Few issues are more contentious of late than health care in America. Though the health care reform debate rages, there is one point on which everyone agrees. Health and wealth in inextricably entwined. Whether noble or not, attempts to artificially disentangle them are futile at best, and harmful at worst.
Assessing the costs of health
Health comes at a cost, both on a fiscal level and on a metaphorical one. On a fiscal level, money is exchanged, be it through tax dollars or directly out-of-pocket, for health-related services. For Americans, nearly 18% of our economy is devoted to it. Close to 1 in every 5 dollars is spent on doctors, hospitals, medicines, insurance, or other products and services we purchase to keep ourselves alive.
The fiscal cost of health, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg. Many of the most important costs of poor health defy traditional modes of measurement. They are evaluated in opportunities lost to connect with loved ones, units of physical pain, and of extent of emotional despair. Though directly quantifying them approaches the impossible, those losses are more deeply felt than lines on a bank statement or numbers on a quarterly earnings reports.
Grasping the interplay of personal health and wealth
Curiously, far too many of us fail to fully appreciate the connection between health and wealth. We may wince when paying our monthly premiums to the insurance company, but we think nothing of downing that leftover cake in the break room or skipping a workout (or many workouts) to relax away job-related stresses with endless, sedentary hours of mindless video games or television shows.
Evaluating the fallout
Sadly, many of us fail to balance the two, and pay a steep price for it. Spending endless hours at work, for example, can take a profound toll on health. Some go so far as to eschew sick days when truly ill and forego taking vacation days they’ve earned throughout their tenure.
The price of ignoring one’s health in the pursuit of wealth, ironically, can be extraordinarily high. Stress-exacerbated illnesses, left unchecked, can result in more than just lost income. They can literally cost your life. A recent study suggests that people who are overly stressed and depressed were 48% more likely to have a heart attack or die during the study period.
Finding the perfect balance
Take a moment to really let that sink in. Ask yourself some very serious questions. Are you so stressed and depressed, in part from working so tirelessly to build your wealth, that your life is quite literally at risk? If you had a 48% chance of winning the lottery if you bought a ticket right now, would you buy one?
Life, of course, isn’t a lottery. But like buying more tickets to increase your chances of winning the lottery, you can also increase your chances of living a happier, healthier life by seeking a more balanced approach to wealth-seeking.
In a further irony, the stress-related illnesses exacerbated by an imbalanced approach to wealth-seeking are also costly from a monetary standpoint. Instead of investing in expanding your stock portfolio, you find yourself investing instead in paying hospital bills, buying medication, and writing checks to endless strings of medical specialists.
Having it all
Health and wealth are not mutually exclusive. They are both achievable. Both are within your reach. To have both, you must be willing to do that which is counter-intuitive. To become wealthy, invest in keeping yourself healthy. When all is said and done, you will have your pay-off and be in a position to enjoy it. You really can have your cake and eat it, too.