“Health is wealth.” —Enough people to render it unjust to attribute to any single person.
Striving to retire early is an ambitious goal that can feel all-consuming on its own. When you become entrenched in calculations and frugal habits, it can be easy to neglect other areas of your life. What deserves more attention and what we’ll explore in today’s lesson, alongside your early retirement goal, is health.
I don’t claim to be a health expert, but while working toward my own financial independence and early retirement, I’ve learned the value of spending time, energy, and money to invest in my health. There are plenty of health gurus (and some charlatans) online, so it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the volume of advice that we should all be following to be more this or more that. I used to play tennis at a competitive level, and while I never became a professional player, many years of training have helped me to approach my health as an adult with a simple formula.
To invest in my health, I have set myself ground rules:
Listen to your body after exercise and after consumption. I gave up alcohol five years ago when I started noticing the ill effects it had on my health. We’re always being told to cut down on our drinking, but for me, cutting it out was the only way to improve my skin ailments, like eczema.
Focus on cutting back rather than cutting out. This sounds like it’s completely contradicting what I’ve written above, but just because I completely removed alcohol from my life, I don’t have to apply this to every other item of food or drink that contributes to inflammation.
Incremental changes are more sustainable in the long term. I like to refer to this as the January 1st effect. This is when, in the last few days of December, you’re committed to making a radical change to your lifestyle. You want a big change, so you believe that it’s only possible to achieve through big action. All the research on successful lifestyle changes says the same thing: Start with small steps. The risk of attempting big action is that you’ll rarely have the staying power to stick with something that’s too challenging.
Before spending money, create the habit. Money gives us shelter, food, and warmth, so it’s natural to assume it can fix our health issues, but this is only if we’re first willing to change how we behave. Buying that fitness tracker will not make you exercise more. Instead use the fitness tracker as a reward when you’ve completed ten workouts. You’ll feel so much better about getting the tracker and having established a new habit. No amount of new gear will play a key role in your ability to keep a healthy habit.
Keep perspective and embrace trial and error. Stop being so hard on yourself. You’re going to have days where you’re absolutely nailing your new habit, but there will be days when you’ve slept badly, and suddenly, it feels all too tempting to reach for that donut instead of a nutritious snack. Accept that those days will come, but also focus on not letting those days derail all your efforts.
There’s no point being able to retire in your 40s if you’ve spent your 20s focusing solely on your career and neglecting your physical and mental health.
Insurance and Money Protection
The other side to consider is money to help with health costs in early retirement. If you currently work full time and have medical insurance as part of your benefits package, it’s worth taking some time to consider whether you can support those costs if you leave your paid employer. Some decide to work part time and cut back their hours to the minimum required in order to keep private health insurance.
There’s a great deal of ground to cover when it comes to supporting your physical and mental well-being, and even a whole course will only scratch the surface. Stay open to advice, and never stop doing research to improve your health. Your early retired self will thank you. Tomorrow, you’ll be completing the final lesson in this course. We’ll look more closely at what you’ll do during early retirement.
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