If something as simple as an economic collapse can shatter your well-being, you need to rethink your priorities.
On debate.org someone posed the question, “Is money more important than health?” 46% said yes; 54% said no. So, I thought, most people agree.
Still, I was left shaking my head; the people saying “No,” — that money is not more important than health — should’ve blown the “Yes,” answers out of the water.
Upon closer inspection, I realized that’s only because people can’t read.
Most of the responses in the “Yes” column talk about how much more important health is than money. Some of them aren’t even comprehensible.
However, there is some data out there that people do, in fact, value money over their health, like this informal survey from American Consumer Credit Counseling: 4% of respondents would go into debt if it would make them more physically fit; 29% would trade their physical fitness for a better financial situation. As much as 50% of people aged 18-24 would trade physical health for financial health — despite the fact that NONE of them had financial goals.
Now, it is possible, given that this was an informal survey, that the respondents here also didn’t know how to read. I’ve got my fingers crossed, but I don’t find it very likely.
Would you — assuming you’re less than forty years old or so — be willing to trade places with an 80 year old billionaire? How about a billionaire your age who has terminal cancer? Or heart disease?
I certainly wouldn’t. He doesn’t have much more life left to live. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that almost every 80 year old billionaire would give all the money in the world to be young again. Or that anyone with serious, life-threatening health issues would be willing to give all of their money for their health.
It’s like when you get a cold: That’s the only time you’re fully aware of how great it is to be able to breathe through your nose.
If You’re Not Physically Healthy, Hire Someone to Help You
Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. It’s likely you’ve read a blog post exactly like this before. You finished it feeling motivated. You worked out for a couple days.
Then you quit.
You need to throw a bigger wrench into the cogs of your daily routine. Hire someone.
I have a strong preference for someone who can physically push you in the gym (and, just as important: to get into the gym). All of the knowledge you need is online. When you’re paying for a personal trainer, you’re not paying for someone to teach you; you already know what to do. You’re paying for someone — not a friend or family member, who would be uncomfortable pushing you to your limits — to keep you accountable.
More importantly, this utilizes a powerful cognitive bias in your favor: the sunk-cost fallacy (or “honoring sunk costs“). You believe you’re a reasonable person, especially if you’re a personal finance blogger, and a reasonable person wouldn’t spend money on a product or service to not use it, right? Anyone who buys something for the sake of buying something is a moron, right?
You would have to go to the gym. Otherwise, you’d be a moron.
It’s important to frame that thought in those terms, because otherwise you’re going to find yourself skipping the gym a lot. Make your commitment about more than your physical health; make it an indicator of your intellectual ability, which is likely a bigger part of your identity. You also need to make some sort of monetary commitment that makes you uncomfortable. Something that you wouldn’t be willing to throw away. It almost needs to be too expensive, and you should give the personal trainer your mobile, home, and work numbers so that he can keep bugging you if you don’t show up to the gym.
“I’ll Get Healthy After I Get Out of Debt.”
While it’s true that financial health and physical health correlate with each other, there’s little evidence that financial health significantly improves your willpower, which has been proven to have a cause-and-effect relationship with your finances. Meanwhile, here’s a quote from Kelly McGonigal’s The Willpower Instinct,
“Megan Oaten, a psychologist, and Ken Cheng, a biologist, had just concluded their first study of a new treatment for enhancing self-control. These two researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, were stunned by the findings. While they had hoped for positive results, nobody could have predicted how far-reaching the treatment’s effects would be. The trial’s guinea pigs were six men and eighteen women, ranging in age from eighteen to fifty years old. After two months of the treatment, they showed improvements in attention and the ability to ignore distractions. In an age of thirty-second attention spans, that would have been reason enough to celebrate. But there was more. They had reduced their smoking, drinking, and caffeine intake — despite the fact that nobody had asked them to. They were eating less junk food and more healthy food. They were spending less time watching television and more time studying. They were saving money and spending less on impulse purchases. They felt more in control of their emotions. They even procrastinated less and were less likely to be late for appointments . . .
The willpower miracle was physical exercise . . .
It not only relieves ordinary, everyday stress, but it’s as powerful an antidepressant as Prozac. Working out also enhances the biology of self-control by increasing baseline heart rate variability and training the brain. When neuroscientists have peered into the brains of new exercisers, they have seen increases in both gray matter — brain cells — and white matter, the insulation on brain cells that helps them communicate quickly and efficiently with each other.”
Lower BMI = More Money
If you’re currently obese, you could be saving more than $800/year by losing weight. If you’re just overweight (not even by a huge margin), you could be saving at least $300/year.
I’m not exactly all about penny-pinching, but it’s an interesting fact to throw out there. If you follow the link on the picture, you’ll find another statistic that shows exercise is correlated with a 7% increase in pay for men and a 12% increase for women.
Even if there wasn’t any evidence that physical exercise improved your finances, I would still say that investing time, money, and energy in your physical health is the best investment you can make. If you consider yourself an intelligent, rational person and you aren’t doing everything in your power to exercise more — despite the overwhelming evidence of its benefits — you should probably stop considering yourself an intelligent, rational person.
Harsh, I know.
But, for some people, it will light a bigger fire inside them than any motivational quote.