It’s easy to focus on the personal policies that help improve your net worth immediately. Saving money, investing thoughtfully, and earning income affect your bottom line immediately. This view can be shortsighted occasionally. Focusing effort on your personal human capital can have a greater affect on your net worth over the course of the rest of your life. There are certain things anyone can do to improve the probability of being financially secure in the future. Focusing on your health can ensure you’ll have many income-earning years in the future.
There is much about your finances you can control, but some circumstances, while they can be prepared for, are difficult to predict. The same is true about health. The best anyone can do is take good care of his mind and body to reduce the chance that health will be a major concern.
Get health insurance. If you do not have a job that offers group health insurance and do not have access through a family member, finding coverage can be expensive. When I left my corporate job last year, I investigated prices for individual health coverage in New Jersey, and coverage similar to what I had at the company cost over one thousand dollars a month. Basic coverage was significantly less, but the benefits were not as comprehensive as what I had with my prior HMO plan. When I left the job, I had access to COBRA coverage, which extended the same coverage I had, but the premiums were no longer subsidized. The monthly fee was expensive, but manageable.
Don’t make any insurance payment mistakes. If you are paying for health insurance coverage on your own, create an automated payment plan. One missed payment can give the health insurance company cause to cancel your coverage.
Reduce your intake of unhealthy food. You don’t have to be a health fanatic. You can make some easy changes to your diet that should improve your health over the long term. For the most part, I no longer drink soda, opting for water instead. I don’t consider myself a health expert, and there are still many improvements to my diet that could result in increased health, but my plan for now is to be more conscious about the food I eat.
Stay active. If you’re not an athlete, there’s no need to undertake a massive campaign for exercise. If you have a job that keeps you sitting at a desk for most of the day, though, consider compensating for a sedentary lifestyle by taking some time to keep your muscles active. I joined a gym recently and I’m still looking to find a routine that works for me. I have lost some weight and I feel healthier in general. The challenge is maintaining this with a work and travel schedule that keeps me busy, making it difficult for me to set aside regular time.
I don’t always recommend joining a gym, though. Some people may find the environment motivating, but for others, it will cost less money in the long run to exercise independently, without a monthly fee. The most important aspect is to stay active, regardless of how it’s accomplished. Even if you find the best way for you to stay active is to join a gym, spending that money now to stay in shape could pay off in the future through improved health.
Get good sleep, quality and quantity. I combined a good mattress, good sheets, and good pillows and was halfway towards improving my sleep. Throughout my life, I had never really achieved quality sleep. As far back as middle school, I often stayed up late at night computer programming and running a bulletin board system. This lasted throughout high school. In college, I spent my days in class, studying, and practicing, while spending many nights designing and maintaining websites. Later on, my time outside of my day jobs was also spent working on websites. All of this left very little time for sleep, and the sleep I did get wasn’t comfortable.
I didn’t have to spend a lot of money to fix this problem. Finding the right mattress took some time, but I’m satisfied with the one I have now. I discovered that “memory foam” pillows don’t bother my neck and back as other pillows. Someone introduced me to cotton jersey knit sheets, and I find these much more comfortable than other cotton or satin sheets. Once I was able to combine this with seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, I wake up refreshed and I can get through everyday without becoming exhausted.
Talking of getting a good night’s sleep — critical for boosting memory — the key is to let melatonin do its trick. That’s a versatile hormone produced by the brain. It synchronizes the biological clock, regulates sleep and is a powerful antioxidant. Scientists believe it strengthens the immune system and has a strong link to preventing depression, cardiovascular disease, some cancers and sexual dysfunction.
Visit your doctor and dentist. Just having insurance isn’t enough. Visit the doctor twice a year for check-ups and get any tests appropriate for your age. The same applies to the dentist. When I was in college, I don’t think I visited a dentist once. I returned to my home state of New Jersey several months after graduating to work at my new job, and after receiving insurance, I made my first appointment with a dentist in years. It was a good thing my teeth and gums weren’t in worse shape than they were. Flossing and brushing keeps gums healthy, and healthy gums help increase the chance of maintaining the health of the rest of your body.
Quit smoking (or don’t start). While everyone seems to have an anecdote to share about a two-pack-a-day smoker who lived beyond 100 years, this isn’t the norm. You can improve your health — and your short-term finances — by quitting smoking. You’ll save money today, you’ll be healthier so that you can continue earning money, and you’ll feel healthier. Quitting may not b an easy feat, but all ex-smokers I know are happy they made the decision.
Manage your stress. I’ve never been more stressed in my life than I have been as a business owner. I’ve made my way through my life until this point generally avoiding stress, not letting myself get too emotionally involved in my work. It’s different when it’s my own business, and dealing stress has been difficult for me. I use relaxation techniques to help deal with stress, particularly when I know the situations that cause stress can’t be avoided.
Staying healthy can reduce your downtime at work and help you make the most of your income-earning years. Your health might help you extend those years, as well. While I get the impression that the media emphasize health too much, to the point at which unhealthy individuals as marginalized. In order to be healthy, you don’t need to look like an actor or athlete, but paying attention to these few core health principles can be worthwhile for anyone interested in being financially secure. A good attitude towards health and a few healthy habits can increase your human capital.
Published or updated November 14, 2011.