Is There A Correlation Between Physical Fitness And Financial Health?

Udapom Indian Dish

Physical fitness and financial health go hand in hand. If you don't have, it's hard to have the other.

I don't care how rich you are. If you don't have your health, you might as well have nothing. This is why I have a whole Health & Fitness section. Think back to the times when you were sick. Every time, I'm sure you were willing to give up everything just to feel better again.

I've got to admit something that's bumming me out. I'm disappointed so many readers proved my derivative theory correct when I wrote, “Proof Your Weight Is Not Your Fault.

The post is about a convicted killer on death row who is asking to get his sentence commuted due to his weight. If you are 475 lbs and have spent the last 27 years in prison where there are no buffet lines, don't tell me that genetics doesn't have anything to do with this person's weight.

Physical Fitness Is Huge

My derivative theory hypothesized many readers would be vehemently against the statement that one's weight is largely determined by genetics because it takes away people's illusion of control. In financial speak, “How dare you say my wealth was not of my own doing?” or the now famous Obama mis-quote, “If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Readers of personal finance sites are generally fiscally conservative. Spend less than you make right?

I also hypothesized most dissenters would be fit and under 35, the median age of Americans. Have you ever seen those gossip magazines with some beautiful spokeswoman showing the efficacy of their latest anti-aging product? Well shit, of course it works if your model is 22 years old!

In other words, there's an annoying belief that if you're fit, everybody else should also be fit. Otherwise, you're just lazy. It's like the 18 year old kid who eats all he wants and never gains weight, making fun of a 45 year old mother of three for not looking like Jessica Biel. Nice job punk.

Stay Motivated To Keep Fit

The genetics post is meant to motivate folks who are struggling with their weight to stop beating themselves up so much. Don't hate yourself for not looking like folks we see in magazines or on TV because they are anomalies magnified by the power of media to make it seem like they are ubiquitous. If we can love ourselves more, we can snap out of our funk and climb back up those stairs.

Another goal of the post is to break down stereotypes against those who are obese. I don't know anybody who is out of shape who is happy to be out of shape, just like I don't know anybody who is struggling financially who doesn't want to be wealthier. The post was not directed at fit people. Yet for some curious reason, so many fit folks lashed out. Dear fit people, why does my post concern you so much? Compassion is a part of our humanity.

Now that you know the furtive reasons for my genetics post, it's time to answer the most logical next question: Is there a positive correlation between physical fitness and financial health? To answer the question, I need your support.

Taking Action For Physical Fitness

Fact: Many people believe our weight and health is predominantly due to our own doing and not due to genetics. Carefully read the dozens of comments from the genetics post and see for yourself. Some are downright nasty, while others lash out yet provide no explanation for their viewpoints. If you are going to dissent, at least provide some articulate reasons why.

Hypothesis: Given dissenters believe our health is all about choices, all dissenters must therefore be financially well-off for their ages. Why? Because building wealth is also almost entirely about choices (study, save, invest, spend less than you earn). Forget about being born into poverty, growing up in a single family household, having a learning disability, and so forth. Dissenters of genetics believe that if you are poor, it's your fault.

Solving the hypothesis: Let us compare a dissenter's financials with the average net worth chart for the above average person. You can click the link to read more about how I derived the numbers. Since a dissenter is reading a personal finance site, they care more than average about their finances. We should also assume if people have a choice, they'd rather have more money than less money all else being equal. If a dissenter is congruent with their thinking, their net worth should comfortably match the average total net worth figures below. If a dissenter likes to say one thing and do another, then hey, welcome to society!

AgeYrs WorkedAvg Pre-Tax SavingsAvg Post-Tax SavingsAvg Property EquityAvg Total Net Worth
220$ –$ –$ –$ –
231$ 12,500$ 7,500$ –$ 20,000
242$ 30,000$ 15,000$ –$ 45,000
253$ 45,000$ 25,000$ –$ 70,000
308$ 154,500$ 67,500$ 17,500$ 239,500
3513$ 273,000$ 115,000$ 30,000$ 418,000
4018$ 410,500$ 162,500$ 70,000$ 643,000
4523$ 573,500$ 200,000$ 117,500$ 891,000
5028$ 771,500$ 237,500$ 162,500$ 1,171,500
5533$ 1,011,500$ 275,000$ 225,000$ 1,511,500
6038$ 1,306,000$ 312,500$ 290,000$ 1,908,500
6543$ 1,670,500$ 375,000$ 375,000$ 2,420,500

Prove Me Wrong

In order for my social experiment to work, every dissenter must speak up and tell the truth whether their outstanding physical fitness matches the above average net worth figures in the chart. I'm not even including my “outstanding net worth” charts for you to compare. If I did, the figures would be more than double what I have for each age group.

Please don't provide excuses as to why your finances are not above average if you are physically fit. It'll just make you look like the out of shape people you dislike.

It's far from conclusive whether the majority of folks who are “ideal weight” also have “ideal finances” and vice versa. Perhaps people with more wealth are fitter because they can afford $8 carrot juices and $100 an hour personal trainers? Perhaps people who are fitter have higher self-esteem and will therefore take more risks that could lead to much greater wealth? Everybody's idea of the perfect body or the best income for maximum happiness is different.

Let's not force our ideals on others. That's like the government saying who gets to be happy. Forget that. If you believe your health and fitness is almost entirely due to your own doing, then look inward into your own financial situation and ask what's wrong.


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75 thoughts on “Is There A Correlation Between Physical Fitness And Financial Health?”

  1. A lot of important points in this article that we should be aware of if there’s really a correlation between physical and financial fitness. Thanks for sharing this one out.

  2. Pingback: Solving Financial Insecurity To Live More Freely | Financial Samurai

  3. I agree with you. Physical and financial health all boil down to good habits and discipline. Working out 3 days out of the week is very similar to bring lunch to work 3 days out of the week. What’s a common excuse for not working out and spending money (like eating out)? I don’t have enough time. Physical and financial health require good habits and discipline. We also have to recognize our bodies much like our finances are all different. Someone might have a faster metabolism or little debt. So others have to work out an extra day or dedicate a larger percentage of their income to paying off their debt.

  4. Thinking about this some more, having good financial health comes from setting up habits of repeated behavior that starts with saving and investing.

    Physical fitness also comes from setting up patterns of repeated behavior, usually exercise. But you also need to listen closely to your body, and as it ages, and make the corresponding adjustments. Eating patterns that you have become used to can actually be bad habits and that’s how weight gain can creep up over the years.

    In a way maintaining financial health is easier than physical fitness if you are stuck into a bad habit related to diet. And because it is a habit that may have worked fine in the past, you might not be looking out for it!


  5. Kim@Eyesonthedollar

    I know quite a few very physically fit people who are no where near your net worth chart. I think some people put everything into one basket, especially when something else if really out of whack. You could say the same about chronic over eaters. Some over eat to deal with problem in their lives. Some work out. Some drink, etc.

    My mom and dad would never be considered in good physical shape, but they have their finances in perfect shape. I think there is a correlation between physical health and finances, but it certainly can’t be generalized to everyone.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. Sure, there are always holes to generalizations. I’m hoping my articles blast through the theory that genetics plays little to no role in one’a health.

  6. Overweight and waaaaaay under in net worth. Can’t remember how compassionate I was in your original post, but I think I disagreed with your position.

    1. At least you’re honest! If you are overweight and underwealthed, are you then attributing everything to your own doing then? If so, are you then not exactly where you want to be given you have free will? Thanks

      1. Almost everything is my own doing, either through bad choices or ignorance. Am I where I want to be? Ouch!!! No. Being overweight and in debt is not where I want to be. I think life is complex, and once one has started down a path, it is difficult to change direction, or sometimes not immediately feasible. Change is difficult and slow, and old patterns are hard to break. I sometimes wish a windfall would land in my lap and clear me of my debt, but I worry that my new, more sensible habits aren’t ingrained yet and that lifestyle inflation would put me back in the same place…

        1. Thanks for your response Paula. I’ve been trying to come to grips over the years with why people do what they do even if they understand what they are doing isn’t good for them longer term. Perhaps you want to share the psychology behind your path and the changes you are trying to make in a guest post on here? You may find some thoughts and suggestions from readers you may have never though of before to help you.

  7. Retired Syd

    By the way, I’m closing in on 50 this year, so I think I qualify as an old person for purposes of your data: I’m better off than your charts on the net worth stuff and have been a healthy weight my whole life.

  8. Retired Syd

    Right on topic, I just read in money magazine today, “A recent National Bureau of Economic Research study by James Poterba, Steven Venti, and David Wise found that people who were among the healthiest 20% in their fifties retired with three times the assets of the least healthy. And the healthy also spent down their wealth more slowly.”

    Here’s the full article for those that are interested:

  9. My take on health and finances: If you feel healthy, you’re probably happier and usually happier people make better decisions.

  10. I think it might be a little more essential to focus on how you spend your money. Being healthy might be a good thing for reducing some of the insurance bills but it is not the only thing to look at when it comes to finances. You have to look also at mental disorders or other external factors that might be influencing a person.

  11. I guess I was one of the ones that disagreed with you Sam so I will try to explain some of my reasoning. First we can never pick one situation such as your inmate and conclude one way or the other. I mean how many inmates went into to prison way overweight and lost it all. I am sure a lot do. So just to take a historical perspective, no one can argue that in the past 20 years in this country there has been an explosion of overweight individuals. And no way genetics was primarily responsible because history tells us different.

    Take a look Americans for example in the 40s, 50s, 60s and even 70s and for the most part you would be hard pressed to find obese people, especially at the rate you find them today. I am not talking 15lbs -20lbs overweight here, I am talking obese, 60lbs, 80lbs 100lbs over the optimal weight. That to me is diet and lack of exercise for the most part at least. And no question about it financially strap folks tend to be more overweight than financially secure folks. That, I blame in the fast food industry where “happy” meals with 2000 caloric count at a seating can be had for a few bucks.

    It is also indisputable that our kids today are fatter than ever, with an explosion in teenage diabetes and other related health issues. Again fast food, lack of exercise, video games, all can be added together to create a “picture” of what not to do when you are a teen. I remember when I was teen, we had skateboards, bikes, after school soccer, and other activities which put as constantly outdoors and moving around. It is not like that anymore, now we have to “plan” play-dates and after school sports where mommy or daddy drive the kids to those activities. When I played soccer, I got on my bike and went to practice. So did my friends. And when practice was over you know what we did? Played some more soccer (fun pickup games) and after we finished got back on our bikes for that 5 mile ride home with our cleats hanging from our necks.

    Today the correlation of obese people to income for me at least is very apparent. All you need to do is come to the area I live in (McLean Va). You are not going to see many obese people, this being one of the richest areas per capita in the country. When you go to the local supermarkets almost all the produce are organic, many isles are dedicated to only natural products, all of them have a butcher and fish counter with fresh meats and fish etc. No way you can tell me an average family of 4 with an income of 65K per year can afford to even touch some of these things nor do they want to. I mean can they really feed their family lean organic ground beef at 7 dollars per pound or are they going to go for the extra fat 1.99 per pound job? I have our milk, eggs and chicken delivered from local farms at at-least 20% extra cost of what you can get from the supermarket. Would I be doing that if I was financially strapped and living from paycheck to paycheck? Btw for those living in Fairfax VA or the surrounding areas and don’t mind paying a little extra try South Milk Creamery, their skim milk tastes like whole milk, chicken, eggs etc amazing taste. All their products are natural and organic. I am sure you have similar farms/organic producers in your area, support them and eat well. I believe in the all saying you are what you eat.

    But here is the sad part of all this. In the end you pay. Investing in your health by eating right is a top investment IMO because it would ultimately cost you and your family thousands of dollars in medicine and untold amount of lost time by feeling unwell. And ultimately it will bankrupt our country because we can’t afford the exponential medicate/medicare costs in the very near future.

    To conclude, its obesity genetic?? For some people it might be yes, but IMO for most obese people its diet, exercise and most of all willpower to do what is necessary to drop weight and feel better. Not unlike many people who refuse to look at their spending habits, lack of work ethic, instant satisfaction syndrome and zero future vision.

    1. Good thing we have universial healthcare insurance now then right? If you are saying the less wealthy eat more poorly, then those who are more wealthy should protect them from becoming even less wealthy down the line due to medical costs.

  12. I’m not sure why it has to be one or the other. Genetics play a part in how in shape you are and where you start in society plays a big part in where you finish financially. Hard work is also factors in both but is definitely not the only variable at play. I work hard as a software engineer and attempt to stay in shape but I’m sure if I worked hard as a construction worker I could keep myself in better shape than sitting on my butt working for what at this point seems like a countless amount of hours. Then again I probably wouldn’t be as financially well off if I did that as well.

  13. Long time reader, first time commenter.

    I am very fit and have greater net worth than the above chart states I should have for my age (32). If anything, I attribute it to being disciplined.
    I could eat junk and not lift weights and I would be overweight and not fit. But I choose to avoid sugar and grains (and most processed foods in general), and lift weights. In return I feel great and look good naked.

    It just occurred to me that your chart would be appropriate for a larger demographic if it was in % of income vs actual dollar amount saved. At age 30, an income of 1000000 or 10000, and a corresponding net worth of $239,500 would say very different things about me.

  14. To be more clear, “a bit over 440% of the target net worth for my age” means according to your table above.

    And “330% higher” technically is incorrect. I meant 330% “of” what it was in the first 2 years. But you get the idea, without giving myself an extra 100% =P

  15. “I also hypothesized most dissenters would be fit and under 35, the median age of Americans” – yep, I fit that description!

    “In order for my social experiment to work, every dissenter must speak up and tell the truth” – this still hardly addresses my original point in dissenting with the original post. To reiterate:

    “The genetics post is meant to motivate folks who are struggling with their weight to stop beating themselves up so much” – just like saying that saving 2% of one’s income is great because it’s better than nothing? Even though I can live happily right in the middle of a reasonably-sized city on less than the average *zero-income-earning* US family was handed for free in 2010?

    As another data point, I pay 31% more than all of my expenses in taxes every year in order to pay for the result of lacking effort on others’ part.

    “why do you think fit people lashed out in the article when the article was not aimed at them” – because to me it appears in direct contrast to values articulated on this blog previously, which I happen to hold in high regard. So yes, it’s opinion, but also because of inconsistency:

    “Hard work is awesome because the benefits last long after the hard work is done. I’ve been called “lucky” many times and I don’t mind. It’s very motivating when people attribute any success to luck instead of hard work. I am lucky for living and working in America, having a supportive family, nice friends, a functioning mind, and all four limbs. I also realize the harder I work, the luckier I get. I don’t know why, but it’s true.”

    Now to the issue of fitness and finances. I run one half-marathon about 48 weeks a year, can deadlift 220% of my weight, and squat 160% of it on top of my body-weight. I only had about $15,000 in student debt from a 4-year degree, for a net worth at graduation of -$8000. With 100% of my own money and effort am worth a bit over 440% of the target net worth for my age in the mid twenties. My rate of wealth-building, even without recent market gains, is roughly 330% higher than in my first two years out of school due to negative lifestyle inflation since then.


    1. My thoughts are when we are young, we think we can rule the world. We have more energy, more strength, more time. We think we know more than we know until we get older and look back and ask, “What were we thinking?”

      I’m constantly looking for perspective from older folks than me because I don’t know what I don’t know. I’ve got a great upcoming guest post from one such reader.

  16. I agree with Larry, getting your finances in order takes a lot of discipline and the discipline then flows to other areas of your life. Look how many PF bloggers get into running or set fitness goals as well. I am much better with finances than fitness, probably because finances came naturally and fitness didn’t, so I never disciplined myself.

  17. Sam, what an incredibly cool post to write!

    All I know is this:

    When I started overhauling my finances, I went hardcore. After a few months, I felt so amazing that I (crazily enough) started training for a triathlon. I hadn’t worked out in 12 years!! Coincidence?? I will let you decide.

    I think that people would rather talk about strange sexual stuff than their finances; that is how personal it is. When your finances are straight, you feel so liberated that the physical health has to come next!

    Just my 2 cents…

    1. My wife and I took the opposite track, focused on long term changes so we took longer 6 years rather 2-3 to get out of debt but it’s borne lasting change

  18. I didn’t think my comment on your original post was lacking compassion, but I’ll bite here, because I really do think fitness and finances are tied in many ways for a good portion of our society. I wouldn’t be profiting every week from my use of Gympact were that not the case.

    Our Fitness:
    My BMI is 20 and I run. A lot. About 2K miles logged in 2012, with a few marathons thrown in there for good measure. No one will confuse me for Heidi Klum, but I try to stay fit and healthy.
    Mr. PoP’s BMI is 22-23 and he regularly lifts weights and runs occasionally as well.

    Our Finances:
    We’re 30 and have been in the workforce ~6 years, and have a combined net worth (as of the end of January) of $445K. (That’s about 1.86x your figure for age 30.)

    But I think what’s getting lost in this discussion is that while there may be a strong positive correlation between two variables (in this case financial and physical health), that does not imply that everyone lies exactly on the trendline describing the relationship. It’s not black and white.

    I look at my two families for examples/counterexamples:
    Mr. PoP’s side of the family largely has their fitness and financial act together – but there is an outlier. A sibling who we’ll call a “failure to launch” who lags peers in financial maturity, despite looking fit.
    My side of the family is largely a mess when it comes to both fitness and finance. But there’s an outlier on that side of the family, too. A sibling who has had their financial life in order since 16 (now in mid 30’s), but hasn’t really prioritized fitness.

    1. Good job Mrs Pop. Not all dissenters lack compassion, just the ones who wrote with no compassion.

      My net worth chart is for a single person btw. So technically, one must double the amounts for two people, but this will be a nice discussion for a future post.

      1. Double? Above you said +12.5% – I think you’re moving the bar! kidding, of course =)

        Either way, I’m still pretty pleased with what we’ve accomplished given the detours we took along the way. Postponing work for travel, school, attempts at starting a business, attempts to buy a business while working for minimum wage, etc. It’s only been two years that both of us have consistently been in “careers” with 401Ks, etc. But we were able to set a fair amount of ground work even without Mr. PoP as “career track” until 2011 (age 28).

      2. Double it for a couple, are you insane!!!!!!!! In what universe do you live in where a 2 million net worth is consider normal for an average middle class couple. My Dad was very frugal careful and his net worth barely hit 900,000. Also our retirement fund will, I’m guessing 3 mil short of what we need and yet I’m expecting a comfortable retirement inspitenodmthenfact we’ll be renters in retirement (by choice)

        The only people I know (and I know a lot of people) who have that kind of net worth are successful businessmen and those are very rare.

        Sorry but numbers like that set you up for failure

        Edit: suppose it’s possible Derek over at will probably do that (at 700 grand) but them he paid off a huge mortgage in under 5 years, I mean how many people you know can do that kind of thing

  19. Another dissenter here … I think.

    By your table, I was a bit above the average net worth by age through my twenties when I did next to no exercise at all and became rather flabby. My career was also going nowhere.

    I started exercising in my early thirties and my career and income took a huge jump a few years later.Eventually I became a partner in a major law firm and my net worth started increasing very rapidly. I also found that my investment decisions improved significantly. Well enough that I will be retireing later this year (47 years old).

    Correlation does not equal causation, but for me career, income and net worth all improved significantly a couple of years after I started exercising. It goes without saying that I am a much happier person these days as well.

    FWIW, my brother has gone through a similar experience after he purchased a bike and started riding to work 3 or 4 days a week – promotion and pay rises followed.

    1. Sounds great mate. As a partner at a law firm now, are the big bucks not rolling in and the work more enjoyable? If so, what is the impetus for you to retire at 47? Thanks

  20. Wow, what an articulate way of expressing, “dissenters, kiss it and go where the sun doesn’t shine.” hahaha.

    Anyway, I wouldn’t call myself a dissenter and I won’t express an opinion that obese people are lazy without knowing their circumstances, but I would argue that NO ONE has an ideal weight of 427lbs without some catalyst. And I would hope that you are smart enough to not be so stubborn into realizing the truth in my comment. But, hey, it’s you’re blog and the burden is on you to prove your posting.

    Again, great thought provoking, controversial subject. :-)

  21. I’m not in great health, but I’m a skinny guy and am in “OK” health. My net worth is definitely behind your chart, mostly because of a housing choice. Well, that, and I blew $100k in cash which would have definitely put me ahead on the chart.

    I agree that genetics definitely play a part in weight, but I also believe that physical fitness is not just measured by weight. I think that those deemed “overweight” can be fit and in good health, and there is a measure of choice there.

    I think absolutes are stupid, there’s always factors outside of your control in play. So to say that fitness and finances are 100% choice or 100% genetics (or circumstances) is a stupid platform to stand on. it’s never that simple.

  22. First, apologies for such a long response! I’m one of the dissenters (semi-dissenters), although I didn’t originally comment. I also freely admit that I’m not at either ideal weight or ideal finances. I’m going to try to explain my thought process here because I think there were a lot of strong reactions and I’m not sure folks appreciate why.

    I think the main point of contention was people’s differing reactions to saying that something is genetic (which many interpret as fate). It sounds like one group (including FS) finds that to be comforting: these are your limits, be happy with who you are and don’t beat yourself up about what’s outside of your control. You aren’t without willpower, there’s just a limit to what your genetics allow you to accomplish. Group 1 finds this message empowering, as it confirms that they are still in control, adding an upper/lower limit to that control just helps to ensure realistic expectations.

    Group 2 (including myself) finds it to be incredibly discouraging and even more negative: no matter what you do, you’ll always be fat, don’t even bother trying. Which, if you go down that road, puts you probably at the highest possible end of the weight bands that you were discussing because you can give yourself the rationale that you don’t have any power/control/responsibility for your weight at all. This might be a personal weakness of mine (and others in Group 2), that we take such an idea to an extreme. Group 2 finds this message UN-empowering because we take it to the extreme that we have lost all control and shouldn’t even bother trying.

    Personally, I believe that genetics influences body type (similar to how I’ll never be tall, I’ll never have a willowy body type) and ease of weight loss/gain (it might be harder, maybe A LOT harder, for some folks to lose/gain weight). I feel like this encompasses maybe 20%. The rest is up to you. I embrace this message not because I don’t have empathy for those who are overweight (I’m usually counted among them, although I’ve been slowly losing!), but because it’s empowering for me to believe that I have control in this situation. This feeling of empowerment usually leads to a positive cycle where I make better choices around food and exercise, thus making it self-fulfilling.

    I think that’s why the reaction to this article has been so strong. Not because one side has completely opposing views, but just the interpretation of genetics vs. control. I think it relates to finances as well. I think that weight, in this respect, relates really well to finances. In my mind, growing up poor (or genetically prone to being heavier) represents a serious challenge. Growing wealth (or getting fit) will be harder for you than for other folks. This is out of your control. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should resign yourself to poverty (or obesity). You still have the majority of control and, through hard work and dedication, can achieve financial security (or physical fitness). It might be harder for you (maybe A LOT harder) than for others, and bad habits might have a bigger effect, but it’s still possible – don’t give up! This is what works for me, though, who was in that Group 2. For someone from Group 1 (as it sounds like FS is), this message might be frustrating, not empowering.

    Just my 2 cents on this debate!

    1. Wow, great summary, Katie. I definitely can now understand how his message can be less empowering than he intended.

    2. Good point of view Katie. I can see how leaving things up to “fate” can be not empowering.

      I fear society has put too much emphasis on how one should look. It’s concerning that people who have jobs, who have kids, who have normal lives can compete with models and TV/ movie personalities whose job it is to look good, and who’ve gone through a highly selective screening process to get their roles.

      If we are rational in our thinking, we’d be happier overall (main goal) when it comes to our fitness. If we do not accept genetics and a band of weight we naturally hover between, then a lot of pain and frustration will result.

      Is love to hear more about your fitness and background. You’ve read mine in the “ideal weight” post linked in the article.

      1. FS –

        Fair enough (again, apologies for length, but you were so open that I wanted to be as well)! Regarding fitness, I was in decent shape in high school due to team sports, although usually about 5lbs over what I/my doctor thought would be an “ideal” weight. Gained roughly 10 lbs freshman year of college, although still exercised a fair amount so I didn’t feel too out of shape. I took a year off in undergraduate to live abroad and do research, where I gained another 30 lbs (ouch!). That was tough, I felt gross and out of control. I stress eat and am also not great at learning new languages, so the difficulty in moving to a new country where I wasn’t fluent caused me to eat a fair amount. I came back to the States after I finished my research and dropped about 25 of those pounds. I had trouble dropping the rest of the weight through graduate school, though, although I managed to start exercising again. Financially, I got a good scholarship for undergraduate and grad school and, through taking extra classes, managed to finish both degrees a year early. Despite this, I still had around $35K in debt, not counting interest, (and roughly 15 extra lbs) when I graduated grad school.

        Luckily, my grad degree paid off and I got a job at one of the Big 4 consulting firms. I negotiated a summer off before starting and used that time to be with family and lose about 5-10 of those extra pounds. At this point, I knew a bit about finances, but honestly, felt incredibly intimidated by the idea of picking stocks or bonds, so I avoided investing (big mistake!). I knew that the debt had to go though (and the 8% interest rate, again ouch!) and I managed to pay off the $35K loan and additional interest within a year. From there I began to self-educate around investing (mostly reading Ramit Sethi, JD Roth, and the Bogleheads’ materials) and started my 401k and Roth IRA. Through the next year, I managed to build a decent emergency fund and start a house down payment and car fund.

        When I first started adjusting to consulting, I gained about 5 pounds. All of the happy hours, traveling, and dinners are fun/delicious, but fattening. Consulting is fairly image focused, though, at least for women, so this gave me a push to take off all but the last 5 pounds or so. Honestly, I’d love to lose 10-15 more pounds, just so I have a bit of weight wiggle room and don’t feel guilty eating what I want on vacations. I’m on my way and, as I mentioned in my previous comment, it motivates me to feel like I can overcome genetics. Also, obesity runs in my family, so it helps me to think of it in terms of health, not just how I look. Although it sometimes feels like it’s a little harder for me than some of my friends to take/keep weight off, I’m sure that a lot of other people face much harder odds/challenges and can do it, so I can too! Again, for me personally it’s motivating to think that it’s all (or at least mostly) under my control, which is why that’s my outlook. Others might think differently. Whatever works for you and helps you to be happy/healthy!

        In terms of finances, I have the right “average net work amount”, but the majority of it is in post-tax, not pre-tax savings. I’m new to your site (first read about it on the recent GetRichSlowly “what other finance sites do you like” comments), but after scanning through some of your articles, I’ve re-worked my savings plan so that I’m putting more into my 401k and less into my post-tax goals. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make-up for my first 2 years of not saving enough in 401k in the coming years!

    3. Thank you Katie, one of the problems in reading comments on a blog like this is only the above average 50 years old same weight since high school and oh yeah net worth a mil or two. Average joes like us (over weigh and under networthed) tend not to comment. Having said that I really enjoyed his “proof your weight gain….” Because for the first time it stated the obvious, not everyone can lose weight.

      For ladies menopause makes an unbelievable difference, you will gain weight and bloat NO MATTER HOW HAD YOU TRY, this is my wife’s struggle. For me age has meant slowing metabolism, my weight is up inspite of the fact my portion sizes are down.

      As mentioned in the article my wife has been a fitness buff for as long as we’ve been married (almost 30 years) but ballooned out to almost 300lbs (how’s that for you a calorie is a calorie) discovering Atkins she lost well over a 100 lbs but menopause meant it has slowly creep back. Today we work out not to lose weight but to stay in shape. Neither of us will ever be any where close to our “ideal” weight but we’ll be happy.

      Rob, over weight and under net worthed

      1. Katie your correct that for people like us (man it’s been years since I’ve been under 200lbs) we’ll never have the weight or net worth of some of the people here but your correct that we shouldn’t give up. For both my Wife and I we love our P90X I’ll never be able to do a pull up (gotta a lot of weight to pull up) but I am up to 5 proper push ups and the Wife is close to one. So why do we do it, because it feels good.

        Same with money won’t be millionaire when we retire but we will have a comfortable retirement.

  23. I’m a huge believer in the power of making good choices. I run 5x a week and do yoga so I’d say I’m in pretty great shape and I make it work for my busy schedule. I am 24 and my net worth already EXCEEDS the “above average” net worth figure you have in your chart for my age. I also paid off my $33K student debt in just 1.5 years post-graduation, while moving out and living on my own. No handouts from my parents on any account.

    I’d say genetics plays a small part but it’s largely comes down to choices and discipline.

  24. For the majority, it comes down to effort and discipline (amazing how this same concept makes you “fitter” financially as well). Two years ago I had a 38″ waist and did poorly on my yearly fitness test at work (Military Officer). I made a decision to change, adapted a plan, made a goal and two years later am in the best shape of my life at 37. Sure, there are some caveats with a small number of folks who have serious health issues, however, on the whole, I submit that effort and discipline yields results, whether it be in physical or financial fitness.

    Keep in mind, if you’re using models’ in magazines as a measuring stick, very few of us will ever achieve that. A more realistic expectation is that you can become a “better, more optimized” version of who you currently are!

    Also, our current net worth falls right in line with your estimates above for above average net worth at 37.

    1. Were you simply undisciplined when you had a 38″ waist? I thought the military is all about super discipline? Does the military have a fitness/weight guide it’s members must follow?

      1. Why yes, I was and yes the military has fitness standards that I was close to the bottom of for a couple of years. I made a decision to change/improve that, made a plan, implemented it and got results. Just like discipline and dedication to finances, the cocepts correlate nicely.

  25. Interesting how weight/fitness and money/net worth have become controversial similar to religion and politics as subjects that can be difficult. Is the premise, the fitter you are the more likely you will earn more? I presume that the discipline of staying fit crosses over to your personal finances. I think I started my plan for financial independence about the same time I lost a lot of (35-40 lbs.) weight. I doubt if there is a correlation.

    I think weight is a sensitive subject, because it is a rare individual who does not have some weight or body issues. As a former “fat” person, I have ideas about losing weight, but never thought about turning it into a business. I do feel diets and budgets are intertwined.

  26. Mysterious Guy

    Interesting article, and I found that more interesting at the backlash people had with the genetics and weight issue. It seems most people disagree how much genetics play a part: some believe it plays much more than others.

    Also interesting that you try to correlate it with personal finances. I’m with the same boat as another: I find that I care more about my finances than my physical health. However, once my finances are reasonably good, I worry more about my physical health. I believe you have a finite attention on worry about stuff, and if you’re more worried about the immediate issue of finance, you have no time to worry about long-term health.

    As part experiment: I’m slightly above your total net worth for my age. I started work late, so my pre-tax worth is nowhere near your numbers, but my post-tax worth makes up the difference.

    1. Mysterious Guy

      I should add about my health as well. I’ve only started exercising irregularly recently and have dropped my weight down a few pounds. I’m still considered slightly overweight for my height (5’11” weighing 175, being small frame even though my hands are huge).

      Still, this is far better than last year when I was a bit heavier with no exercise.

  27. As one of the genetic dissenters, I find your call out for us to post fair.

    For the health/weight information, I’m 32, weigh in at 155, good cholesterol and blood pressure levels, can run a mile in 7 minutes, have completed one marathon and multiple half marathons, and pretty decent strength. (Deadlift 300+, bench 195, squat 260, clean 155, still need to work on improving clean strength). Per BMI, I’m overweight, but knowing that BMI is set by insurance companies and doesn’t take account muscle, I tend not to focus on that as much, and focus more on performance (running faster, longer, lifting more)

    I’m age 32, but have only had six years of work. (Went to medical school for a time, left it, then completed my masters). Our (my wife and I) net worth as of January is $160,037. We calculate our net worth every six months to check on progress.

    It’s interesting to review my net worth chart. In Jan of 2010, my net worth alone was $101,258 (from saving while doing side jobs in college, and my first three years of working). Once I married my wife, she came with $200,000 of educational debt (optometrist) which we’re working through bit by bit.

    Yes, I don’t meet the net worth targets you listed, but we’re definitely trying hard to get there. We’ve found that we’re increasing our net worth by about $57,000 every six months, so even though we’re behind, we’re planning/spending/saving carefully to catch up.

    Nice follow up post btw.

      1. But, congratulations on the “digging out of debt.” At your current rate you guys will be within the above chart in no time.

      2. 5′ 5″, unfortunately a genetic trait that I had less control over than I would’ve liked. Thus, I’m classified as overweight, even though I feel like I’m in pretty good health.

        Thanks for the congrats! We’re working hard to live a frugal life and model the financial samurai way!

        1. You sound very fit. I can run a 7 minute mile if I really push it but would be pretty spent.

          Normally I’m running a few 8 or 8 1/2 minute miles.

          I think being shorter helps lift more weight too, since the weight travels less distance with each rep- muscles are more powerful over the shorter stride. As someone who is 6’2″ and has arms as long as someone who is 6’5″ I can’t bench all that much (150 lbs) but can crank out pull ups like an orangutang.


    1. Derrick, thanks for your thoughts. Would you say you are above average in terms of how much you know about your strength and fitness? I don’t know many who do deadlifts, squats, and cleans! Ouch, my back.

      I have a feeling those who spent a higher than normal time at the gym or exercising would take the most offense to my post. There is another post called, “Do The Fittest People Have The Lowest Self Esteem?” More negative comments on that one!

      1. Sam, always a pleasure to share. I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on strength and fitness, and some of it definitely stemmed from low self esteem to begin with. I actually began weightlifting in the first place because I was getting physically bullied in junior high.

        I don’t know what “normal time” at the gym is, but I spend about 4-5 hours a week in total. (I’ve saved a lot of time and money by building the necessities for my gym in my basement area, and building the knowledge for what workouts to do over time). As for the deadlifts/squats/cleans, those motions actually do a lot to strengthen your lower back if you train correctly. My lower back has only felt better as I added olympic lifting into my regimen. ;)

  28. I am 5 times ahead on the above average net worth chart for my age, does that mean I have to be 5 times ahead of someone my age for fitness?

    Seriously, I told you about my challenge to fast on 10 separate days this year. I’ve done 2 so far, the results are very good. I am eating much less but still working out the same amount. Unsurprisingly the un-interrupted steady weight gains for the past 6 years are reversing themselves. Down from 205 lbs to 193 at present. Target is 175 lbs, which will be tough but let’s see… for a person who is 6’2″ that is in the ideal weight zone… hopefully will be there by year end.

    Health is more important than wealth. If I couldn’t make progress happen on my own and had to pay for it, it would be worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars to me, providing it is sustainable!


    1. Funny, I’m re-reading this comment 2.5 years later. I got my weight down below 160lbs in mid 2013 and have been close to keeping it there. As I write this I weigh 163lbs, work out normally and don’t feel like depriving myself food wise. So there is more than you think about a healthy weight range.

      I’ll email you directly to talk more.


  29. Sam, I have been rich and I have been poor. I have been fat, and I have been thin. Rich and thin is better. Come on, someone had to say it!:-)

    Seriously, the concept you describe is called Cognitive Egocentrism, where one projects their own mentality on others. This is why people think we can just “understand” and “negotiate” with terrorists so they will join the civilized world, get homeless people to stop drinking and drugging so they can spend the rest of their lives at a low-skill job making subsistence wages instead of getting high and avoiding responsibility, or get political opponents “informed” so they will change their minds. Or not understand why a smart family man would rather play tennis all day instead of building a career, savings, and get an insurance plan.

    Btw, the subject of the post on the Death Row inmate has since been granted clemency, and will not be executed. In fairness to your readers, you certainly could have picked a more sympathetic character than a convicted murderer on Death Row that entered prison a convicted murderer 29 years earlier weighing 250 and now weighs 486 lbs. Perhaps the Devil Effect is in play, here.

    Sad but true, people will disappoint you. It is ok to be bummed out when unexpectedly confronted with a unappealing truth in human nature. When expectations aren’t met it is always a bummer. But you haven’t disappointed yourself, which is the best and most important thing within your control. As to your question on ‘when did our compassion started disappearing’, I wonder if that question might be restated as ‘when did we realize that the world was not very compassionate’. Our original perceptions may have been protected from a harsher reality, and not necessarily accurate.

    There is a proven correlation between wealth and BMI. The heaviest people in the U.S. skew to the lower end of income and educational achievement. But that doesn’t mean there is a causation.

    When you say “(l)et’s not force our ideals on others”, I wonder if you are like the “C” students that try to change perception? Would you also put grades in the same category as weight and wealth?

    Well, this is an interesting intellectual exercise. To directly answer your question, my fitness and net worth correlate. And we can all use a second-look at our abilities to show and have compassion, where it is deserved. Once again, a very worthwhile post, thanks!

    1. Great summary JayCeezy. I think that the correlation between education, wealth, and fitness can be qualified, but not necessarily quantized. I’m obsessed with perfecting all three areas. I have a 30% savings rate, workout 6 days a week, and graduted with a 3.95 GPA MBA. But, at seperate points in my life, my savings were slim to none, I ate an entire box of cinnamon swirls every other day, and my high school GPA was a 2.78. I gradually changed my lifestyle so that now, everything simultaneously correlates. That being said, Sam’s wealth chart assumes that people knews these ideas about finances just like he apparently assumes that there is point in applying nutritional and fitness education.

  30. People with better financial health have more time to spend for exercises and recreational activities, since they do not need to spend all of their time working because they can afford to take it easy or pay someone to do things for them. They also have more money to spend on better food. Though, it will still depend on the person and his/her personality.

    1. @ The College Investor
      I find that as I focus more on my financial health I have less time to dedicate to my physical health. I would like to balance the two a bit better this year – I haven’t exercised all winter.

    2. Disagree. If you have a higher net worth, you’re probably working/have worked damn hard to get it and in turn have a very busy life. It mostly comes down to choices (food/calories) and effort (being physically active in some capacity).

      1. OR people who came from an unwealthy background and made themselves more wealthy by working hard have less time for taking care of themselves. While people who came from richer families and live off the wealth.. maybe do have more time to dedicate to physical health. However I guess a person can come from a very wealthy family and still decide to work hard to become even MORE wealthy which screws up my simple equation ;)

    3. The last I checked, a meatless, non-processed food diet is not expensive at all. Therefore, it comes down to–the magic phrase of the hour–personal choices.

  31. I was surprised how upset some people got in your genetics post. Weight is a highly sensitive topic and I think some people immediately get defensive no matter what is said. Interesting thoughts you raise in this post. My mom has low self control for both saving and eating healthy so there’s a pattern there. But she exercises 5-6 times a week so she does have constant motivation to exercise and lose weight. I wish she was as motivated with her financial situation as she is going to the gym though. I would consider myself both physically and financially fit although I could use more tone ha. Most of the people I know in my social circle who are in their 30’s and 40’s are also both pretty much fit and financially stable. I don’t know anyone obese well enough to know how their finances are.

  32. My fitness level is mediocre, but I’m quite happy with my finance. I hope this break from fitness is temporary though. Once I have more time, I’ll be able to exercise more again.
    I’m doing good according to your chart. My property equity is higher because we have rental properties, but other than that it’s in line.

    You should make a chart for married couple too. You can’t just double it.

    1. I have an easy solution to your marriage net worth chart. I’ll simply raise the values by 12.5% just like how the government raises the income threshold for tax increases for couples by only 12.5% to $450,000 from $400,000 as a single person. Gotta love the way the government thinks! They expect one person to suddenly make much less, or give up their careers once married.

        1. I’m being facetious, but you know that.

          50% higher seems reasonable. 12.5% as per the government’s income tax threshold is ridiculous!

          I’ll get to work on a marriage net worth chart this weekend.

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