February 2007 - The Link Between Health and Wealth for African-Americans
- Created on February 1st, 2007
- By Dr. Mary S. Harris
It's almost a certainty that everyone wants to be rich–or at least wealthy. But most people don't realize that a major factor in creating and sustaining wealth is good health!! That's right–staying healthy is a major contributing factor in your financial bottom line--and here's why. The statistics for African-Americans with regard to health are dismal–with high rates of obesity, cancer, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and kidney disease. These illness cost us money in terms of lost productivity (can't work, so we don't get paid); higher insurance rates; medication and hospitalization costs; and worst of all–shorter life spans–so we don't get to collect our hard earned pensions, Social Security, and other retirement benefits. Black men have the shortest projected life-expectancy–66 years versus 74 years for white males; Black women also have a shorter projected life expectancy (74.4 years) than white women (79 years). This is not money that the "white man" has stolen or cheated us out of–we're cheating ourselves because this is money that we lose because of our own poor health behaviors.
The fact is, not only are health and wealth interrelated (one directly impacts the other), many of the behaviors people display in one area are also displayed in the other. To illustrate my point, I've put together a little table of comparisons:
Health & Wealth Behavioral Relationships
|Quick Fixes||Diet pills/crash diets||Payday loans/credit cards|
|Failure to Plan||Impulse eating/no meal plan||Impulse buying/no budget|
|Denial||Failure to honestly assess health status||Failure to honestly assess financial status|
The "Denial" personality refuses to honestly access personal health status or financial health status. These people have their heads in the sand. "I'm not really that fat/overweight/out of shape"; I'm not really that "broke", "even though I don't have the money, I can always charge it on my credit card". The "Failure to Plan" personality never checks blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, or goes for a medical check-up unless he/she is in a health crisis and about to drop dead–sadly by that time, many of us don't make it in time. This same personality type never creates or adheres to a budget, and it's not uncommon for them to wind up in a financial crisis. The Quick-Fix personality relies on actions that never really solve the problem–just postpone the agony. These people rely heavily on payday loans and credit cards, which don't really solve the problem of poor financial management. On the health side, the Quick Fix personality is prone to resort to quick weight loss plans/ diet pills/crash diets, which don't really solve the problem of poor lifestyle habits. They often expect to get in shape after a couple of weeks of exercise and when that doesn't happen–they give up.
If you recognize yourself in any of these areas, here are some suggestions to help you get on track.
- TIP #1: Start with a pencil and a piece of paper. It's hard to change behavior, to improve your health or increase your wealth, when you don't know or acknowledge the problems. So you must clearly identify where you need to make the changes–write down what you must do to make a difference.
- TIP #2: Learn to speak a foreign language. For many of us, just the language of health and finance causes us anxiety–drawing on old fears of math and science classes. Lots of big words like "diabetic retinopathy" or "compounded interest" make us feel like we're back in Jr High trying to pass a test. Ditch your language anxieties and take the time to learn the language of health and finance. This can be easily done by reading books that simplify the jargon or you can look-up terminology on the internet. Once you begin to understand the language, you empower yourself to take control of the situation. And if you have a professional advising you who doesn't want to explain how they're managing your health or your money–get rid of them and get someone else–immediately. Remember, they're working for you!
- TIP #3: The buck stops here. When it comes to your health and finances, recognize that you–and only you–are responsible for making the change. It's not up to your mother, your best friend, or your significant other to keep track of what you need to do for yourself. Be pro-active and do not abdicate your responsibility. Balance your own checkbook so you know how much money you have to spend. Schedule your own health check-ups and keep track of your results so you'll know what your health issues really are and how to manage them.
- TIP #4: Commit to make a change. Once you identify what you need to change, make a plan for actions that will lead you to your goals. Your most positive ally is your mind–it all starts with getting your thinking on board. Make a commitment and you're halfway there. Reinforce your thinking with reading or listening to motivational materials; surround yourself with like-minded people. If you need to seek credit counseling, do it; it you need to join a weight loss program, do it. There's no shame in needing support–and in fact, you may find that you provide support for others in your situation.
- TIP #5: Start small. There's a saying, "The journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step." Start small: If you can save even $1.50 /day–over the course of 50 years, at 8% return, this translates to almost $300,000 dollars. Regarding your health–you can make a small start by simply saying "NO" to super-sizing. These so called "value-meals" are no value when it comes to your health–lots of excess calories, sugar, and salt. Cut your meal in half and save half for the next day–or better yet–split the cost and the calories with a friend!
With You on Your Journey To Wellness...
Dr. Mary S. Harris