Health Management is Wealth Management

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Health care is a huge expense for many people around the world. Often, it stands in direct opposition of our aspirations for a free and fulfilling life. We would need to experience a GDP growth of 4.3% to offset the decline in happiness from a decrease in life expectancy of just one year. So it’s worth asking the question: if health is wealth, is health management wealth management?

health management
It’s not easy, but there are some simple and effective ways to potentially reduce your health care costs.

It’s not easy for a lot of people to save money to get ahead. Anyone with huge health care costs is at an even greater disadvantage. Health care for millennials is estimated to reach $4,500 USD per year, up to 33% higher than the previous generation. And that’s precisely why it is important for us to take things into our own hands where we can.

Being employed is one of the most common paths to good health care. So for those aspiring to #FIRE or ‘retire’ early, health care is something that needs to be carefully considered. Some believe that minimizing out-of-pocket expenses should be the priority. Others think that insurance is a bad deal considering their personal level of risk.

health management
The Rat Race is tough enough to win without exorbitant health care costs.

It’s not a straightforward problem to solve, and it all depends highly on one’s own situation. The most important thing is that we do what we can to greatly reduce our likelihood of needing health care. This includes choosing and developing a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle. Health management is a major part of wealth management. Because regardless of how much coverage one has, it’s very difficult to live a rich life without your health.

The Cost of Coverage

I’m Canadian and I live in Mexico. In Canada, health care is provided by provincial governments. Hospitals bill the province directly. It is a publicly funded arrangement and Canadians pay virtually no health insurance premiums.*

I still work in Canada. Because I am in the country more than 180 days each year, my health care coverage is unaffected. Through my employer I receive additional coverage generally referred to as ‘extended medical’ or ‘benefits’. This includes some coverage each year for things like massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, emotional therapy, counselling, and more. Also included is 80% dental care coverage and full coverage for prescription drugs. These are all taxable benefits of my employment, and in combination with the basic public health care plan is a common model for families and individuals in Canada.

Eventually, I plan to be living in Mexico or traveling outside of Canada at least half of the year. Then, I will need to find an alternative solution for health care coverage. “Expat Insurance” or a private plan in Mexico are both affordable but represent a cost increase over my current coverage. I understand that things are more complicated in the USA. Premiums are sky-high, deductibles are on the rise and the overall costs are increasingly unpredictable. Health care is a huge issue to citizens everywhere, and it’s hard to deny that the future is bleak at the moment.

If you’re healthy and already relatively wealthy, you can consider going without medical insurance in places where premiums are extraordinarily high. In this case, it would be advisable to continue to put away what you would have been putting into premiums to pay for anything that comes up. I only see this being worth it for American readers, where premiums are sky-high, but it could be applicable elsewhere.

Health Management = Wealth Management

health management
Ambulances and accidents often make up the ‘worst-case’ stories we hear so much about, but the reality is most health care costs are due to chronic health issues. Millennials are less healthy than the previous generation.

Unexpected emergency health expenses are enough to worry about on their own. However, many millenials are suffering from chronic health problems at an alarming and increasing rate. Depression, hyperactivity, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes are all on the rise among young people. This threatens their lifetime earnings, savings and freedom potential. This will also continue to increase health care costs for everyone, again restricting personal freedom across the population.

If you’re able-bodied, you are living a rich life already. You must be grateful for and take stewardship of this good fortune and do your best not to squander it. Ultimately, it’s not only about quantity of life. Quality also matters a great deal.

…simple and easy are not equal…

Just like saving money is a habit often difficult to implement, so is maintaining health. The formulas are simple and well known: eat well, live actively, socialize often. But simple and easy are not equal, and we often find it difficult to maintain these actions over time.

The choices we make today, tomorrow and yesterday have very little to do with where we end up next week, but a lot to do with where we end up in 20 years. This is just as true for our health and the associated costs as it is for investing, relationships and so many other cornerstones of a free and fulfilling life. As the great cartoonist Bill Watterson once wrote, “…day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon, everything’s different.”

“…day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon, everything’s different.”

A Game of Chance

Keep in mind, living healthy will not guarantee you anything. But neither will sound investing strategies. We’re all just playing the odds right from day one. The most likely path to wealth, health and happiness is to stack the odds in your favor (but never cheat).

Living in Mexico, I meet a lot of Americans who have horror stories about themselves or a family member or friend who had some huge, unforeseen medical expense that literally bankrupt them. That’s scary, and largely out of our control. But most health care costs are the result of chronic issues. Current trends indicate that millennials could see a 40% increase in death rates as compared with Generation X. And these types of conditions and problems are generally within our control.

health management
“Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift these heavy ass weaights” -Ronnie Coleman

We can take control of many aspects of our lives to give ourselves the best chances for success. We don’t have to do what everyone else is doing – a concept hardly novel to the #FIRE community. Our health is no exception. By making a series of sensible, small decisions on a consistent basis we can highly increase our chances of avoiding altogether the physical, emotional and financial costs that poor health can bring to bear.

We must form habits that will allow us to automatically do the ‘right’ thing. Otherwise, it will always be easier to spend our money on a shiny new toy or to indulge in an extra piece of cake – especially if we let ourselves sleepwalk in that direction. The path to wealth, health and happiness is already well-known. The real challenge lies in getting to the trailhead.

Next time…

In my next post I’ll be sharing some simple little hacks and habits I’ve picked up along the way that help me live well and contribute to my overall health management. This includes a few diet hacks, thoughts on exercise and my simple but effective morning routine.

*In British Columbia, where I am from, it is currently a nominal $80 a month for an individual, but that will be eliminated in January 2020 to align with the majority of provinces.

4 Must Haves: Personal Finance Apps (Guest Post)

There’s a first time for almost everything.  And that even includes guests posts on this blog!  Recently Money Done Right reached out and pitched a few ideas for a guest post to Freedom 33.  Because we all know how much I believe in the power of tracking (I decided I need to gain a better water-drinking habit and started tracking daily intake, which led to me drinking an average of almost 4.5L over the last week!), we eventually settled on the topic of personal finance apps.

Not only do I understand the power of tracking our progress – I’ve gotten a handle on my diet, finances, water consumption, driving habits and once upon a time quit smoking this way – but I am always on the lookout for ways to improve the process.  I have used Mint for a long time to track my finances, but ultimately still turn to my own spreadsheet as it serves me exactly how I want to be served, and I still haven’t managed to fully bend Mint to my will.  

Nevertheless, I am excited to hear about other options that may save me some time and allow me to finally move away from my clunky (but effective) Google Sheets spreadsheet method of tracking my finances.

It can be confusing and overwhelming to start monitoring your money more closely, but there are more tools than ever to help you understand and manage your finances. You can find effective mobile apps to cover a variety of elements of personal finance.

This article will identify four of the most powerful personal finance apps currently available. These are great places to start for anyone new to budgeting. Mobile apps make personal finance more convenient and help you stick to your financial goals.

Continue reading “4 Must Haves: Personal Finance Apps (Guest Post)”

The Happiness Index

For what’s money without happiness?

Or hard times without the people you love?

-J. Cole, Love Yourz

No, this is not a discussion of some hip new ETF that I have found. Instead, I wanted to bring to your attention some recent research that may change the way we quantify happiness, which has all sorts of implications, even for you and your own Freedom goals.

The #FIRE community was borne out of a call-to-action to the middle class to reconsider the things they value most and to come to terms with the fact that a rich life was measurable by so much more than simply money. Bloggers like Mr. Money Mustache and Early Retirement Extreme preached logical frugality, simple indulgence, mindful and constant skill development and a consideration of the impact our actions have on others and the planet itself. It was a call to wake up from our sleep-walk towards endless economic growth at all costs no matter how unhappy and unhealthy it makes us and to re-direct our resources in order to allow ourselves to become the master of our own domains again.

A lot of this sentiment still exists within the community, but in some corners – and perhaps in those that overlap somewhat with the more traditional world of Personal Finance – it has simply become a collection of affluent middle class people telling stories of how well their ETFs and Index Funds have been performing (during the best 10 years in history for such investments mind you) and then reporting their net worth to each other on a monthly basis. A lot of it is hardly meaningful, and seems to have let go of the ‘why’ of it all. I see very few to zero ‘Charitable Givings’ or ‘Ecological Impact’ reports provided to summarize their social and natural capital gains or losses alongside their ‘Net Worth Update’ articles reporting their financial capital.

Continue reading “The Happiness Index”

What You Say You Are and the Food of Thought

What you’re thinking about, you’re becoming.

-Mohammed Ali

Your perception is your reality. We move through the world with a story about ourselves in our heads that we call our identity. We tell ourselves that we’re ‘rich’ or that we’re ‘poor’, and the words we choose to use to describe our reality become real in some way or another, regardless of our account balances. We add to this identity and subtract from it over time, usually in response to some crisis beyond our control life has thrown at us, and call that growth. People ‘find’ and ‘lose’ God, for example. It happens all the time.

We hold stories about others as well, both collectively and as individuals. The way we see the world and our place within it is our reality, regardless of how much of the world we have actually seen, experienced or studied.

Actual reality may or may not be objective and absolute, but our perception of it can change – wilfully or not – and therefore so can our reality, which matters greatly to our sense of contentment, satisfaction and happiness. 

This is a powerful tool, and should be wielded accordingly. This simple little truth can be demonstrated and understood in various ways, and has the power to transform you.  That includes your finances, your lifestyle and the impact you have.

Continue reading “What You Say You Are and the Food of Thought”