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Financial Health & Physical Health are Synonomous!

Updated: Jan 31

Wealth and health are synonomous. Wealth in the absence of health is going to be an undesirable detractor or derailer in your retirement if it manifests. Though, you will find that there is very little discussion or consideration given to this fact during retirement planning or advice. In hindsight, we could have done this better, but at least we realized and started to make changes at some point. If I told you that your younger self could make significant changes to avoid common illnesses in your golden years, would you make the changes? Or are you part of the many waiting for something to actually happen to you before you make those changes?

   The methodologies and journey to financial health is well documented and published. There are many resources that tell you, “increase your earning power“,”pay yourself first”, “compound your savings”, and “invest in low-fee, diversified products”. Later in our lives, in our late 40’s, we made the scary-not-so-scary switch to a DIY investment program and low-fee, diversified ,exchange-traded investments that were not actively-managed. We fired our financial advisor and the institution, and took it all over ourselves and never looked back or regretted it. Our only regret after-the-fact was not taking an interest and doing it earlier, but hey, that’s ok… we did it! Again, making the journey to financial-freedom is well-published, and there is a lot of support and information out there now on the internet and with various financial institutions to assist you. Though, nobody back then ever thought about “health-freedom”, or if it was even possible.

   Back to health. Can we at least agree that if you retire with financial health in your 60’s with early health issues your retirement plans may be derailed? If the answer is yes, can we agree that if you knew you have a good chance of avoiding or deferring most common health issues by developing healthy habits earlier in life, you would? The same equations for financial health apply to physical health. Investing in yourself early and often, compounding the effects, stick to the plan, and eventually you reap the benefits.

   We learned this a little later in life, had to shake off previous influences, and though we’ve made meaningful changes to our health plans in the last 15-20 years, and continue to tweak them, I wished I had started earlier and done more in earlier years. I started a making changes to my health journey at age 39 and have been making changes ever since. The beauty of it though, is similar to investing money, it is never too late to start.

   Some of the things we have done over the years to improve our future health:

  1. We don’t smoke, though I admittedly tried it for a couple years in my early 20’s to “look cool” in the nightclubs and with peers. Our parents smoked like chimney’s into their mid to late 60’s. We both had parents who succumbed to cancer at ages 68 and 78.

  2. We got our weight (visceral fat level) down to athletic levels at 40 and maintained it. Our living parents still struggle with this, mostly because they are 79 and 82 now, and can claim victory for simply getting old in spite of the extra weight and poor diets.

  3. We exercise almost daily in the gym, strength training for last 25 years, the only exception being when we travel. Our parents did not exercise anywhere near what we do, and bordered on sedintery into their 60’s.

  4. We participate in cardio activities and sports at least 3-4 days/week for the last 25 years. We never saw our parents do any cardio or sports on a planned or sustained basis. They grew up in an era where hard work trumped exercise, and when the hard work wasn’t there, they simply did nothing.

  5. We walk 2-5kms a day when it’s warmer than -5C outside. We have more time for this since retiring and have been doing it religiously for 4-5 years. Our parents did this too after retirement, but can’t tell you how much.

  6. We switched to a healthier way of eating; whole-food, plant-based, no-oil (WFPBNO) diet in last 4 years, although we were whole-food (unprocessed food) meatatarians eating minimal red meat for the last 20 years before this, so still a relatively healthy diet. We mostly avoid processed sugar though admittedly indulge occasionally. Our parents grew up post-depression, through the fast-food and processed-food revolution, and had diets high in meat, dairy, processed meats, sodium, saturated fats, oil, and refined sugars. There was always koolaid and coca-cola in the house, and candy was a common behaviour modifier for kids. Large amounts of cheese and butter and sugar made everything taste better (and more addictive).

  7. We reduced our alchohol intake by 90% over the last 6 months, and are finding it easier to maintain and increase the elimination of booze as the benefits roll in and the wiring changes in our monkey brains; eg sleeping and feeling better day-to-day with more energy, less prone to illness, and the $$$ SAVINGS!! Our parents were not alchoholics, but they drank alchohol to the social norms.

   There are some other things I personally wished I had done differently during my working career that is now just water under the bridge. I have been exposed to a lot of fumes and chemicals through the years, having worked in the oil and gas industry. Early on PPE was not common or enforced, and when it was there are still times I was likely exposed to unknowns. The latent effects of these exposures may be material or not… but I’d wished I’d practiced more avoidance and protection when I was younger, and in in the first 10-15 years of my career. The only thing I can say countered potential exposures in my case, is that I had a desk/office job for latter 2/3’s of my working career, and any exposure potential was higher during the first 1/3 of my career when I spent more time in the field and doing dirty jobs. However this avoidance was a condition of advancing my career and not any plan on my part. I guess I could say I was motivated to get out of the dirty jobs ASAP so maybe it was a bit of a plan? So from this perspective, the motivation to better yourself and advance out of these harsher jobs where your health could be beat up a bit over the long term, should be an obvious health benefit?

  Having and maintaining good health goes beyond the physical aspects, and benefits you financially too. Smoking can cost +$5k/yr if you are a pack-a-day smoker, drinking can cost +$3k/yr if you have one craft beer a day in the local pub, and the associated health costs of these vices given their factual, potential health risks can cost you more than the money alone.

   I purchased supplemental health insurance in early 2022 for 18 mos, though we decided recently to drop it as of Nov 2023. It was costing us $3500/yr and we were only benefitting $600-1000/yr. One of the triggers for our reassessment was my wife needed a $1000 root canal in Nov 2023, and the plan only covered 70% of the cost after being in the plan and paying for 3 years. It had a 3 year waiting period on major work. After a deep-dive into our parent’s health costs in their golden years, and doing some basic math on potential health and dental costs based on their history, we calculated it was far better to save this money into our own health war chest, invest it, and use it when necessary. I figured we’d come out way farther ahead in the next 10-20 years, plus there are no “waiting periods” to get the coverage as it’s our money. In a country where basic health is covered by government plans, supplemental health and dental insurance does not make sense for healthy or even semi-healthy people. It makes less and less sense the longer you are healthy and pay into it. And, for things like travel or even life insurance, you can buy individual plans when and exactly how long you need them versus paying the “rolled in” costs associated with supplemental plans. It works out cheaper in the long run by my math in the majority of the population, and all travel insurance policies have the same escape clause on their coverage; “if your health turns and you have a pre-existing condition before the trip, and you go anyways and something worse happens as a result, the coverage is void”. Insurance plans with high price advisors are not much different than financial plans with a high-price advisors, people buy into supplemental health insurance because a) they just couldn’t be bothered, or b) they fear the unknown or their own ability to handle it themselves. Some are truely convinced it’s a benefit they can’t live without and fear the absolute worst case scenarios, despite their family histories, and the fact that the worst case scenarios kill you quick, or the true costs they might incur. They would rather just pay someone else to worry about it all and do it for them.

    So, pursuing wealth in the absence of pursuing health might not get you where you want to be later in life. Poor health can detract from a positive retirement experience, and if poor health sneaks up on you early in your career when you are earning, it can even derail your financial plan. This article is not about those health issues you have no control over, and to those who are dealt a tough, dibilitating blow, I truely empathize. This is about the things you can control to avoid some of the future illnesses that are arguably preventable. Things your parents went through, where if you do not change what you are doing and do it differently then them, then you will get the same results. Diabetes, heart and circulatory disease, and cancer run in both our families. The health changes we have made over the years are an effort on our part to at least try and do it differently than our parents and get a different result. Both of us have already gone past the ages where our parents first experienced heart disease and diabetes, so we’d like to think our changes are working?

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