Healthy Living Tips for Seniors on a Fixed Income

Please check out this fantastic article, written by Karen Weeks, which is full of tips on how to live healthy and strong as a senior on a fixed income!

by Karen Weeks –

Image by Xevi Casanovas via Unsplash

As you get older, it’s more important than ever to make your health a priority. Unfortunately for seniors living on fixed incomes, a healthy lifestyle can seem financially impossible. Nutritious ingredients, fitness classes, and other healthy living resources don’t come cheap. When money is limited, it’s hard to find room in your budget.

Forgoing healthy habits may save money in the short-term, but it costs seniors in the long-run. A healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to prevent chronic illness, and if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re more likely to develop health problems that are costly to manage.

That’s why it’s so important to adopt healthy habits now, no matter your budget. If you’re a senior living on a fixed income, these tips will help you stay healthy without spending a lot.

Eating Well

Learn how to grocery shop on a budget
If you look at the price of packaged organic goods, healthy foods can seem out of reach. Instead of worrying about organics, focus on eating a diet high in vegetables of any (and every!) type. If fresh vegetables are too expensive, frozen vegetables are just as nutritious without the sodium content of canned goods. Dried beans, whole grains, frozen fruit, canned fish, and eggs are more cheap and healthy foods. Avoid frozen meals. While they seem like a good value, most frozen dinners are high in sodium and saturated fat.

Make use of food assistance programs
If you find yourself skipping meals or eating poorly to save money, look into food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is an especially helpful resource if you live alone and have trouble leaving your home.

Staying Active

Get cleared for exercise
It’s safe for most older adults to exercise, but it’s still wise to talk to your doctor. Your annual wellness visit is a good time to ask if you should take precautions before starting an exercise program. Keep in mind, however, that Medicare’s annual wellness visit doesn’t include a full physical. You may owe a copay if your doctor recommends bloodwork or other tests to clear you for exercise.

Exercise at home
There’s a lot of exercise seniors can do in the comfort of their homes. Basic strength and balance exercises, important for senior fall prevention, require minimal space and no special equipment. Use these 14 exercises from Philips Lifeline to get started.

Join a senior center
Do you prefer the camaraderie of group exercise? Senior centers offer tons of activities for older adults, including exercise classes like tai chi, yoga, and Zumba. Not only that, but all of a senior center’s services are available free or low-cost. No matter where you live, there’s likely a senior center in your neighborhood.

Getting Help at Home

Apply for the Assisted Living Waiver Program
If you need caregiving but don’t want to move into a nursing facility, consider assisted living. Under the Assisted Living Waiver Program, California seniors receiving Medi-Cal benefits can receive a reduced rate for assisted living. With facilities in California having a median cost of $54,000 annually, that’s a valuable benefit. However, not all facilities participate, so it’s important that seniors understand how to research assisted living facilities. Online search tools are a good place to start looking for a facility that meets your needs, but once you find one you like, you’ll need to check if it participates in the waiver program.

Get a roommate
Unfortunately, not every senior who needs help affording care qualifies for a waiver. If you could use help at home but don’t need nursing home-level care, consider a roommate. A roommate can be a housemate who splits the bills or someone who provides housekeeping and companionship in exchange for reduced rent.

Living on a fixed income forces you to get creative with your money, but it shouldn’t stop you from living well. If you’re having trouble affording the things you need to stay healthy, reach out to your Department of Aging and Adult Services to learn what resources are available to you.

Living Solely On Social Security

I just ran across an article which I was compelled to share. This should serve as a major wake-up call for those of you who assume that you will be able to support yourselves completely with Social Security benefits when you become old enough to draw those benefits. I have included the link to the article, as well as copied and pasted the body of Barbara Friedberg’s article here.

The sad reality is that though the person in this example is able to make ends meet with her Social Security check, people who live in cities like Los Angeles will probably spend the bulk of their Social Security check on rent alone, with very little money left for groceries and healthcare.

Regardless of where you live, put money aside for retirement so that you don’t find yourself in a precarious financial situation when you are older. Roth IRA’s are an excellent way to set aside funds for your retirement, and they grow tax-free over the years.

By Barbara Friedberg | September 26, 2016

Somewhere, an older American — let’s call her Alison — is going to retire soon. She anticipates a Social Security check of $1,349.59, the national average as of July. She regrets not saving more for retirement, but has accepted the reality of her situation.

If you’re like Alison — facing retirement without a cash cushion — you’re in good company. In January, surveyed a representative sample of Americans and found that among people 60 and older, just 26 percent felt they were financially on track for retirement. The remaining 74 percent within this age group lacked sufficient retirement savings. And among Americans of all age groups, a sobering 33 percent had nothing saved for retirement.

Anyone who tries to get by on Social Security income faces a lean retirement lifestyle. Here are questions to ask yourself before trying to stretch benefits as far as possible — and what you’ll realistically be able to afford.

1. How Much Home Can You Afford on Social Security?

Your Social Security check will stretch further if you find a cheap place to retire. Housing is the biggest expense most Americans face, according to BLS statistics.

Sun-loving Alison hopes to retire to an apartment in Tucson, Ariz. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $575, according to Zillow. But let’s say Alison lucks out and finds an apartment for $540. She will spend 40 percent of her check on rent and will need to kick in a few extra bucks for utilities. So, rounding up, her monthly housing cost to $600 — leaving her with $749.59 of her Social Security check.

2. What Can You Eat on Social Security?

Dining at four-star restaurants is out if you’re living on Social Security. On average, roughly 12.5 percent of a consumer unit’s spending money goes toward food. In Phoenix — close enough to Tucson for our purposes — the average family spent $594 per month to eat in 2013-14, the most recent figures available from the BLS.

Phoenix averages 2.6 members per household, so we can estimate that the average person spends $228 per month to eat. Although Alison can splurge occasionally at a modest restaurant, living on Social Security means she will be eating at home most of the time.

Add up housing costs of $600 and $228 for food, and Alison is left with $521.59 of her Social Security check — a small sum for the remaining spending categories.

3. Can You Afford Healthcare on Social Security?

Alison might qualify for assistance in paying for her Medicare Part B premiums. Such aid would help her cover medical expenses, the No. 1 financial burden in the U.S. According to the government’s Medicare website, Alison’s monthly $1,349.59 check is beneath the income ceiling of $1,357 that qualifies her for assistance.

Medicare assistance benefits vary by state, so Alison should visit and sign up for a conversation with someone from her state.

It will help if Alison can find ways to save on healthcare costs, such as purchasing generic drugs and using walk-in clinics instead of visiting emergency rooms. Assuming Alison qualifies for government help and is diligent about her medical spending, she can budget $150 per month toward medical costs. Alison now has $371.59 left in her budget.

4. What Type of Transportation Can You Afford While on Social Security?

Owning a car is expensive, especially on Social Security. The cost of operating a car can easily run into hundreds of dollars a month. With that price tag in mind, Alison has joined many other retirees by giving up her car.

Alison relies on public transportation services to get to doctor appointments. When going to the grocery store or meeting with friends, Alison uses the bus. On rare occasions, she splurges for a cab. She chose an apartment located near shops and restaurants. As long as her health holds out, she can walk to the grocery store and pharmacy.

Alison keeps transportation costs low at $100 per month. So, she’s now down to $271.59.

5. Can You Afford to Travel on Social Security?

After paying for necessities, Alison has $271.59 left for extras, which we describe in the next two categories. As you can already see, it is not easy to live on the average Social Security check.

With a tight budget, Alison and other retirees living on Social Security aren’t going on lavish vacations. Maybe Alison can afford a train or bus ticket to visit family, but cruises are out.

If travel is important to you, there are ways to squeeze it into the budget. Pairing up with family and friends can make travel a possibility. Camping vacations in state parks are economical. There are also many free events across the country.

6. Will You Earn Enough in Social Security to Cover Other Costs?

Remember, after spending for necessities, Alison was left with just $271.59 in her monthly budget. The amount of money she can spend in this final category — which includes entertainment — will largely depend on how much cash she earmarks for travel. She might be able to afford the occasional $1 movie at Redbox, but it’s unlikely she’ll be able to pay for the newest iPhone 7.

Finally, Alison will need a small cash cushion to cover emergencies. If she’s especially frugal, she might even have a little money left over to give to her favorite charity.

While Alison can make ends meet on her Social Security check, it won’t be easy. So, if you are a little younger than Alison, try to learn from her mistakes. Save a bit more today so you will have a greater sense of financial security in retirement.

The Costs Of Competing

Overall Team U Pic 2

A number of competitors have asked me recently how much they should expect to spend on competing, which prompted me to write this post. Competitive bodybuilding can get pretty expensive, so you should be prepared to invest some coin in your prep and contests. When I calculated the total amount which was spent by my sponsors and me on all associated costs (coaching, suits, tanning, entry fees, flight, hotel, rental car, supplements, food, shoes, makeup, etc.) which got me to the seven national qualifiers and fourteen pro qualifiers I competed in during the amateur portion of my contest history (2009 through 2013), I was shocked. The total came to over $100,000! Thank goodness my sponsors paid for the majority of those expenses, because otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to hit the national stage the way I did. Obviously the drive to compete took over me, and demanded a tremendous amount of financial and personal sacrifice which I was willing to make.

Over the years I have spoken with other competitors who have had the same drive to compete who have done stupid and risky things in order to keep competing. Though I took financial risks during my Pro Card chase, I didn’t have children or a spouse to worry about, so my behavior didn’t put anyone else at risk. I admit I had foolishly pushed myself to the limit in the past, knowing that as a consequence I would not be able to afford more basic living expenses, but I got wiser as I continued to compete. I have heard of others who have done similar things, with some competitors risking all they owned for the chance to continue competing. Let me be very clear: Pro status will never help you to cushion a nest egg, so if you are risking financial security for the sake of competing, you had better take a good, long look at the reasons why your obsession with competing is pushing the need for basic survival into the corner. It’s time for a reality check.

Be sensible about the money you spend on competing and set a competition budget which doesn’t put undue strain on your finances. Before I went Pro, I established a separate “show fund” in which I set aside money for competitions, so I was always aware of what I could and could not afford. Once a budget is set, it is important to limit oneself to the number of competitions which will keep one within budget. This can be challenging, especially when one is on a mad quest to chase a national qualification or Pro status.

I always advise competitors who frequently compete to search for potential sponsors. I have had competitors ask me how to obtain sponsorship and who also lament the fact that it is exceedingly difficult to land sponsorship from a supplement company. My response to this is that sponsors can come in all forms! Here are some suggestions for potential sponsors:

Friends and family
Business associates
Smaller supplement companies

The trick to asking for sponsorship is to graciously ask for assistance in paying for an event. Remember that even a small amount will help. I have competed at events which have been sponsored by a number of entities, with the tan covered by one, entry fee covered by another, flight by yet another, etc.

If your budget is really tight, stick to nearby contests so you don’t have to pay outrageous travel expenses. If you are nationally qualified, you will be somewhat stuck since there are only seven national level events each year, and they place in very specific geographic areas. You might have to limit the number of Pro qualifying events you enter if your budget is very limited. However, I know the feeling of having to hit all the national events in a year in order to maximize one’s chances at a Pro Card. Even when I was sure I would not be able to afford doing a bunch of national events back to back, I somehow managed to to it because I wanted that Pro Card SO badly. I will be quite blunt and tell you that if you are a nationally qualified master’s competitor, you are probably better off confining your stage time to Pro qualifiers which have master’s divisions. That means that there are three chances at a Pro Card each year for you: NPC Team Universe, Master’s Nationals, and IFBB North American.

Other ways you can keep costs down while still hunting for that Pro Card are to stay with friends or family when you travel to Pro-qualifiers, or share a hotel room with one or more competitors. I strongly advise you to avoid sharing a room with people who are in your height or weight class, though, because it can be torture if you face off against each other onstage, and one of you does well while the other doesn’t. It could get uncomfortable or even ugly.

Even if you don’t have far to travel (those of you who live in the tri-state area are in a good spot geographically for several national events), you still need to pay for coaching, competition suits, spray tanning, supplements, food, shoes, makeup and stage accessories. The stream of contest related expenses is exhaustive, so you need to be prepared. There are ways to cut costs down, but whatever you do, don’t scrimp on quality. You still need to bring a polished and well-conditioned package to the stage.

Competing On A Budget

Originally published on on Sunday, 14 October 2012. The original post was published with white text on white background, so the only way to read it on the site is to highlight the text. To make things easier for everyone, I have copied and pasted the article here for you to read.

Figure top 5
Several weeks ago I calculated the total amount which has been spent by my sponsors and by me on all costs associated with the half dozen national qualifiers and the thirteen pro qualifiers I have competed in since 2009, and almost fell over in my chair. I am by no means blessed with disposable income so I can honestly say that my drive to compete has required a tremendous amount of financial and personal sacrifice. However, I realize that many of you prefer to keep expenses to an absolute minimum, so I offer a number of suggestions on how to meet the financial demands of competing without putting undue strain on your wallet.

1. Set a specific competition budget and stick to it. I have a separate “show fund” in which I set aside money for competitions and am well aware of what I can and cannot afford. I know competitors (and I admit I have foolishly pushed myself to the limit in the past) who have paid a show entry fee then later came to the realization that they could not afford the other expenses for the event and had to back out of it. Once a budget is set, it is important to limit oneself to the number of competitions which will keep one within budget. This can be challenging, especially when one is on a mad quest to chase a national qualification or pro status.

2. Look for a sponsor. I have had competitors ask me how to obtain sponsorship and who also lament the fact that it is exceedingly difficult to land sponsorship from a supplement company. My response to this is that sponsors can come in all forms! Here are some suggestions for potential sponsors:

Friends and family
Business associates
Fitness clothing companies
Smaller supplement companies

The trick to asking for sponsorship is to graciously ask for assistance in paying for an event. Remember that even a small amount will help. I have competed at events which have been sponsored by a number of entities, with the tan covered by one, entry fee covered by another, flight by yet another, etc.

3. Stick to nearby contests. It makes sense to compete within your geographic area if you are trying to keep costs down. If you are competing at local and regional events, make sure these events are within reasonable driving distance from where you live. National-level events are much trickier since they are fewer in number and take place in very specific areas. If your budget allows it, you may consider competing at pro-qualifiers provided 1) your budget allows it, and 2) you limit the number of pro-qualifying events you enter.

4. Stay with friends. If you are considering competing at an event which is far from where you live, consider asking friends or family who live near the venue if it is possible to stay with them.

5. Purchase a used competition suit. Many competitors will retire gently used suits and put them up for sale. This is a great way to get a suit without breaking the bank. Keep in mind that you should determine whether your body is similar to the competitor who has worn the suit, as this will greatly affect how the suit fits YOU.

6. Bling out your own suit. A competition suit encrusted with crystals can range from several hundred to thousands of dollars and can really kill a competition budget! A great option is to purchase a plain suit then purchase crystals, beads or sequins from wholesale supplier online, then apply the embellishments yourself. Please refer to my article on How To Bling Out Your Own Suit for more details on how to do this. By choosing this option you will save a considerable amount of money. In addition, you can customize your design, making your suit truly one-of-a-kind.

7. Do your own makeup. Out of the eighteen competitions I have been in, I only had my makeup professionally done four times, and that was in 2009 and 2010. Since then, I learned how to apply makeup for the stage and as a result, have saved a significant amount of money. Please refer to my article, Perfect Stage Makeup for pointers. Also make sure to PRACTICE a couple of times before the contest so that you don’t wind up with a disaster on the big day. There are plenty of great tutorial videos on YouTube which will walk you step-by-step through makeup application for a smoky eye.

Pro Bikini gals backstage
8. Do your own hair backstage. Generally speaking, you really don’t need to get too fancy with your hairstyle. For figure and bikini, either flatironing for a sleek look or adding big, soft curls will look nice onstage. Fitness, women’s physique and women’s bodybuilding may necessitate putting some hair up if you have hair that is long enough to get in the way of your routine. Make sure to use either smoothing serum for flatironed styles or hairspray for curls so that things stay in place. However, do NOT make your hair so stiff that you cannot gracefully move it off your back during your back pose.

9. Apply tanning solution yourself. This is a tough one, since I always have my tan done professionally. However, if you are truly on a tight budget, it is certainly possible to apply tanner yourself. The only limitation will be when you need to tan your back. There is a tool which you can purchase called Xen-Tan Hard To Reach Back Applicator which does a decent job of evenly depositing self-tanner on hard to reach areas if you aren’t able to find someone to help you apply your tanner. This clever device is available at a number of sites, including Neiman Marcus, Zappos, 6 PM, Amazon and Ulta. I merely chose the Ulta site because that is where I purchased mine.;productId=xlsImpprod4141877&navAction=push&navCount=1&categoryId=cat90022

Make sure to apply a thin, even layer and allow to dry before applying the next layer. The number of layers you will apply will depend on your base skin tone and the brand of solution you decide to use, but you should plan on applying two to five coats of color.

As for the solutions which I consider the best for stage, I love Jan Tana High Definition Color and Liquid Sunrayz. Bronze Angel by Dream Tan is also great. Some people love Pro Tan so this brand may also work well for you. However, I personally cannot use this product as it fades immediately on me, hence my hesitation with this particular brand.

I hope these tips will enable you to compete at the shows you have your eye on! Best of luck!