Using Health to Create Wealth

What would you be willing to do to retire a millionaire? How much time is that worth? One hour a day? How about two? Only 10 minutes? Not many people realize this, but by making a few healthy changes in your life, you could find yourself in retirement one day with a whole lot of cash.

The typical American has seven bad habits; and it is estimated that each habit costs $4 each day. I propose that the true cost is much higher due to costs associated with lost productivity at work or even future health expenses. Typical bad habits include smoking, drinking soft drinks, expensive coffee, fast food, and so on. I’m sure you can think of at least one bad habit, or maybe all seven, that costs you this much each day.

Whatever the case, if one was to instead invest this money:

1 month = $120 – now take that money every month and invest it – let’s say we even put that into a savings account getting 3% compounded continuously, for argument’s sake:

1 year: $1,461.88

20 years: $39,462.79

From age 18 to 62 (44years): $131,685.30

This article is not just about the money you can eventually save up. I want to stress this because, by making these changes, you are more likely to live long enough to actually enjoy the extra cash! Furthermore, if you would simply work with a financial planner, you could easily make 8% instead (and depending on your willingness to take a risk, even more!)

That said, humans are creatures of habit, it’s our nature. By quitting bad habits, you need to replace them with good habits. So logically, if you’re programmed to have habits, choose to use that time and energy toward having good habits. This will save you money, now and later. According to a study published by Health Affairs, the high cost of health care and the associated costs of being ill are responsible for half of all personal bankruptcies. A study by Harvard, which confirmed the Health Affairs study, found that most people filing for bankruptcy were middle class; 56% being homeowners, and 56% had attended some college. “Everyone is one serious illness away from bankruptcy”, said one researcher. In fact, health care spending in the United States is $1.8 trillion, which is four times the amount spent on national defense. This amounts to nearly $6,280 per person per year. If you take the typical family of four, that’s just over $25,000 a year! Now, if you take good care of yourself by exercising, quitting destructive habits, eating well, and making sure you get regular dental, medical, and chiropractic checkups; let’s say we can reduce this cost by 50% (conservative, of course!). That means you’re only spending $3,140 per person per year, or $12,560 per family. Think of what the typical family could do with an extra $1,000 per month! The sad truth is; however, that most of us put health as our last priority. We put off trips to the dentist or to the optometrist and the typical guy almost needs to be on his death bed before seeking medical treatment. Prevention is cheap and easy, it’s the consequences of living a life of poor decisions that is expensive. Good food may be expensive now, but the long term benefits of eating well will beat the costs needed to treat cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Don’t be seduced by the guilty pleasures that last only a minute or two like smoking, eating poorly, sleeping in instead of working out. These are short-lived pleasures and there’s nothing down that road except osteoporosis, weight gain, and nursing homes. Choose to take an active step towards health and save yourself and your family from a lack of wealth AND health.

If you would like to learn more about using healthy habits to save money, I suggest these national best-sellers:

“Discover Wellness: How staying healthy can make you rich” by authors Dr. Bob Hoffman and Dr. Jason Deitch. This book separates each of the major lifestyle diseases prevalent in America; providing research-based suggestions on how you can lower your risk for each.

“One Minute Wellness” by Dr. Ben Lerner. This book outlines quick and easy steps towards beginning a new lifestyle.

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References:

Average ages of Retirement: found at http://www.bls.org/ on 2/27/2009

Compound interest calculator: found at: http://www.moneychimp.com/ on 2/27/2009.

Hoffman & Deitch. “Discover Wellness: How staying healthy can make you rich”

Lerner, Dr. Ben – Seminar. Chesterfield, MO on 2/10/2009.

Smith, C., Cowen C., Sensenig, A., Cailin, A., “Health Spending Growth Slows in 2004” Health Affairs 25:1 (2006): 186-196.