“Bad” habits could cost you more than you think

Chapter 40: “Bad” habits could cost you more than you think

Retirees have more time of their hands and fewer day-to-day obligations than working people. This combination opens the door for them to pursue “vices” younger people are generally not able to. It’s easier to smoke, drink and gamble when you’re not responsible for the well-being of children or need to perform well at work.

However, the costs of these “bad habits” can really add up and severely impact retirees on limited incomes. Let’s take a look at those costs and explore options to keep them in check.


The average price of a pack of cigarettes varies widely in different parts of the country, from just over $5.00 to almost $13.00. Let’s assume someone smokes a pack a pay and they pay $10.00 for each one. That comes to $70.00 per week and $3,640 per year. Over a 25-year retirement that adds up to $91,000.

Another thing to consider: You must factor-in the additional insurance and healthcare costs that smokers are forced to pay to understand the real price of a smoking habit.

Based on projections from the American Lung Association and other groups, depending on the state you live in and your overall level of health, smoking could cost a total of $250,000 to $350,000 in retirement. Interesting to note that the Government Accountability Office reports that the average person of retirement age has just over $100,000 saved for retirement. That’s a small fraction of the cost of a smoking habit!

Imagine what you could do with all that “smoking” money and how spending it on other things could impact your lifestyle in retirement.

There are many ways to cut back on — or quit — smoking. Formalized support group programs and hypnosis are two good options. Nicotine therapy is one of the most popular.

According to a report by Bloomberg, it costs approximately $30 per month for nicotine patches or lozenges. Therapy can add $100 or more per month to the cost of eliminating smoking from your life. This seems like a good investment when you think about how much smoking could cost you in retirement.

Tip: Don’t short-change yourself by avoiding therapy because of its cost. Sometimes people who quit smoking without professional help simply replace it with another costly habit.


Many people drink in moderation. It’s enjoyable to have a glass of wine with dinner or a cocktail with friends. But drinking too much is expensive. First, there’s the price of the alcohol. Next, there are significant healthcare-related expenses. Finally, there are costs associated with lost productivity and quality time with family and friends.

Let’s say an average drink costs five dollars (this is based on a mix of inexpensive drinks like beer consumed at home and higher-priced cocktails ordered in restaurants.) The Centers for Disease Control estimates the “hidden” costs associated with a single drink — including lost productivity and healthcare — range from an additional dollar up to almost three dollars, depending on the state you live in. That would raise the average cost of each drink consumed to seven dollars. If you have two drinks per day, that would add up to more than $5,000 per year. That comes to more than $125,000 over a 25-year retirement.

Again, remember that the average retiree has just over $100,000 saved for retirement. Drinking alone could wipe out all those savings.

Do you see the value in quitting or cutting back on alcohol?

Many people find Alcoholics Anonymous or other similar support groups an effective way to do that. These groups usually don’t charge for their services. Depending on how much you drink, you may require professional medical, psychological and other support. Some of these costs could be covered by insurance.

Tip: Make your intentions to stop drinking known to family and friends. Having a solid support group is the most important factor to successfully quitting drinking.


Walk through any casino and it’s easy to see that many retirees have a gambling habit or addiction. According to one study, 40 percent of people who visit casinos more than four times a year are retirees. Another reveals that retirees are five times more likely than younger people to become problem gamblers.

Let’s say you visit a casino just four times a year and lose $250 per visit. (Reports say this as a typical daily slot machine loss at some major Las Vegas casinos. Table game losses are several times higher.) That adds up to $1,000 per year. Over a 25-year retirement, gambling loses could add up to $25,000 that could have been used to pay retirement expenses.

Remember: Lotteries are another gambling-related habit popular with seniors. It may seem like a minor, unimportant one. But even a ten dollar a week lottery habit could cost $13,000 over a 25-year retirement.

Similar to smoking and drinking, support groups are a sound and sensible way to beat gambling. Professional therapy is another popular and effective option.

Tip: If you decide to quit gambling, do all you can to avoid casinos and other places where you could be tempted to gamble. Simply walking through a casino on the way to a show, restaurant or shopping is enough to make some people sit down at a slot machine or throw the dice.

Need help breaking bad habits?

Many retirees turn to bad habits because they have too much time on their hands and too little meaning in their lives. One way to combat this is to find better ways to spend time. Finding a part time job is a good option for some retirees. Many decide to work online or start an online business. It’s a good way to fill their time working when and how often they want.

Another plus: If you need money to quit a negative habit, an online business could help you earn the income to pay for therapy and other support services. What are you waiting for? Learn how you can get started today!


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