Why Getting Healthy Is Crucial to Your Bottom Line

by Thursday Bram · 5 comments

Health advice doesn’t show up too often on most personal finance blogs, especially when it goes beyond where to cut health costs. But the fact of the matter is that getting and staying healthy is a good financial choice. There are plenty of expenses that go along with being out of shape or even outright sick — the number of bankruptcies in the U.S. caused even indirectly by unbearable medical expenses should be a strong argument in favor of the importance of health in figuring out your personal finances.

The Rising Cost of Health Insurance

Even with the laws passed recently to reform health insurance in the U.S, the cost of getting health insurance coverage is high. If you’ve got an employer who provides you with insurance as a benefit, that’s great — but many of us rely on a spouse or another organization to provide health insurance or simply go without. Going without health insurance is a scary proposition: if something does happen, you can be financially wiped out in the time it takes to call an ambulance. I would never recommend going without health insurance, but it is worth noting that if you stay healthy, you can avoid some of the potential situations that might lead to a trip to the hospital. There’s no way of knowing about accidents in advance, but it is easy to mitigate what are often considered lifestyle diseases by making healthy choices. Someone who is out of shape is more susceptible to a whole list of problems, from big issues like diabetes to relatively minor problems like back pain.

The costs that go along with insurance can also sometimes be reduced by similar approaches. Not only do many insurance companies take your health and habits into account when figuring costs — after all, smokers will cost them a lot more money over the years — but they pass those costs along to you whenever possible. In turn, some companies have started offering incentives for healthy behaviors. Those incentives can cut costs and make keeping insurance at least a little easier.

Preventative Health Care Simply Costs Less

Even if you have one of the electric toothbrushes, your average costs for toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss can come in under a hundred dollars a year. Considering that even filling a cavity (one of the cheapest dental procedures out there) in the cheapest way possible costs close to that, brushing and flossing are a good investment of your time for the return. The same is true of other sorts of preventative health care. Think beyond just the costs of recovery, too. A flu shot doesn’t just reduce the amount of money you’ll spend on medication. It also means that you won’t be home sick and have to deal with the lost wages. Avoiding a few days out is even more important if you’re focusing on improving your financial situation. Lost income and the cost of medical bills can easily wipe out progress made against debt. The numbers add up to make preventative measures a good investment, especially if you can consult with your doctor about which measures will be most helpful for you.

Not everyone really needs each vaccine that is rolled out, of course, which makes talking to a doctor you trust just as important as actually adding preventative health measures to your regular budget. That can seem like just another expense, especially if you don’t have health insurance, but there are many clinics and other programs in place that can make the costs more manageable. What is available depends on individual situations.

Mental Health Matters, Too

Getting into good shape is not just a question of how fast you can run a mile. What goes on inside your head can be just as important. Everyone’s needs, at least in terms of mental health, differ. But doing whatever it takes to get yourself into good mental shape makes sense, considering that your state of mind can impact whether you get the exercise you need, are willing to eat healthy or are even getting up in the morning. It’s not just a question of being able to avoid costs down the road or reducing the number of sick days you really need, either: if you’re facing problems, handling the stress that goes along with them can quickly snowball. If you aren’t in a good place, mentally, finding your way through problems becomes that much harder.

This can be another tricky matter if insurance isn’t available to cover expenses related to what you need. There are fewer helpful programs available geared to mental health than are available to help with physical health. There are some out there, though, and they are worth looking for if you find that a little help is necessary to get your mental health to where it needs to be.

Healthy Choices Lead to Other Good Choices

Making healthy choices about your body can have some recognizable impacts on your other choices, especially those impacting your wallet. If you’re trying to eat healthier, the odds are that planning ahead for your meals and even cooking from scratch happens more often. That means you’re relying on restaurants and fast food far less — and on the more expensive methods you can use to make sure you get fed. Making the choice to do something active, rather than sitting on the couch and watching television can have a similar impact. Taking a hike costs nothing, while that time on the couch means that you’re a lot more likely to have cable. The list goes on: there are plenty of ways that leading a healthy lifestyle has unexpected benefits for your wallet. It’s true that the news isn’t all good (the cost of a gym membership, for instance, will eat into those savings), but overall, living a healthy lifestyle makes a huge difference in your personal finances.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenna October 6, 2010 at 11:24 am

So true. If you’re trying to eat healthier, the odds are that planning ahead for your meals and even cooking from scratch happens more often. Just starting to go for an after dinner walk is helpful. You start realizing how much you missed it and what you have been missing out on. Start feeling better (and saving money) today.

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Nick Sweeney October 6, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Great tie-in to the finances, David, although I’d be quick to add that you don’t NEED to join a gym to stay healthy. In fact, you may be better off just buying a pair of running shoes and doing some push-ups.

Fitness doesn’t have to cost $20 – $70/mo., especially if you only use two machines at your gym (you know, if you even show up to begin with). Gym memberships are great for some, but most folks can stay healthy with a nice jog in the park, and keep their savings in their account.

Nice post, though.

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Marie October 6, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Good points all. Making healthy choices helps keep you in your prime. It also sets a great example for your family members.

Cooking your own food and eating at the dinner table as a family teaches your kids good things like:
a) self sufficiency – being able to prepare and serve a meal
b) importance of family time – making the choice to sit together as a family and have a family conversation demonstrates your commitment to each other c) verbal skills – how to engage in a conversation
d) eating etiquette – it’s easier to instruct and correct behavior in your own home and
e) teamwork – especially when the spouse and kids help prepare, serve and cleanup.

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JMS October 7, 2010 at 8:13 am

Such a great post. In fact, I was disappointed that the Healthcare Bill that was recently passed didn’t address some of this…although I am unsure of how it would or could. But we have increasingly become a nation where one pushes the responsibility of their health to someone else, whether it be doctors, insurance companies or the government. It is high time that we as a nation begin taking responsibility for our own health. It is so easy too.

I got my mom and dad to lose some weight just by eating better and taking evening walks together. Any movement is good movement. I think a big problem is that most people equate exercise with bodybuilding. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have heard someone say they don’t want to get big and bulky, so they don’t exercise. First, you don’t have to. Second, it takes a TON of effort to get big and bulky. If people realized that just walking or playing games outside with their children or taking classes at the local YMCA and cleaning up their diet a bit is all it took, I think more people would take more responsibility for their own well-being.

I think one of the most important things one can do, personal finance wise, is take care of their body.

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Shona October 8, 2010 at 3:52 am

Something else that is very beneficial to one’s health is choosing decent quality vitamin supplements, because fresh food doesn’t have nearly as much goodness in it today as it had 20/30 years ago.

Speaking on a personal note: vaccines are not always effective at combating flu. Every single person I know that had the flu vaccine, ended up getting bad doses of flu. A good dose of vitamin D3, along with a zinc supplement boost a person’s immune system to the point where the vaccines serve no purpose whatsoever.

The rest of the advice given here is good though. Eating in is definitely healthier than eating out.

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