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Philip Taylor

This is a guest article by Philip Taylor, the owner of the blog PT Money. Philip created PT Money to share his own experiences with successfully managing his money.

It’s no secret that our money and our health are connected. More people want to excel with these two things for their lives more than any other two things combined. Year after year, two of the most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight and save money. In fact, if you go to 43 Things right now, a website where over 3 million visitors share their goals, you’ll see that these are trending in the most popular resolutions section of their site. For many people, including myself, the path to happiness involves having a healthy body and a healthy financial life.

Money and health are also connected in their elusiveness. A few of us are lucky to be born with the ability to print money or with a superior metabolism, but the majority of us have to make a real effort to maintain good health and the proper financial situation. It doesn’t come easy. Let’s take a look some other ways that money and health are connected in our lives.

Hidden costs of poor health

When I left the corporate world earlier this year I had to get my own health insurance, unlike Flexo who chose COBRA coverage. I quickly discovered that my excess weight would cost me hundreds of dollars more each year in individual health insurance premiums than I would pay had I been in a more ideal weight range. I’m simply more of a risk to the insurance companies, so they need to charge me more for the increased risk. Life insurance premiums are handled in the same way. The more you weigh, the more you pay.

A recent study on the costs of being obese in America reported, “The overall, tangible, annual costs of being obese are $4,879 for an obese woman and $2,646 for an obese man. The overall annual costs of being overweight are $524 and $432 for women and men, respectively.”

The expenses adding to the costs included direct medical costs, absenteeism, and employer costs, as well as personal costs such as clothing, daily needs, gasoline, and others. The big difference between women and men is due to the connection between obesity and lower wages in women. Basically, obese women face much more wage discrimination.

Dining out “double-up”

Eating outside of my home has easily been the biggest culprit in my efforts to reduce unecessary spending in my monthly budget. It’s also been a big part of the reason I’m carrying around a few extra pounds. I believe that too much dining out will leave you fat and broke. The problem is that the portions at today’s restaurants are just too big. Most dinner plates I see easily contain two times the recommended caloric intake for a meal. Not only are you paying for the convenience of having someone prepare the meal for you, you are paying for more meal than you actually need.

One of my goals for 2011 is to eat more meals at home. These meals generally cost less and I can control the portions and calories (without resorting to doggie bags, as I do at most restaurants). Also, contrary to popular belief, meals at home take less of your time. Time is money.

The health benefits of wealth

While poor health choices seem to create a negative financial situation, there is also evidence that as your wealth increases, your health tends to improve. When your finances are in order, it will likely mean that you can afford to do several things to improve your health: afford a gym or trainer, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, afford more preventative healthcare, eat better when you do eat outside of the home, and afford more vacation and recovery time. Improved finances aren’t a guarantee of health, but they definitely help.

Using money as a good health motivator

Because we desire both health and money, we can use one to help influence the other. My very frugal wife once told me that back in her early 20s she used to sign up for marathons and 5Ks well in advance of race day. Not only did she do this to pay a lower price for registering in advance, she liked how it put her on the hook financially. The last thing this girl on a teacher’s salary wanted to do was show up unprepared for the event and feel like she was wasting the money she had invested. So, more often than not, she showed up properly trained and ready for the race.

Another tactic is to make a bet with some friends regarding your health-improving efforts. The website stickK will help faciliate this financial wager around the goal of your choice. If your goal is to drop a few pounds or quit smoking, you’ll be putting your money at risk for the sake of your health. Sounds like a noble wager to me. One other resource you might want to check out is HealthyWage. It’s a site that will actually pay you or your team members to lose weight.

Inexpensive ways to get healthy

Finally, here are some ways for you to get healthy that won’t empty your wallet:

  1. Walking in your neighborhood, local mall or school gym. Walking is the easiest way for anyone to get started.
  2. Working out in your apartment or condo community center gym. I once trained for a half marathon on a treadmill.
  3. Renting exercise DVDs from the library or using your Netflix subscription. Everyone has time for a 20 minute free workout routine in front of the TV.
  4. Searching for used exercise equipment on craigslist. Dumbbells, resistance bands, jump ropes can all be found online for less than full price.
  5. Making your daily activities a workout. Park further away from your office, take the stairs, or actively play just 30 minutes longer with your kids.

What other connections do you see between money and health? How are you planning on improving both in the new year?

Editor’s note: This is a timely article! I’m working hard to reduce my waistline, one of the few numbers I have not been happy about an increase over the past ten years. I’m working on achieving a 5K but healthier eating is one of my goals, as well. Thank you, Phil, for sharing this article.

Photo: Pink Sherbet