We hear time after time about how bad the health of the average American is. I believe the average American is also in poor financial health as well. Currently, the US is ranked the ninth fattest country in the world. In addition, the average American has over $132,000 in debt. Let’s explore the relationship between finances and physical well-being, as our nation’s current situation has many people on the road towards physical detriment and financial disaster.
Rich People Workout
You know who exercises everyday for 30 minutes to one hour? Rich people. According to Thomas C. Corley, 67% of rich people (those with an annual income of $160,000 and a liquid net worth of $3.2 million) exercise aerobically everyday. According to this Harvard study, regular exercise increases the brain’s mental sharpness and enhances brain health.
I have read for years that America is very overweight compared to other countries. It really got me thinking though as I was sitting by the pool on my recent Royal Caribbean cruise. Looking around, there were many people who were drastically overweight. Many relied on motorized scooters with oxygen tanks and others found themselves short of breath as they trekked around the ship.
I believe debt can be just as debilitating and crippling as physical ailments.
Small Decisions, Big Impact
Weight gain and deep debt typically creep up over time. I could eat anything that I wanted to in high school and wouldn’t gain a pound. I was also involved in sports at school and was eating my mom’s home-cooked food. However, when I got to college, my physical activity decreased while my diet deteriorated. Let’s just say I wasn’t reaching for an apple at midnight to satisfy my hunger but instead, a juicy piece of pepperoni pizza from Gumby’s Pizza.
Making a poor nutrition decision once won’t always have a long term impact. However, making the same poor nutrition decisions day after day tends to add up. They call it the “Freshman 15” for a reason. Like nutrition, finances are the same way. Most of the time, debt is not accumulated in one fell swoop but slowly over time from a series of poor financial decisions.
Knowledge Is Power
I’m always interested to know if people took personal finance classes while in college. From most of my conversations, most have taken none and very few have taken just one course. In the same way, not many take nutrition classes in college either. Both personal finance and nutrition are important subject matter for young adults to have some sort of exposure to. I never took a nutrition class, but I was required to take a Musical Appreciation class to fulfill an area requirement in college. I would have benefitted much more from a nutrition class since that music class was essentially just selections of my professor’s favorite classical music.
What we should be doing as a society is eating less (and better) and exercising more. Likewise, in financial terms, we need to be spending less and budgeting more. No one wants to hear this, but stay with me for a minute. How often do we hear about the latest diet fad or the latest “get rich quick” scheme? Inevitably, you will hear anecdotal evidence that it worked for a select group of people, but overall it doesn’t work for the masses. Remember the Cookie diet or what about the South Beach diet? Their lifespans were fairly short-lived. Nothing beats good, old-fashioned hard work and determination.
Getting into Shape
When I was in school, the first day of basketball practice was always the toughest for me. While I had played sports during the summer and fall, I wasn’t in basketball shape yet. It took me a good week or two to get back into shape, but then after that maintaining my fitness level for the rest of the season was a breeze.
But now that I am older, it takes me much longer to get into shape once I start a new workout regime or sport. Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day and exercising one hour every other day probably doesn’t help compared to high school, when I worked out two to three hours a day during practice.
In many ways, it is the same thing when it comes to getting into financial shape. It may be pretty painful and tough initially depending on the level of debt. Patience may also be an order as it may take some time to get into proper financial shape.
In terms of a fit body, I recently read that 80% is from what we eat and the remaining 20% comes from actually exercising. This means you can’t out exercise a bad diet. This made me think about finances since you can’t get financially healthy if you spend more than you make. How often do we read about people with six figure salaries that are up to their eyeballs in debt? Then we read about a teacher with a meager salary retiring as a millionaire.
You know what is proven to work over time. Discipline, hard work and patience. These can be applied to physical health and your finances. If you are disciplined and focused on eating less (spending less) and if you are diligent through hard work in exercising (budgeting), I guarantee you that in time, you will be happy with the results.
Do you see a correlation between health and finances? How long did it take you to get into good financial shape? Share your story below.