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Wealth Virtues Journal: November 20, 2009

The Balance of Health and Wealth

Filed under: Health and Wealth — Tags: , , , , , — James Ward @ 10:09 am
© 2009 Poor Richard Web Press, LLC

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Can people achieve wealth but not have a perceived balance in health and life? Of course! There are many paths, but our goal is to make sure our path is as straight and as smooth as possible. In some cases, individuals have no control over a health event. Sometimes people who have never smoked get cancer. Sometimes, people who are not overweight and eat healthily get diabetes. In the case where the affected person has a positive financial balance, they may have a head start to defeat the setback to their health and continue life the way they choose.

So what does a balance in health have to do with money?

A negative health balance can have an effect on your ability to use money the way we want. Rising health care and insurance costs affect us all, but more so those who are in constant need of both. The healthy man or woman has less need of seeing a doctor or dentist except for routine checkups, and thus they use less insurance money, helping to lower premiums as well as lowering out of pocket expenses. Health and money however, have unexpected relationships.

In the debate on the cost of health care, some say that the government should have a greater role in controlling cost and bringing health care to those who cannot afford it. Others say that health care is fine being managed between doctors, individuals (or groups) and insurance companies. Either way, you will have to pay; either in premiums, or taxes. In its 2008 annual report to Congress, the Medicare Board of Trustees reported that the program’s hospital insurance trust fund could run out of money by 2017. Additionally, the Government Accountability Office lists Medicare as a “high-risk” government program in need of reform, in part because of its vulnerability to fraud and partly because of its long-term financial problems.

I believe that a system of health coverage is necessary and important part of a society that wants to empower its citizens to become entrepreneurs, business owners, or to find new ways to create wealth. How many people do not venture out on their own because of the fear of losing the coverage their company provides? That is not to say they will not have coverage if they do decide to go it on their own, but it will be very costly either in premium cost, or a cutback in the type of coverage. What is plain to see is that government needs to create the means for physicians, drug makers, health care providers, and insurance companies to be able to operate in a more cost effective manner, and NOT be in the business of mandating health care requirements. The reports from the GAO show that the government run systems existing today need fixing before the government takes on any larger roll. In this case, bigger would not be better – just subject to more fraud and waste.

The real answer to focus on when looking at healthcare at a personal level is to evaluate yourself first.

Is it fair that a person who refuses to quit smoking and is perishing from lung cancer be provided care to treat the cancer at no cost when they were unwilling to take responsibility for their own health? The answer is absolutely, NO – it is not fair. However, great societies are also compassionate and do their best to ensure that their citizens do not suffer. The answer I provide has nothing to do with how a society maintains cost and quality of healthcare; rather it puts the onus on YOU. There are health issues that are unavoidable, but your decisions on how you maintain your health, and subsequently pass those habits to your children, is where the real cost savings and quality of health are controlled.

I choose to eat a balanced diet of lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods in portioned quantities throughout the day. I choose to run two miles at 5 a.m. 4-5 days a week. I choose to engage in weight training four to five days a week instead of filling up on a big lunch. I choose to do these things because they are simple, cheap, and healthy, and make me less susceptible to things like coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and non-insulin dependent diabetes. According to the American Cancer Society, “…CDC researchers estimate that one-third of all US deaths are due to diseases related to diet, physical inactivity, and smoking. However, the specific links to cancer may be even stronger. It is estimated that about one-third of all cancer deaths in the US are related to smoking, while about another third are linked to diet, excess weight, and physical inactivity. For the majority of Americans who do not smoke, dietary choices and physical activity are the most important factors we can control in terms of cancer risk.” I choose to do the things I mentioned above because of a chance event that made me think more about health and its associated cost to both my family and myself.

When working as an employee of a large company, I had the opportunity to increase my life insurance to over one million dollars with little change in premium costs. The approval was dependent on passing a health exam. All was fine, except that the lab found an issue with a blood test where if not soon corrected, I would not only miss the opportunity, but could have developed significant health problems that would have incurred an expense. My triglycerides were at 600 milligrams/deciliter (below 150 mg/dL being normal), which is at the highest level of risk. A high triglyceride level increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. Based on this data the insurance company would not increase my coverage level, and more importantly, I was putting myself and my family at financial risk due to health issues or though unlikely, (and to me unnecessary) death. I took immediate action to cut sugars from my diet, increase vegetables and fruits, include daily fish oil supplements (Omega-3 fatty acids), and work out harder than what I was currently doing on a daily basis to include daily running and weight lifting. Within two weeks, my triglyceride level was below 150 mg/dL, my cholesterol dropped 40 points, and I lost 8 pounds. I was healthier, more alert, and the insurance company provided the coverage after doctor verification. My doctor was also quite pleased, as he likes healthy patients who will come back and pay for yearly checkups. Dead patients rarely do this.

From that event, I continued a regiment of exercise involving running two miles in the morning before work, and lifting weights during the time most people eat lunch. One of the most significant outcomes was a significant positive change in confidence. If you can do something as difficult as loosing weight and building muscle, changing your financial habits become extraordinarily easy. It can be hard to imagine changing ourselves to improve our financial situation, but by manifesting change to ourselves in a positive physical manner, the discipline to change in other ways has a good foundation.

The psychological benefits of exercise are equally important to the weight conscious person. Exercising decreases stress and relieves tensions that might otherwise lead to overeating. Exercise builds physical fitness, which in turn builds self-confidence, enhanced self-image, and a positive outlook. When you start to feel good about yourself, you are more likely to want to make other positive changes in your lifestyle that will help keep your weight under control.

To summarize, use Temperance, Moderation, Cleanliness, and Resolution mitigate or eliminate health issues that draw money away from where, when, and how you want to use it. Some medical situations are unavoidable, but you need to take charge of what you can control in your personal health to minimize healthcare costs.

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