Financial Benefits of Healthy Eating (the best $54k I could spend)

Does eating healthy cost more? What are the financial implications of eating a healthier diet? How can we be best prepared for a health disaster in the quest for FIRE? Let’s crunch some numbers and outline some strategies for optimizing finances, health and a rich life!

We are beginning some deeper explorations into managing health and healthcare costs in the quest towards financial independence and retiring early. I will be the first person to say that I love the occasional pizza, hamburger, french fries and chocolate shake! But this needs to be balanced with healthier options most of the time in order to feel energized and have maximum capability to make and invest your money.   First let’s define a “healthy” diet. The mainstream view today is that a healthy diet has the following components: a. Vegetables b. Fruits c. Fish d. Nuts e. Whole grains Now let’s generally define an unhealthy diet (the stuff I eat every once in a while because I am human!) a. processed foods that sit on shelves for a long time b. most mass produced meats c. refined carbs, grains and sugars  

COST OF AVERAGE DIET VS. EATING HEALTHIER

A Harvard medical study looked at metadata and determined that the healthier diet did indeed cost a couple more dollars per day. The average American household spends let’s say an average of $8,000/year on food. The average American household does not practice a healthy diet and eats the standard American diet (SAD). The SAD diet is comprised of highly processed meats, cheap sugar and filler and is stripped of nutrients. There are too many demand signals and government subsidies of unhealthy foods, creating an environment of bad foods that people can hardly resist consuming on a regular basis. The price point and the immediate taste satisfaction of these foods is hard to resist. The Harvard study came up with $1.50 more per day to eat healthy. Let’s make it $5.00 to account for a family and higher cost of living areas. This adds an additional $1,825/year to eat healthier. So for a small family to eat healthier, it would cost $9,825 to eat healthier vs. the average of $8,000.

The bottom line is that over a 30 year period the healthier eating family would have spent about an additional $54,750.

Sounds like a lot and it is, but let’s compare this to the average costs of getting sick, diseased and missing out on productive employment: On a big picture scale, Cancer cost the US over $80 BILLION in 2015. Heart disease costs the US $1 BILLION per day. By 2030 the annual cost of heart disease is expected to reach $818 BILLION and result in lost productivity costs of $275 BILLION. The cost to an individual if they get cancer or heart disease is immense to say the least. This doesn’t even take into account the emotional and spiritual toll that such an experience takes on a person and their surrounding loved ones. If a person is lucky, they have medical insurance to cover the majority of the bills. Let’s assume when crunching our numbers that the person has some medical insurance, otherwise they are immediately bankrupted by the disease. For many people there is at least a year of lost wages. The average American worker earns about $50,000 per year. So with one year of lost wages that pretty much makes up the whole difference in spending more to eat healthier over a 30 year period! Subpar insurance coverage may not cover all the costs of expensive medications or treatments. These bills can run in the hundreds of thousands over many years! Again, this makes the $54k in healthier eating over 30 years seem much more reasonable.

STRATEGIES TO MANAGE COSTS

What can we do to protect ourselves and our families from the financial carnage of a serious disease or illness? Don’t smoke. Every time I see someone smoking nowadays I really wonder what the heck they are thinking. It costs a ton of money, like smoking the cost of a house over years, not to mention the risk of heart disease and other diseases. Seek less expensive generic drugs. Many drug companies also offer assistance programs that will get you discounted medication. Ensure good quality health insurance. In my mind, this is one of the hardest elements to get in place in order to fully achieve FIRE. “The most important thing you can do to protect yourself is make sure that you have adequate health insurance,” says cardiologist Paul A. Heidenreich, MD, associate professor of medicine at Stanford University. The health care reform law prevents insurers from declining coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Disability insurance. If you’re healthy, obtaining disability insurance could be a smart idea. It will replace some of the lost income we discussed if you ever become disabled by heart disease or another condition and can’t work.  

FINAL THOUGHTS & STRATEGIES

I personally try to find balance in all things in life. The same holds true for food. I like the occasional pizza and candy bar, but in order to feel good and be most productive I find the kind of fuel I put in my body makes a huge difference. The standard American diet (SAD) is proven to lead to a whole host of health problems. And the problems are not all down the road 30 years from now. What about the brain fog, tiredness, stomach problems etc. that can come from a poor diet? Those impact us now. Yes, buying vegetables, fish, blueberries, etc. may cost a bit more at the checkout station, but I would argue it is well worth it. Food is a foundational function of a life of True Wealth. Think about how you feel when enjoying a delicious and nutritious meal with your family and friends? This is a simple and immediate way to enjoy a life of wealth and riches that has little to do with ones bank account or investments. http://oracle.davidkanter.com/2018/10/12/6-ways-to-invest-in-your-heart-health/

AVERAGE US SPENDING ON FOOD AND OTHER BUDGET ITEMS

INFO GRAPHIC FROM CREDIT LOAN

  THIS IS NOT HEALTH OR INSURANCE ADVICE TO ANYONE. THE FIGURES PRESENTED ARE ESTIMATES AND JUST USED FOR ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSES. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED HERE ARE ONLY THE AUTHORS.

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