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Financially Fit

Phil Dawson  |  July 31, 2019

WANT GREATER financial success? It may all start at the local gym and in the fresh food aisle.

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” —Benjamin Franklin.

Well, Ben, if only it were that simple. While the timing of our repose may not produce all of these outcomes, this aphorism offers food for thought. Are there connections between cognitive ability, physical health and wealth accumulation?

In Tom Stanley’s survey of millionaires, being physically fit ranked 20th as a self-reported financial success factor. That was below qualities like honesty—the top factor cited by respondents—and having a supportive spouse, which ranked fourth. But Stanley also found that the majority of millionaires do exercise regularly, with some correlation between frequency of exercise and level of wealth. While I have performed no multivariate analyses, observation would suggest that cognition, health and wealth can create a positive feedback loop.

Good nutrition is rarely the low-cost option and it’s seldom there to tempt us as we pass through the supermarket checkout chute. Indeed, it takes some combination of intention and financial commitment to eat better. But if we make that effort, we could see an improvement in our physical and mental health, which—in turn—may help us financially.

“I’m in no shape to exercise.”—Anonymous

The link between exercise and cognition is well documented, as are the stories of fortunes lost to scams targeted at those with cognitive impairment. This impairment will, at some level, afflict most of us if we live long enough.

A supportive exercise partner is a proven resource for increasing the frequency and intensity of our exercise efforts. Some of us have adult kids who cajole us into robust activities, simultaneously satisfying our need for physical exercise, mental stimulation and family connection. You know who you are. Thank you.

It stands to reason that the healthier we are, the more energy we will have to devote to our job in the short term and the more likely we are to have the option of working to normal retirement age or beyond. Conversely, poor health is likely to result in reduced income due to less time at work, and chronic illness may truncate our working life and the attendant growth in savings. This, combined with high medical expenses, could be a recipe for financial catastrophe.

“If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”—Eubie Blake

We are remarkably adaptive creatures. Even with small changes, better nutrition can start a positive feedback loop, giving us the energy we need to exercise and leading to improved physical health, better cognition and improved quality of life. Spend some time working on your upward spiral. Your family and your future self will thank you.

When not paddling, biking or shooting, Phil Dawson provides technical services for a global auto manufacturer. He, his sweetheart Donna and their four extraordinary daughters live in and around Jarrettsville, Maryland. His previous articles include Fighting for PeaceTaking Care and Twelve Rules. You can contact Phil via LinkedIn.

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