Dumb Financial Decisions: Not Taking Care of Myself

Early RetirementI have a confession to make to my readers:

I have horrible eating habits, don’t exercise nearly enough, and do a poor job managing stress.

The result is that right now I’m 20 pounds overweight, lack the energy I had a decade ago, and am likely headed towards significant health problems in the coming years if I don’t do a better job taking care of myself.

People on the path to financial independence and early retirement generally do a good job prioritizing future needs over present wants. Without a lot of planning and discipline around one’s finances, it’s hard to successfully make the journey to financial independence.

But this almost blind focus on the future – I just need to put my head down for the next five years, work hard, spend prudently, and invest well, and then life will be perfect! – can have a detrimental impact on the present.

It certainly has happened to me.

Since starting Retiring On My Terms, I have devoted far too many hours on nights and weekends to writing and editing, reading and commenting on others’ blogs, and trying to learn more about social media and WordPress. This is on top of 50-60 hours a week at the office, a reasonably long commute, and trying to maintain some level of engagement with my family as a father and husband.

I’m not complaining.

I enjoy writing and learning about blogging, but there are only so many hours in the day, and something has had to give.

But what has given has been any sense of focus on my own health and physical well-being.

I am in my mid-40s. I am laser-focused on reaching financial independence before I turn 50.

But what if I don’t make it to 50?

Not to be macabre, but there are no guarantees in life.

I’ve already survived a major medical issue.

I’ve been putting off a relatively minor surgery that would improve my quality of life for a couple of years.

One of my best friends, who is about the same age as me, recently had a major health problem – and he’s certainly not the first friend this has happened to.

My doctor recently suggested I at least consider a career change to reduce my stress level.

And I can name someone at every job I have had since college, who I worked with on a daily basis, who died of disease – usually cancer – at a relatively young age, leaving a spouse and children behind.

Many of us in the FIRE community spend lots of time and energy planning and working towards an idealized future.

But I, and I imagine some others, need to do a better job making decisions that will maximize our probable life expectancies, not just the probability we won’t run out of money in the vast majority of FIRECalc scenarios.

I recently read the best-selling book Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond

Financial IndependenceThe advice in the book is essentially:

Exercise more.

Do some weight training.

Eat better.

Connect with others.

Not really anything revolutionary, but still an excellent reminder, backed up by both science and some inspiring personal anecdotes. The authors make the point that some relatively simple lifestyle changes can dramatically change how people age as they get older, and help readers maintain a healthy and active lifestyle well into their eighties.

As someone hoping to enjoy more than thirty years in early retirement, that sounds very attractive to me!

One of Younger Next Year’s co-authors, Dr. Henry S. Lodge, believes over 50% of all illness and injuries in the last third of your life can be eliminated by changing your lifestyle in the way he and co-author Chris Crowley suggest. The book also notes 70% of premature death is lifestyle-related.

Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that chronic diseases and conditions—such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis—are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 86% of the nation’s $2.7 trillion annual health care expenditures are for people with chronic and mental health conditions.

As someone who usually focuses on the numbers to drive his decision-making around financial independence and early retirement, they seem pretty clear to me:

Live longer AND save money.

Sign me up!

So I’ve recommitted to getting myself back into better shape over the past couple of weeks.

I’ve started out slow, to try to minimize the potential for injury, but I am making steady progress.

A little more exercise each week.

And a slightly healthier diet, sometimes aided by brown-bagging my lunch instead of eating at the cafeteria.

I’ve lost a couple of pounds so far, but I still have a long way to go.

But with nearly four years until our FIRE date, I have time to get to where I need to be, both financially and physically.

As long as I keep moving in the right direction!

This renewed focus on my health may mean a post or two fewer each month on Retiring On My Terms. If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve posted less frequently in August than I did in June or July.

But hopefully a healthier lifestyle will increase the probability I’ll be posting here for many years to come!

Not taking care of myself has been a Dumb Financial Decision, even though the tangible monetary costs to date have been modest, and the negative long-term impact on my health is likely impossible to quantify.

In the interest of someday fully enjoying the financial independence I aspire for, it would be dumb not to make some relatively obvious changes that should significantly improve my quality of life!

So that’s what I’ll be doing.

Who knows? Maybe in the future I’ll post about what a Smart Financial Decision reading Younger Next Year was!

How do you balance exercise and health with the rest of your responsibilities?

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6 Comments

  • Syed

    August 30, 2017

    Excellent reminder ROMT. Health can take a backseat when we’re hyper focused on something unfortunately. If you look at it in money terms, having poor health will drain your retirement funds very quickly if you’re not careful. Simple habits like replacing one piece of junk food with something healthy are the key to longevity.

    To health!

    Reply
    • ROMT

      August 30, 2017

      You are completely right Syed! Little changes, like swapping a piece of fruit for a less healthy snack, or adding an extra ten minutes to a workout, can make a big difference when repeated over time. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  • Mr. Robot

    August 31, 2017

    For me exercising is part of my routine.

    – I exercise three times a week (playing soccer, weight training and or jogging)
    – I finish my morning showers with a 30 second cold shower (here is why: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GShvGXwaijg and many more)
    – I make my own breakfast, lunch and dinner
    – I (try to) unplug regularly and spend quality time with my wife, kid and family
    – I read / relax when I can
    – I take my office breaks outside

    This helps me keeping sane and healthy. 🙂

    Reply
    • ROMT

      September 1, 2017

      It sound like you have a very productive routine going! Thanks for the inspiration. Hopefully it helps keep me moving in the right direction. We all bought pizza at work today for lunch before the long Labor Day weekend, so I’ll have to make sure to do some extra exercising over the next few days!

      Reply
  • Sarah @tortoisehappy.com

    August 31, 2017

    Gosh do I know the feeling of being too future focussed. But there is no greater wealth than health, so even if FIRE is delayed a smidge, if it means you can really enjoy it, its gotta be worth it!

    Reply
    • ROMT

      September 1, 2017

      I think you are 100% right Sarah. You want to get to FIRE not only wealthy, but also healthy, and if that means it takes a little longer, it’s still probably the right approach! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      Reply

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