As I mentioned on Friday, I’m currently focusing more on improving my health. My financial life is pretty much on autopilot, and I’m tracking well towards my financial goals. But my overall health has been suffering lately due to a lack of focus, and I’m working hard on changing it.
The more tips I read on improving your health, the more parallels I see to good financial advice. So here are fifteen ways I’ve noticed improving your health and your wealth are the same.
It’s Simple – But Not Easy
Wealth – Everything you need to know can fit on an index card. Spend less than you earn, and save/invest the difference. Pay off high interest debt. Invest in broad, market-based funds with low fees. Know your goals, and track your progress towards them. If you just do that, you’ll be in great financial shape. It’s simple – but it’s not easy to do this consistently, every day, for years on end.
Health – Again, everything you really need to know can fit on an index card. As Michael Pollan says “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” If you just did that, you’d be in great shape. But again, it’s not easy to do this consistently, every day, for years.
Wealth – Create your budget, track your spending, and measure your net worth regularly. By doing so, you can see progress over time and make sure you’re on track for your goals.
Health – If you’re having issues with your eating, track everything you eat. Make a budget – know how much you should eat, and of what, to have a balanced day. Track your eating, and your activity, to get on track for your goals. Measure your stats regularly, whether those be weight, waist size, body fat percentage, blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, or whatever else is appropriate for your goals. Only by planning, tracking, and measuring can you know if you’re on – or off – track.
Make it Automatic
Wealth – Setting up automatic deductions to invest, and automatic payment of debt, helps keep willpower out of the equation. Your money goes where you want it to, without you needing to consciously decide every time to make a good choice.
Health – Keep only good for you food in the house. Set up routines for activity, where you’ll be active for a part of every day. By keeping only good things around, and building routines, you set yourself for automated success.
Decide What’s Really Important To You
Wealth – Reaching financial success is all about prioritizing what really matters. If eating out is a source of great pleasure, or you don’t want to cut cable, you’ll need to find savings elsewhere in order to reach your goals. Financial success isn’t about depriving yourself of everything that matters. Instead, it’s about becoming clear on what really matters – in the short and long term – and prioritizing your strategy accordingly.
Health – Becoming healthy also isn’t about eating nothing but water, kale, and apples every day. You need to find a balance that will work for you, forever, in order to not just achieve health but maintain it in the long run. So if that means having a reasonable treat at the end of the day, a meal a week where you splurge, or whatever else, you need to figure out how to fit it into your life. While doing so, however, you need to keep in mind your long term goals. You don’t want to sacrifice your long term goals for short term pleasures.
Be Willing to be Uncomfortable
Wealth – Building wealth means, by definition, creating a gap between your spending and your income. If you’ve been used to leading a certain lifestyle, and it’s led you to a bad financial situation, you’ll need to change. And change is hard. You’ll need to be willing to endure a level of discomfort to affect change in your life.
Health – If you’ve been leading an unhealthy lifestyle, changing will be hard. Not only is it difficult to change ingrained eating habits, but it’s hard to change your activity level. It will be uncomfortable at first, and you’re going to need to push through the discomfort in order to affect change.
American Culture Sets You Up to Fail
Wealth – Everywhere you go, you’re urged to spend. Commercials, YouTube ads, pop-ups, you name it. There are even advertisements in schools! Debt is seen as normal, and complaining about how broke you are as you approach retirement is an everyday event. Our culture has a toxic attitude towards building wealth, often seeing wealthy people as evil. It’s a hard thing to overcome all the cultural messaging you’ve grown up with, and are surrounded with everyday.
Health – Remember those ads? Many of them are for food. And not carrots or apples, either, but highly processed foods. Everywhere you go there are unhealthy food choices, or unhealthy ones marketed as good for you. Our culture is obsessed with health, but at the same time, those ads, the availability of bad food everywhere, and the difficulty of being active (especially in suburbia) conspire against you.
You Have to be Different
Wealth – In order to built real wealth, whatever your income, you’re going to need to live differently than most of the people you know. It’s hard to be different. People may make fun of your frugal ways, tell you to lighten up and have some fun, or be envious of you. Going against the financial grain is hard, but when everyone you know is broke, it’s essential.
Health – In order to make long term, sustainable changes in your health, you have to be different than most people. Most people in the US are overweight, meaning if you make the same choices they do (or even slightly better ones!) you’ll be overweight too. Others may make fun of what you’re eating for lunch or dinner, laugh at your exercise efforts, or even be envious of you if you’re successful in hitting your goals. To reach long term health, you also need to ignore the diet industrial complex pushing the latest thing to try.
It Won’t Be Fair, But Play the Hand You’re Dealt
Wealth – We all start off in a different financial place. Some of us are born with a proverbial silver spoon, others with a plastic one. There are those that are gifted large trusts at young ages, and others that start off life with a huge amount of student loan debt. Sometimes parents and other role models teach financial lessons, and other times you need to figure them out for yourself. No matter what, though, you have to play the financial hand you’re dealt and work on improving yourself, rather than envying how easy others have it.
Health – We all start off in different places with health, as well. Some folks find it easy to stay healthy, and are raised in an environment where good food and activity habits are encouraged. Others of us are not. Sometimes we have a medical condition that makes health a challenge. No matter what, though, envying and complaining about the ones who “have it easy” won’t help us reach our own goals. We can only focus on ourselves, and only change our own lives.
Surround Yourself With Positive Influences-Get Rid of the Negative Ones
Wealth – In order to reach financial success, you’ll want to get rid of those that reinforce your bad financial habits and replace them with good ones. Whether it be debt free Instagram, Twitter, a blog, forums, or anything else, you’ll want to build a community around yourself that helps you.
Health – Similarly, there’s a world full of positive health influences. Instagram, Twitter, blogs, and forums chock full of supportive people. At the same time you’re surrounding yourself with the positive, you’ll want to get rid of negative influences. This means friends that tease you about your new habits, co-workers that drop cupcakes off at your desk, and even a spouse that doesn’t want to change. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you need to kick them out of your life. But you do need to eliminate their negative influence on your life.
Wealth – As you build wealth, it earns you more wealth. Those dollars then earn you more, and so on to infinity. This is compound interest, one of the great miracles of money. Its effect is more powerful the earlier you start, and the longer you go.
Health – Good health choices also compound over time. As you build healthy habits, those lead to other healthy habits. Similar to compound interest, the effect is more powerful the earlier you start, and the longer you go.
Tyranny of Compounding Fees
Wealth – Even small fees can, over time, erode a huge amount of your gains. This is called the tyranny of compounding costs, a phrase coined by Jack Bogle, and it’s true. The same is true for small leaks in your budget, over time those can grow to become a big issue in your financial life.
Health – Even small bad choices can, over time, erode your gains. This doesn’t have a fancy name, but I’ll call it the tyranny of compounding hamburgers. One bad choice doesn’t wreck everything, of course, but lots of small less than ideal choices over time can cause major issues.
Wealth – When looking to reduce your costs, nothing is more important than being willing to experiment. You can experiment with cutting out cable, a cheaper cell phone plan, switching car insurance, and more. The more you treat your financial life like an experiment, the more successful you’ll be at finding something that works for you in the long term.
Health – When you’re looking to get healthier, an experimental mindset is also key. You need to be willing to try new foods, cooked in new ways, and new activities in order to find what works for you. Not everything will be a success – and that’s OK. You have to try, and try again, in order to succeed.
There Is No Get Rich – Or Healthy – Quick
Wealth – People fall for “get rich quick” schemes all the time. The reality is there is no quick, guaranteed way to built wealth or overcome years (or decades) of bad choices. Building wealth takes time, effort, energy, and sacrifice. There’s no shortcut to millions. Yes, there are always people who get lucky (lotto winners come to mind) but those are extremely rare. You’re more likely to win an Oscar or become an Olympian than win the lotto.
Health – Diet books and fads sell by promising quick results. They don’t work. There’s again, always someone it works for quickly and painlessly, but it’s not likely to be you. Even if you get quick results, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is whether they last. Any way of reducing your intake and increasing your activity in the short run will take off weight, but if you don’t make lasting change, it’s coming right back on.
You Need To Do This For Yourself
Wealth – You have to want to change your financial life for yourself in order to be successful. Not for your spouse, parents, friends or kids – but for you. Only if you want things to change will you be willing to do what’s needed in order to change them. If you’re doing it for someone else, it simply won’t last.
Health – You need to want to change your health for yourself. Not because your doctor told you to, or your spouse, or a friend/family member. Those external forces work in the short run, but their impact wears off. No, you need to want to change your health for yourself. Maybe you’re tired of feeling tired, or sick, or you just don’t feel as healthy as you want. Only you can motivate yourself to change permanently.
It’s For Life – Not For Now
Wealth – To build wealth, as I mentioned, takes time. You can’t just make a budget and save money for six months, go straight back to your old spending habits, and expect lasting financial change in your life. Instead it needs to become part of the way you live your life, as natural to you as breathing.
Health – The truth is that if you’re unhealthy, and you want to become more healthy, you need to change the way you live forever. Why? Because living the way you do now got you in the situation you’re in now. If you go back to that way of living, you’ll go right back to your poor health. This is why it’s so key to figure out things you can do for the rest of your life, and not just focus on a short term change.