Make a Commitment to Invest in Yourself!

The majority of people associate money with wealth. While money and greed have become enshrined by our materialist society it is friends, according to the latest research, who are more beneficial to our health and happiness than money. It is our social capital that is more important than our financial capital. I call this paradox the money trap. In our unequal society, we need a certain amount of money to live and retire well, but having money is no guarantee of living and retiring well. This is directly related to the happiness trap: most of us don’t know what really makes us happy and we’re looking in all the wrong places. After rising above the poverty level, more money doesn’t necessarily make us happier and it can backfire if we become obsessed with it. When planning for retirement many people neglect to factor in their health and happiness.

Money is one of the biggest stressors in our society, and medical expenses are the leading cause of bankruptcy. This is one indication of how important our commitment is to restore and maintain our health. Ironically, a New York Times article recently asked, “Are bad times healthy?” During theses stressful economic times, some things do improve. More people cook and eat at home, more childcare is done personally, and the death rate actually goes down, mainly because there are less traffic deaths and heart attacks.

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with money, creating a money “shadow.” We have unconscious beliefs about money, often learned in childhood, which adversely affects our relationship with money in the present. These beliefs can be called money scripts and often come in pairs of opposites. Some examples are: “money is bad” vs. “more money will make things better,” “I don’t deserve money” vs. “I deserve to spend money,” and finally, “there will never be enough money” vs. “there will always be enough money.” With contradictory beliefs like these, can you see how difficult it would be to have a healthy relationship with money in retirement?

How much is our health actually worth? A unique study estimated that it would take approximately $100,000 to compensate somebody for loss of health of a family member. Another study estimated that out-of-pocket medical expenses could cost upwards of $250,000 to $400,000 in addition to a full retirement. Who could actually afford this? Our health is an invaluable asset. This is why I plead with my patients to make it a priority to maintain health or to commit to regaining it if it’s been lost. The closer we are to retirement, the more important it becomes to invest in ourselves by making health a priority. I recommend doing this by maintaining and strengthening our friendships, coming to peace with our beliefs and values, supporting our brain and challenging our mind, increasing physical activity while sitting less, using nutritional supplements wisely, and finding our authentic diet.

What is true wealth anyway? For me it is my health, my family, and my friends. It is living in a peaceful and secure community and learning how to live in a sustainable fashion. It’s having enough money for my basic needs but not making it the focus of my life. It’s the gratitude I have my life and having the freedom to pursue happiness in healthy ways.