Ask Chuck: Stewarding Health to Save Money
I am getting a little older in age, and things that were once simple, like exercising, require a LOT more effort. I’ve been advised over the years that good stewardship of your health is also good stewardship of your finances because being in good health can save you so much money. What’s your advice on the best way to do that and any tips on insurance plans or ways to save?
You have brought up a topic that I take very seriously! Stewardship of our health directly impacts our finances. That’s why I walk and swim laps at home and walk or use hotel fitness centers when traveling.
There’s no doubt that many health-related expenses are beyond our control. But fortunately, more of our healthcare costs than we realize are directly related to lifestyle choices. Fortunately? Yes, because with discipline and perseverance, the choices we make can often reduce the amount of money we spend on healthcare. For example, a healthy diet and regular exercise can significantly lower the risk of obesity, heart attacks, high cholesterol, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and even cancer, as well as reduce the risk of depression, anxiety, and sleep issues.
Obesity is a serious health concern and financial burden. It is associated with poorer mental health, reduced quality of life, and many of the leading causes of death in the U.S. and worldwide, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. It puts us at risk physically and financially.
A 2014 article in The Fiscal Times reported that more than one-third of all adults and 17 percent of young people are obese, and experts predict that the adult obesity rate could reach 50 percent by 2030, according to one study. The author notes that “Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight & Wellness at George Washington University, pegs the total cost of obesity – including direct medical and non-medical services, decreased worker productivity, disability and premature death – at $305.1 billion annually.”
One study concluded that inactivity costs the world economy approximately $68 billion annually in medical expenses and lost productivity. The United States alone is estimated to lose almost $28 billion every year. Most of the global costs were carried by governments and businesses, but nearly $10 billion is out-of-pocket costs.
The same study also found that, on average, someone who walked or worked out for 30 minutes five times a week saved $2,500 a year in health care expenses related to heart disease than someone who did not exercise. That includes annual savings of nearly $400 on prescriptions plus fewer visits to emergency rooms or hospital stays.
One comparison outlines the impact of various health stewardship habits on the overall cost of healthcare. The difference in healthcare costs between smokers and non-smokers is roughly $2,056 per person per year. The difference between those who are physically active and those who are not is about $1,313 per year. Having high blood pressure costs an additional $733 per year, obesity adds $2,085, and those with diabetes spend $2,151 more than those who are diabetes-free.
A full night’s sleep and regular exercise has been linked to higher pay. “Those who are fortunate enough to stay healthy are likely to do better financially,” says James Poterba, a professor of economics at MIT, who studied household assets by health status using data from the early 1990s to 2008. He discovered that the healthiest people in their fifties had more than double the assets of the least healthy. People are discovering that getting healthy is one way to get wealthy.
Self-control is key. Solomon wrote, Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags. (Proverbs 23:19-21 ESV)
He also wrote A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (Proverbs 25:28 ESV) A fool is one who does not control himself and leaves himself vulnerable to enemies, in this case, our health and wealth.
- Drive less and walk more.
- Grow some of your food. You get exercise, vitamin D, and more nutrients.
- Work out. Find something you enjoy doing and stick with it. A friend or family member can provide great support and accountability.
- Give up bad habits. Set goals, have someone hold you accountable, and reward yourself periodically with a pair of running shoes, new socks, t-shirt, etc.
- Pack your lunch. It reduces costs and the temptation to eat more calories than you need.
- Lose weight. Dropping a few pounds can save you 25% or more on life insurance.
- Drink water. Families spend $850 a year on soft drinks that add pounds and negatively affect teeth and bones.
- Consume less sugar to boost your immune system and lower your sick days.
Health insurance is costly! Many believers are choosing to share medical bills. Several organizations offer plans where members must pledge to make healthy lifestyle choices because those choices impact healthcare costs.
Your finances are affected by the choices you make. Steward well and you will benefit physically and financially!
Originally published on the Christian Post August 3, 2018