Healthy and Wealthy

Dennis Friedman

I STILL KEEP IN TOUCH with three high school buddies. One of them, Brent, isn’t doing well. He has high blood pressure, poor eyesight caused by glaucoma and creaky knees that make it hard to get around, and he’s recovering from heart surgery.

My other friend, Robert, is a diabetic with poor vision, suffers from neuropathy pain in the foot, needs a cane to walk and is on medication for various ailments.

Burt, my third pal, smokes, loves to drink beer, is overweight, doesn’t exercise and sits on the couch most of the day watching sports. Oh, by the way, Burt has no physical ailments and is strong as an ox.

Luckily, all three of my friends are retired. But if they had to go back to work, Burt—the smoker and drinker—would be the only one healthy enough to do so.

We can’t all be lucky like Burt. That’s why we need to see a doctor for regular checkups—and not just because our life may depend upon it. It’s also a good financial decision.

The biggest threats to our retirement portfolio aren’t just poor investment choices, high fees and a brutal bear market. It’s also poor health that prevents us from working and hence saving for our financial goals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 61 million adults—equal to 26% of the adult population—live with a disability. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that, among those ages 16 to 64, just 30.4% of those with a disability were employed, versus 74% of the population without a disability.

I’m sure you wouldn’t go to Las Vegas and place your retirement money on the roulette wheel’s color red. If you have health insurance, why gamble on your health by not getting an annual physical? Seeing your doctor on a regular basis puts the odds more in your favor, especially when working late in your career is necessary to meet your financial goals.

You can also lower risk by living a healthy lifestyle. According to the CDC, “Adults living with disabilities are more likely to be obese, smoke, have heart disease and diabetes.” Improving access to health care would reduce the risk of developing a disability.

Why do companies provide health care for their employees? It isn’t just because it’s part of the compensation package needed to attract employees. It’s also because they know a healthy employee is a productive employee. If you’re healthy, there’s a good chance you will perform at your highest level. That not only helps your employer, but also can create career opportunities for you, leading to better compensation.

Companies are always looking for ways to be more efficient, because it reduces costs, improves quality and creates more profit. That’s one reason businesses are becoming more automated. They know a robot will always show up for work, but Ted or Mary might not.

Try to be like that robot and show up to work every day—by seeing your doctor regularly and embracing a healthy lifestyle. If you do, you’ll enjoy life more and you’ll have a better chance of meeting your financial goals.

Dennis Friedman retired from Boeing Satellite Systems after a 30-year career in manufacturing. Born in Ohio, Dennis is a California transplant with a bachelor’s degree in history and an MBA. A self-described “humble investor,” he likes reading historical novels and about personal finance. His previous articles include After You, Improving With Age and Summer School. Follow Dennis on Twitter @DMFrie.

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