In the 15th century, kings and queens indulged in lavish foods like spiced hams, fresh breads, fruits and cheeses, which is why most of them bulged around the middle. They were admired for their larger size because a large belly meant they ate well and had an abundance of wealth. The only problem was many of them, including Henry the VIII, met the hand of death before they reached their 60th birthday.
Times have changed, and with the development of fast food and buffets, now most of us can enjoy eating mass amounts of food for relatively cheap. What separates the wealthy today from those of yesteryear is that rich folks are more likely to eat healthfully not gluttonously. Health and wealth now have a chicken and egg relationship; the healthier you are the wealthier you’re likely to be, and vise versa.
The relationship between health and wealth should be worth noting for college students. If you ever want to live in a home worthy of MTV’s “Cribs” or cruise around in a drop-top Ferrari, you must first take care of your body.
Paging Dr. Bills
“If you’re healthy, you’re not depleting your wealth to pay doctor bills or prescriptive drugs,” says Barbara O’Neill, certified financial planner and professor at Rutgers University. “You’re also going to be more productive because you aren’t going to have as many sick days, and if you’re a productive person you are going to get raises and a higher income.”
For many affluent individuals, it’s not just what they are getting paid at work that contributes to their wealth; it’s also the money saved by avoiding unhealthy and expensive habits such as cigarettes.
O’Neill says, “A pack of cigarettes a day will run you $5 maybe, multiplied by 365, times 40 years and you are talking about six figure numbers that you would have in the bank if you weren’t smoking.”
With these statistics it’s not surprising that across all ages non-smokers have twice the net worth of those who smoke, which should be a huge incentive to college students to kick the habit.
Unfortunately, the partnership between health and wealth doesn’t end here; it’s a vicious cycle that can spin the other way as well. If you let yourself get in financial trouble you’re likely to endure headaches, stomachaches, stress, a lack of sleep and fluctuations in weight.
“Two in five people who have financial stresses, they tell us – absolutely positively – that their health has been negatively impacted because of financial problems,” says Thomas Garman, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech and author of a study on the relationship between financial well-being and the physical health of debt-strapped consumers.
Eat Now, Pay Later
Young people are usually in good physical condition, but that doesn’t mean you’ll come out unscathed if you don’t take care of yourself.
“What you do at a younger age will influence how you fare later on in life,” O’Neill says. “If you have a bad diet in your twenties, you may not keel over in your twenties or thirties, but if you never develop good health habits; it will catch up with you.”
Breaking an unhealthy routine can be difficult but some simple changes will help you move in the right direction, whether your problems are health or wealth-related.
According to O’Neill, don’t give up old habits right away—meet yourself in the middle. That could mean cutting your serving of ice cream in half instead of giving up ice cream altogether or spending $10 a week on MP3s instead of $20. It’s also a safe bet to avoid super-sizing, whether it’s French fries and a Coke or simply accepting a larger credit limit on your credit card.
The bottom line: In order to become an affluent individual you must make smart investments and the smartest is an investment in your health. And unlike Henry VIII, you’ll live long enough to see the return on your investment.
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