.

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MONEY retirement planning

What Women Can Do to Increase their Retirement Confidence

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Izabela Habur—Getty Images

Knowing how much to save and how to invest can help women feel more secure. Here's a cheat sheet.

Half of women report feeling worried about having enough money to last through retirement, according to a new survey from Fidelity Investments of 1,542 women with retirement plans.

Those anxieties aren’t necessarily misplaced either.

Women have longer projected lifespans than men and even if married, are likely to spend at least a portion of their older years alone due to widowhood.

“So they need larger pots of money to ensure they won’t outlive their savings,” says Kathy Murphy, president of personal investing at Fidelity.

Earlier research by the company found that while women save more on average for retirement (socking away an average 8.3% of their salary in 401(k)s vs. 7.9% for men) they typically earn two-thirds of what men do and thus have smaller retirement account balances ($63,700 versus $95,800 for men).

Also, while women are more disciplined long term investors who are less likely than men to time the market, women are also more reluctant to take risk with their portfolios, says Murphy.

“And if you invest too conservatively for your age and your time horizon, that money isn’t working hard enough for you,” she adds.

How Women Can Increase their Confidence

Financial education can help women reduce the confidence gap, and get to the finish line better prepared, says Murphy.

According to the Fidelity survey, some 92% of women say they want to learn more about financial planning. And there’s a lot you can do for free to educate yourself, notes Murphy. As an example, she notes that many employers now offer investing webinars and workshops for 401(k) participants.

You might also start by reading Money’s Ultimate Guide to Retirement for the least you need to know about retirement planning, in digestible chunks of plain English. In particular, you might check out the piece on figuring out the right mix of stocks and bonds, to help you determine if you’re being too risk averse.

Also, simply calculating how much you need to save for the retirement you want—using tools like T. Rowe Price’s Retirement Income Planner—can help you make plans and feel more secure.

The 10-minute exercise can have a powerful payoff: The Employee Benefit Research Institute regularly finds in its annual Retirement Confidence Index that people who even do a quick estimate have a much better handle on how much they need to save and are more confident about their money situation. Also, according to research by Georgetown University econ professor Annamaria Lusardi, who is also academic director of the university’s Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center, people who plan for retirement end up with three times the amount of wealth as non-planners.

Says Murphy, “We need to let women in on the secret that investing isn’t that hard.”

More from Money.com’s Ultimate Guide to Retirement:

MONEY Financial Planning

10 Days to Total Financial Fitness

Bench press with gold painted weights
Gregory Reid

Presenting MONEY's 10-day program designed to pump up your finances for 2015. 

When you think about what kind of shape your finances are in nowadays, you may be feeling downright buff. Retirement plan balances are at record highs, home prices are back to pre-recession levels in most parts of the U.S., and the job market is the strongest it’s been since 2006.

No wonder Americans are more optimistic about their finances.

Given that, it’s understandable that some bad habits may be creeping back into your routine. Americans, overall, are slipping into a few: Household debt is at a record high, fueled by an uptick in borrowing for cars and college and more credit card spending. Vanguard reports that investors are taking risks last seen in the pre-crash years of 1999 and 2007.

What’s more, the financial regimen that’s been working well for you of late may not cut it anymore. In this slow-growth, low-interest-rate environment, both stock and bond returns are expected to be below average for several years to come.

To pump up your finances in 2015, you need to shake up your routine. The plan that follows can help you do just that. Every day for the next two weeks, we’ll target-train you for a different financial strength. This program includes seven quick workouts, inspired by the popular exercise plan that takes just seven minutes a day, that will push you to raise your game in no time at all. What are you waiting for?

See What Shape You’re In

Even if you’re a dedicated exerciser, you could be ignoring whole muscle groups, leaving yourself susceptible to injury. For example, 39% of people earning more than $75,000 a year wouldn’t be able to cover a $1,000 unexpected expense from savings, according to a 2014 Bankrate survey. So the first step is to establish your baseline by asking yourself these questions.

How are my vital signs? Tick off the basics: Check your credit, tally up your emergency fund (aim for six months of living expenses), look at how much you are contributing to your retirement plans, and get a handle on how you’re splitting up your savings between stocks and bonds.

Less than half of workers have tried to calculate how much money they’ll need for retirement, EBRI’s 2014 Retirement Confidence Survey found. Take five minutes to use an online tool that will show you if you’re on track, such as the T. Rowe Price Retirement Income Calculator.

What’s my day-to-day routine? The very first thing Rochester, N.Y., CPA David Young does with his clients is go over their spending. Budgeting apps, he notes, “make the invisible credit card charges visible.” As important as the “how much” is the “on what,” says Fred Taylor, president of Northstar Investment Advisors in Denver. Divide your expenses into the essential costs of living, investments in your future (savings, education, a home), and the discretionary spending you have the flexibility to cut.

Am I juicing my finances too much? In other words, how toxic is your borrowing? Your total debt matters. But the kinds of debts you have and the implications for your future are crucial too, says Charles Farrell, author of Your Money Ratios and CEO of Northstar. As a young saver, you shouldn’t be worried about high debts due to a house and education, Farrell says, as long as you can handle the payment, will be debt-free by your sixties, and are using debt only to fund investments in a low-cost or high-earning future, such as a low-maintenance home or new job skills. Farrell suggests in your twenties and thirties you should limit total mortgage debt to less than twice your family income. In your fifties, you should have a mortgage no higher than what you make. At any age, total education debt should not exceed 75% of your pay.

What’s my biggest weak spot? You need to guard against familiar risks, like insufficient insurance. But David Blanchett, head of retirement research for Morning-star, says you should also think about less obvious threats. Will new technology put your livelihood at risk? Are you counting on a pension from a financially shaky firm? Do you live in an area, such as Northern California, where home values hinge on the success of one industry?

Once you know how much progress you’ve made so far and what areas need the most work, you’re ready to get going on your financial fitness plan.

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MONEY Love and Money

These Qualities Will Make You Unattractive to Coworkers

woman filing nails with phone off the hook in the office
Anthony Lee—Getty Images

Got a crush on a colleague? Make sure you're not doing these things

More than a few romances get their start at the office.

A new survey by CareerBuilder found that more than a third of workers have dated a colleague, and 30% of office romances led to marriage—which makes sense considering how much time we all spend at work.

But for every happily-ever-after “we met at the office” story, there is plenty of love going unrequited over the watercooler. The poll also revealed some surprising reasons why office crushes fail to get off the ground.

The top quality that makes a coworker undateable: A poor work ethic. Despite Hollywood’s romanticization of the slacker guy, it seems that ambition and hard work are attractive traits—especially to women. Ladies are much less likely to date someone who doesn’t work consistently, with 52% saying they wouldn’t vs. 28% of guys.

(Meanwhile those who put their nose to the grindstone have a better chance at having a hand to hold: 11% of workplace daters say their relationship began during late nights on the job, not far off from the 12% who reported sparks flying over happy hour drinks.)

Another big turnoff: serial dating. One-quarter of those surveyed say they wouldn’t date someone who has already dated someone else at work.

Another 21% say they wouldn’t go out with someone who travels extensively for work.

Surprisingly, a disparity in earnings doesn’t kill romance potential. Just 6% say they wouldn’t date someone who earns less money, though slightly more women surveyed (10%) say it is an issue compared to just 2% of men.

In any case, intra-office dating is tricky business and you want to be careful in how you woo a workplace crush. But at least these findings give you added incentive to work hard—it may pay off for not only your career, but for your love life as well.

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MONEY office etiquette

The Career Mistake You Don’t Realize You’re Making

talking too much at work
Anthia Cumming/iStock

Your colleagues and bosses might think of you as the office chatterbox.

When you’ve got the floor in a meeting, do you notice people looking at the clock or their phones?

When you’re chatting over the water cooler, do you find yourself chiming in before your colleagues finish their sentences?

Do you typically go off on tangents when you tell a story?

Do people nod blankly and say “uh huh” a lot when you’re speaking?

Do you notice that people at work prefer to communicate with you via email?

You may be an overtalker.

Most people who talk too much don’t realize they do it, says Annie Stevens, managing partner for ClearRock, a leadership development and executive coaching firm. No matter whether it’s fueled by insecurity or overconfidence, however, this quality can be deadly to one’s career—especially these days.

How Talking Too Much Can Hurt You

With 67% of people working “a great deal more” than they did five years ago, according to a survey by staffing firm Manpower, workers literally have less patience for distractions. “No one has time to sit down for an hour to get an answer to a question,” says Stevens. Your peers and supervisors may start avoiding you if you are sucking up a lot of their time.

Accurate, real-time salaries for thousands of careers.

Additionally, if you can’t get to the point in a meeting, your boss may wonder about your ability to communicate with higher ups or clients. Prattling on in an interview could obscure the points that you’re trying to make, and hamper your chances at getting the job.

Women seem to pay a bigger price for being loquacious. A Yale University study found that high-level women who talk more at work are perceived as less competent than men. According to lead researcher Victoria Brescoll, people tend to want to reward males who are garrulous by either by hiring them or giving them more responsibility, while females who talk a lot are seen as domineering and presumptuous.

For any worker, though, the ability to share information clearly and succinctly is an asset, says Stevens. In a world where big ideas can be conveyed in under 140 characters, there’s less tolerance for a verbal opus.

Stevens’s motto: “Be brief, be brilliant, be gone.”

Keep from Being Seen as a Blabbermouth

Become self aware. Watch for those red flags mentioned above. The surest sign of them that you’re talking too much is that you talk over someone who is speaking. “It can be a fatal error if it happens during a job interview, a career killer if done often with your boss, and will alienate co-workers if you’re repeatedly interrupting and hijacking the conversation,” said Stevens.

Strive to pay attention—at least for a few days—to other people’s reactions when you’re talking. Do your colleagues, for example, join in the digression when you veer off topic? You’re probably in the clear.

Pay attention to body language, too. You are likely losing your listener if he or she glances at a clock or a computer, stops making eye contact or is no longer taking notes. “Wrap up as soon as you can,” says Stevens.

Have a script. There are times when you do need to talk about yourself. Develop and memorize a 90-second verbal response so you are prepared with a summary when interviewers or networking contacts say, “Tell me about yourself.”

Similarly, if you’re giving a speech or presentation, outline a few key points before the meeting and stick to them. Watch for those cues noted above as signs you should get back on track.

Details are important in storytelling, but make sure you’re pared down to the essentials. “The annoying companion of over-talking is over-telling, as in disclosing too many, too personal, irrelevant and or inappropriate details,” says Stevens.

Practice active listening. Don’t just be lying in conversational wait for your turn to talk. Pay close attention to what is being discussed and ask relevant follow up questions.

Showing your listening skills can be just as important as showing how much you can talk, says Stevens. “If the person you are speaking with believes that you’re interested in what they’re saying, he or she will think positively about you.”

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