Be Risk-Averse With Health, Risk-Loving With Money

When it comes to your health, be risk-averse. When it comes to your money, you can be more risk-loving. After all, if your investment returns take a hit, you can always spend time earning back your losses through work.

However, if you lose your health, you might never recover fully. Sure, having money to pay for medicine and ongoing medical bills is huge. But if you are chronically sick, money becomes an afterthought.

We should all remember the saying, “A healthy person wants a thousand things, a sick person only wants one.” Every time I'm sick, all I want is to be is healthy again. Nothing else really matters.

Be Risk Loving With Money

I've spent 22 years since college trying to achieve financial freedom. From taking relatively big positions in single stock names to investing most of my year-end bonuses into real estate, I've gambled heavily with my money.

In a way, we are all risk-loving with money. We must trust a bank to keep our deposits safe. Every time we buy a stock, we hope that management will do the right thing to enhance shareholder value. And when we invest in a private real estate syndication, we hope the manager will make value-accretive moves.

Of course, we all have various levels of risk tolerance. But essentially, we are all constantly taking risks with our money in order to live a better life.

In 2012, I took the largest risk at the time by leaving my well-paying finance job. I thought I had reached financial freedom at 34 with ~$80,000 a year in investment income. Then we were blessed with children in 2017 and 2019. As a result, my financial goal post kept moving.

As the bull market continues, I've consistently lost some motivation to make money. Why bother spending so much time making money when your investment returns dwarf your efforts? However, fatherly responsibilities are keeping me plugged into the money-making world for longer than I would have liked.

Will I really be unable to let go of building more wealth until both my kids graduate high school or college? I'm afraid the answer might be yes. There must be some type of evolutionary gene that forces parents to stay focused until the children leave the house.

The reality is, all this focus on money is pointless if we don't live long enough until our kids become independent adults. Therefore, we need to be risk-averse with our health.

Be Risk-Averse With Health

My softball friend's passing has weighed heavily on me. Wynn was a seemingly fit guy who died of a heart attack at 42. He left behind a baby daughter and a wife. I'm both sad and mad at what has happened.

Ever since his death, I have tried to appreciate every day as much as possible. Each kid gets an extra long hug in the morning and evening. I also make it a point to say goodbye to every family member before I leave the house. You just never know when it will be your last.

Since the pandemic began, I've been more risk-loving with my health. I've eaten more poorly and have spent a lot more time at home. As a result, I've gained about five pounds to ~173 pounds at 5'10”. My ideal weight is about 158 pounds, which I was at 25 years ago as a college student.

But after seeing countless pictures in the news media about people dying from COVID-19, I've decided to get in better shape. Instead of being risk-loving with my health, it's time to be more risk-averse. If we've been lucky enough to survive this long without being in tip-top shape, I consider ourselves lucky.

There are already so many unknown health events that could kill me in my sleep. At least if I get fitter, I'll be able to increase my chances of surviving COVID-19 and other illnesses. No more playing with fire.

Being risk-averse with health means eating right, exercising, napping for 30 minutes after lunch, sleeping for 7 hours a night, minimizing stress-inducing activities, and seeing the doctor whenever something feels wrong.

My hope is that if I'm risk averse with my health, I'll be able to live until at least age 75. If I die at age 75, at least both my kids will be in their early 30s. I'm confident that by age 30, they will have the wisdom to live a meaningful life. By that age, I don't think I'll have anything left to teach them either.

Eating Right (75% of the solution to achieving a healthy weight)

Being risk-averse with health means not eating too much poison. Sugar is the biggest type of common poison. Therefore, I will do my best to minimize the consumption of such foods with high sugar content.

The pandemic caused us to order delivery almost every day. Instead of risking getting COVID at the grocery store, we thought we might as well use our money to save time and protect our health.

The problem with having so many restaurants at our fingertips is that we tend to order the most delicious food. Why not, if we have a choice. Unfortunately, the more delicious the food, often, the unhealthier it is.

When checking out for a couple of prime rib dinners, I'll tend to tack on a key lime pie, my favorite. When ordering fried empanadas, why not add some churros with the order. Instead of asking, “would you like fries with that,” the food delivery apps have gone much farther.

I’ve also got to stop eating before I’m full. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register new food has entered the body.

Exercising (25% of the solution to achieving a healthy weight)

Being risk-averse with health means moving around a lot. Typing on a keyboard all day is no good for one's health. I'm currently limiting my computer activity to four hours a day, this is up from my usual three hours a day because I'm finishing up my book.

I will take my daughter for a walk for one hour every day. Then I'll play soccer or do some other activity with my son for an hour a day. Finally, I will play tennis two or three times a week and softball once a week.

After every physical activity, I feel happier. Not only do I feel happier, I sleep better as well.

A really fit guy once told me, “Make it a goal to sweat every day.” I'm going to do just that, even if the weather is terrible.

Below is the ideal body weight for men by height and frame. If you are unsure of your frame size, then go with medium frame.

Height in Feet&InchesSmall FrameMedium FrameLarge Frame

Sleeping (to stay sharp)

Because I wake up by 6 am every morning, I often feel sleepy after lunch. Therefore, I will recharge my battery by napping for 30-45 minutes after lunch every weekday.

I know the ideal amount of time to nap is only about 15 minutes. However, my ideal amount of time to nap is when I have a food coma and sleep until I naturally wake up.

A long nap is important for me because no matter how hard I try, 90% of the time I automatically wake up in the morning after six hours of sleep. It is impossible for me to sleep for longer than seven hours. Therefore, I will make up for less sleep overnight by napping.

Average sleep times per day by age and sex - risk-averse with health, risk-loving with money

Minimize Stress-Inducing Activities (improve mental health)

Stress messes with our health more than we realize. It tends to build up inside of us. Too much stress is what causes chronic back pain, tennis elbow, and sciatica. A lot of stress causes us to lose patience and snap at loved ones.

One of the biggest benefits after leaving my job was how much healthier I felt. My TMJ and teeth grinding went away. So did my gray hairs. They haven't come back. For 13 years, I had become used to chronic pain due to work stress.

My main stress-inducing activity is entertaining too many business opportunities and responding to too many requests online. I've got this mega e-mail out of office responder saying I'm on sabbatical. But people who want something keep following up over and over again.

It's kind of sad something that brings me so much joy is also the main source of my stress. Therefore, I'm trying my best to keep Financial Samurai activity to less than three hours a day.

Another stress-inducing activity would be going back to work. Given my stress level goes up every time I have to drive my son to school during rush-hour traffic, I thought I might as well find a day job after dropping him off. But in order to go back to work, the situation really has to be perfect.

Seeing The Doctor (to catch things before they get too bad)

In the past, I never went to see the doctor, even if something was bothering me. But now that we're paying about $2,300 a month in health insurance, I figure why not try and get my money's worth. I'm at the age where health problems start popping up.

Catching health issues early can make a world of difference. For example, cancer is an insidious disease that you might not even know you have. You have the best chance at survival and a healthy quality of life if your cancer is diagnosed and treated in its early stages.

If something is bothering me for more than a couple of weeks, I'm going to see a specialist. Further, I will get a physical every year to check my blood pressure, cholesterol, lungs, heart, and everything else.

Just make sure you get the right amount of life insurance BEFORE seeing the doctor for some random issues. You might encounter an overzealous doctor that diagnoses you with something worse than you really have. As a result, your life insurance premiums might shoot through the roof.

Below is the ideal body weight for women by height and frame. Again, go with the medium frame column if you are unsure about your frame size.

Height in Feet&InchesSmall FrameMedium FrameLarge Frame

Life Insurance (for peace of mind)

I've said that Financial Samurai is the main source of my stress. But the main source of my baseline stress is not being around long enough to provide for my family due to an illness or death.

As a result, we've set up revocable living trusts to make sure our assets are properly transferred in case of my death. Having our complicated net worth tied up in public probate court is no good. Probate court is much more expensive.

In addition to revocable living trusts, I've got a document full of my accounts and passwords my wife can access in case I become incapacitated.

Finally, we've both got enough life insurance to hold us over as we sort out the messy process of untangling our finances. Unlike other insurance products, getting a life insurance payout should be straightforward. Death is easy to prove.

Our net worth is complicated with stocks, real estate, private investments, and Financial Samurai. I don't want my wife to have to sell anything to take care of our children in case I'm gone.

To me, life insurance is worth 2X its actual death benefit due to the peace of mind and time it provides to sort things out. In other words, a $1 million term policy is really worth $2 million to me. And if you're in the highest marginal tax bracket, life insurance really is worth more since the death benefit should be tax-free.

Life insurance minimizes disruptions in an already disrupted life. Further, no friend or relative needs to worry about my family's financial situation after I'm gone. Please check out PolicyGenius for competitive life insurance quotes. My wife was able to double her life insurance policy for less.

I also suggest both partners have equal amounts of life insurance. It doesn't make sense for one partner to have way more than the other because you don't know which partner will ultimately go first. I'm glad we rectified this mismatch last year.

Stop Messing Around With Your Health

We should spend as much time caring about our health as we do our wealth. Once we've accumulated a decent sum of money, our goal should be to live as long and as healthy a life as possible.

If you are a parent of young children, we owe it to our children to live. The stakes are too high. Let's at least wait until after they become adults before we eat more pie and watch more TV than we should.

Even if you aren't a parent, you owe it to yourself and to the people who love you to be more healthy. The bull market has already helped make us wealthier. Let's not neglect the one thing that's even more important than money.

Related posts:

Health And Fitness Stocks: The Last Reopening Trade

A Weight Loss Tip To Die For

The Book That Changed My Life And Made Me Rich Again

The Health Benefits Of Early Retirement Are Priceless

Readers, are you risk-averse or risk-loving with your health? Do you think COVID will spur more people to live healthier lives? Has a death of a person close to you spurred you to make a lifestyle change? Why are we gambling with our health by not staying in better shape?

24 thoughts on “Be Risk-Averse With Health, Risk-Loving With Money”

  1. Sam, well said. I am sorry to hear about the passing of your friend.

    While we often focus only on our investments and the risks we take, we truly should focus on our health too. Otherwise, how are you to enjoy the savings you amassed? I eat relatively healthy and exercise, which are both essential steps to ensure a healthy lifestyle. Nevertheless, just entering my 30s and having two major surgeries and various associated and unassociated health problems has caused me to step back over the past four years. After all, money can be pointless if you cannot enjoy it.

    Fortunately, my health has recovered chiefly, and I hope for a less expensive coming year and subsequent ones. However, in the last three years alone, my insurance has been billed over $400,000, and I have met my maximum out-of-pocket expense each year. Thus, going from a no-use insuree to and full use one has made me appreciate that my premiums are worth every penny, and then some. Insure where you cannot afford to lose is the saying!

    Additionally, as you mentioned, this includes life insurance. For those who are not FI yet, I think term life insurance is critical. However, once you achieve FI, I view it as entirely optional.

    In closing, I have taken much lower risks with my body after the preceding events, but I am still taking full risk investment portfolio. Thanks for the thought-inspiring read.

    Olaf, the Mile High Finance Guy

  2. I’m surprised you don’t order from Imperfect Foods, based out of your area! I’ve been using their service ever since the pandemic began in 2020 and haven’t looked back. Great options ranging from in-season fruits and vegetables, to meat, canned goods, and pantry staples. Check them out if you’re interested in skipping the grocery store! I can even send you a referral code so you can get $80 in free groceries ;)

  3. The Ruthless Economist

    This is a great post, and something I think people really fail to consider when they look at their financial plan! IMHO, it should really be incorporated into financial planning advice. Not only does being in poor health have consequences in terms of shorter lifespan and lower expected quality of life, it costs real money in terms of less work productivity and higher healthcare costs. And you really nailed it with identifying sleep and stress as huge components of health in addition to just maintaining a healthy weight. Now, let’s all go meditate for twenty minutes and get a nap in!

    1. Thanks! Yes, the richer you are, the more valuable it is to live longer. You’re increasing your terminal value, which is a big part of valuation. From an economist’s standpoint, if you actually have no wealth, it is more “profitable” to die sooner.

      Now for that nap! woke up at 4:30 am this morning, ugh.

  4. Stay happy and healthy, Sam! Thanks for this article. Really hits the spot. Sorry to hear about your stress. There are many questions that I want to ask you and follow up with you on from prior articles. However, I’m sure you’ll be writing about many interesting topics for us readers.

    1. No worries! Stress is a normal part of life. Just need to manage it properly. I’m more stressed now b/c I need to focus on finishing my book. But after Thanksgiving, I’m really going to relax a lot more!

      Feel free to ask your questions whenever.

  5. I had never heard that saying before, so I learned something new!

    Obesity has been correlated with Covid, and a lot of other health issues, so losing weight is always good if you’re even a few pounds heavy. I too gained weight, but only about 10 pounds, but will cutting back on stress eating. I started seeing a personal trainer once a week and have found that helpful in the lifting weights arena. As a 55 yo woman, bone health is primary in my mind. While I do work out on my own, I work out hardest with my trainer.

    I’m a YMCA member, but it’s been a hassle with masks. Luckily my yoga studio has been rational about things (I’m in IL).

  6. Great article and good reminder that if you don’t have your health nothing else matters! Just went back to the office and I can tell you COVID was brutal to most of my coworkers waistlines. I am guessing most are up 15 pounds. Stress, boredom, and not wearing work clothes caused people to gradually gained weight. Several coworkers commented their clothes don’t fit or they even had to buy new clothes. I stayed pretty even, but wanted to use COVID time to lose weight, so feel like I failed. As someone in their 50s it does get harder every year minor aches and pains take longer to recover, so I recommend spending your 40s getting to your ideal weight.

  7. Long time lurker, first time poster. This is spot on. I’m a family guy about 10 years older than you, in good shape, meticulously plan finances, career and growing networth. Financially, pretty healthy. Workout at least 3 days a week despite pandemic life making it hard to hit the gym and salty snacking has definitely increased. Last week had a medical issue that rendered me basically helpless in the middle of the day. Working alone at home, I pondered waiting it out and making an appointment to see my primary or calling 911. Of course, I was doing financial calculations of an ER visit and the ambulance ride (per your posts). I finally called 911 and spent the night in the ER. All is good but in hindsight why did I even risk not calling 911. Even my doctor commented the next day that it was the right call saying “that is why you have health insurance and why people end up dead.” Don’t take chances with your health!

    1. Hope everything is OK and you are back to full health!

      I think many of us who understand the cost of an ambulance won’t be able to help thinking about the cost benefit analysis, at least for a second, if that time comes.

      But course, we should get that medical help ASAP if we’re dying. I will try to remind myself of this, especially sense our investments have done well. No point of having money if you don’t spill it on your life!

  8. I’ve become more aware of my own health now. I just turned 40 this year. My company designated my group as remote now indefinitely. There’s pros and cons. I love having no commute, I’ve gained an instant 2-3 hours each day I used to spend getting ready and then sitting in traffic that i can now utilize for more sleep and exercise, or spending with my family. During my lunch break, I walk out to my backyard and run wind sprints for 25-30 minutes. The cons are not having those coworker drive-by conversations or getting to go out at lunch and try a new place.

    1. 40 really is a big age for our health as I look back in retrospect. It’s the time when random annoying things start popping up. It’s the time when preventative maintenance is more important than ever.

  9. Sam,
    Correctly said, Health is wealth!! 2020& 21 definitely proved this.
    Let me give u quick sweet tip to lose weight:
    just reduce ur intake 80%(Japanese style to eat till 80%of belly capacity) or delay ur break fast little bit, Lunch little bit and then skip dinner or replace dinner with fruits.
    At the end of the day How meaningful life we lived & realizing the purpose of ife matters, Even though money is important, money after certain limit does not matter. That limit is amount of money to take care of basic needs, There is no limit to riches or money, Money makes you more towards money and ways to make, keep those riches.

  10. Sorry to hear you lost your friend. I think sometimes, given not all medical events are preventable, it makes it that much more important that we enjoy our time in the here and now. I am sure I sound cheesy saying that and it is certainly not a fresh take on life.

    As far as eating goes, intermittent fasting is especially helpful with portion control and curbing bad habits. If you were to eat on say a 6-8 hour block of time, it makes much more doable to eat a reduced calorie intake. I personally eat on a ~4hr block, but its not like it doesn’t come with challenges, especially when you factor in family members, meals together, etc.

    Fasted cardio in the mornings 4-5 days a week, running currently for me at about 7mi a day. That could be your tennis schedule instead possibly or some combination it and something else?

    I wouldn’t start all of this at one time, but maybe gradually building up to it. So like I.F. eating at a deficit and 2 days tennis. Add more activity as you feel capable to.

    Tactical Barbell “Conditioning” and Tactical Barbell depending on interests are worth checking out, if you are interested books. Sail Rabbit is a good TDEE site to use if you were to really take it seriously as far as calorie counting for your deficit to achieve the weight loss goal.

    1. I will definitely do more intermittent fasting. I’ll also try and cut out eating after 8 PM until at least 8 AM.

      7 miles in the morning for days a week is a lot! I’m sure I would lose 20 pounds within four months if I kept that routine!

  11. Makes so much sense! I’m in range for weight but way under for sleep on average. But I’m really thankful that I can take naps on days when I feel I really need it.

    I hate to exercise but I’m slowly building up my endurance and doing short exercise sessions.

    Prioritizing health is something I plan to keep working on. Getting old kinda sucks but with good health it’s much easier!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *