If you had to name a valuable asset, what’s the first thing that would come to mind?
For most people, it would be something tangible – like gold, Apple stock, paintings by European masters, or real estate in Central Park West.
But what about education, experience, loyalty, or happiness? While these types of intangible assets won’t appear on a company balance sheet, there’s no denying their value. You can’t sell them. But when it comes to landing well-paid jobs, receiving promotions, and being willing and able to work hard, they’re priceless.
That’s where the adage “health is wealth” enters the picture. A paraphrase of the Roman poet Virgil’s famous comment that “the greatest wealth is health,” the idea is that our physical and mental well-being are arguably the most valuable assets of all.
Keep reading to learn more about this notion and why pursuing health above wealth makes so much (financial) sense.
What Does “Health Is Wealth” Mean?
At its core, “health is wealth” means that your physical and mental well-being is far more important than wealth in the realm of life satisfaction.
It’s saying, “Yes, money is great. It can solve many problems and lead to a fantastic quality of life. But in the absence of good health, it means very little.”
In other words, don’t pursue wealth to the detriment of well-being! After all, you can’t enjoy the financial fruits of your labor if you’re in constant pain, unable to move, struggling to breathe, going to the hospital every few months, or worrying about your health…or dead. Only if you’re well can you take full advantage of your wealth. What’s more, staying healthy is also crucial to reaching your full financial potential.
The Financial Importance of Physical and Mental Health
“Health is wealth” reminds us that these two vital components of a happy life are interconnected. Indeed, numerous studies have shown that higher socioeconomic status usually leads to improved health prospects. But the opposite is also true. If your health suffers, then so do your finances. Here’s how:
Being Sick Is Expensive
It doesn’t matter whether you’re suffering from a broken leg or a bad bout of depression. Being sick has costs attached.
For example, you might not be able to work, and you only have so many paid sick days to take (unless you’re self-employed, in which case you might not have any). You may even have to quit your job. Either way, your income suffers, which can lead to a host of additional money problems. You might be unable to save, for instance, and/or forced to take on high-interest debt to cover your outgoings.
Mental illness has close links with financial difficulties, as well. You may have no energy or feel too anxious to work. Or perhaps you enter a manic episode and start making unwise purchases. Whatever the case, debt can follow. Indeed, National Debtline reports that 50% of adults with debt also have mental health problems.
Oh, and what if you die from a preventable illness? All those years of stress and hard work to ascend the corporate ladder, earn a high salary, and squirrel away a sizable retirement nest egg could be for nothing.
Being Healthy Is Lucrative
Put yourself in an employer’s shoes. At a job interview, one candidate’s smiling, full of energy, and has a CV full of relevant experience. A second candidate seems pale, lethargic, and weary. And the third didn’t come because they had the flu.
You’d hire #1, right? It’d be the same if you were choosing someone to get a raise or promotion. And that’s just one example of how being fit and healthy can benefit someone financially. You need energy to work hard, be proactive, contribute to a team, and show up how you need to – qualities often rewarded with higher pay.
And let’s not forget that being healthy almost always means you live longer. As a result, you can (among other things):
- Earn a salary for longer before retiring
- Reap the benefits of employment for longer
- Have more opportunities to climb the career ladder
- Have longer for the value of your investments to compound
Medical Care Isn’t Cheap
Having health problems often means you’ll need medical intervention. And we all know how expensive that can be! Thankfully, paying for good insurance minimizes the damage. Yet it won’t cover everything 100% of the time.
Indeed, there are countless examples of people forced to pay out of pocket for essential medical care – despite having insurance. And according to the Guardian, 530,000 bankruptcies get filed each year due to debt accrued from a medical illness. Furthermore, the cost of health insurance hinges on your health. Sick people pay higher premiums; healthy people pay less.
Health Equals Happiness Equals Wealth
The phrase “money can’t buy happiness” isn’t true. The widely-cited 2010 Princeton study demonstrated this when they found a) low incomes worsen emotional pain and b) emotional well-being increases as your annual income rises to $75,000 (at which point happiness stops going up as you earn more).
So if you want to be happy, pursuing wealth makes sense to a certain extent. Unfortunately, it’s hard to be happy when you’re unwell! Thus, chasing wealth at the expense of well-being can backfire – especially when you realize happiness also tends to make people richer.
It’s true. From taking fewer sick days to being more productive at work, happy individuals tend to earn more than their unhappy peers. The result? It pays (literally) to make health a priority.
Pursue Health and Wealth to Be Truly Happy
“Health is wealth” is a proverb and truism that most of us could benefit from being reminded of every now and again.
After all, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of pursuing money at all costs – forgetting that, without our physical and mental health, life really isn’t that pleasant! Furthermore, by prioritizing our health, we stand to accrue even more money in the long run (and to actually be able to enjoy it without pain, discomfort, or a lack of energy getting in the way).
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This article originally appeared on Wealthtender. To make Wealthtender free for our readers, we earn money from advertisers, including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured. This creates a natural conflict of interest when we favor their promotion over others. Wealthtender is not a client of these financial services providers.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered financial advice. You should consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.
Danny is a digital nomad, freelance writer, and travel enthusiast who’s determined to make the most of his life. His new website, wisehealthynwealthy.com, is full of useful resources on a wide range of topics to help you do the same.