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You Are So Money

You Are So Money

Most men use their health in the first half of their life to gain wealth, only to turn around in the second half of their life and spend their wealth in an attempt to regain their health.

— Chinese patient, CEO of a major company, during a consult for facial rejuvenation

Wealth and health – their one letter difference belies the vast tension between these two life pursuits. Most of us learn at an early age that money and health really matter, and rarely come easy. But what of the potential for one to rob from the other?
In my vault of childhood memories I recall phrases like;

“put your money where your mouth is”

“you bet your bottom dollar”

“he is emotionally bankrupt.”

Not only did money appear important, but most adults seemed to consider money an extension of the human body. I remember times of intense stress in our home because money “doesn’t just grow on trees.” What was the consequence of being “penny wise and pound foolish?” By the age of 9, I knew the answer – emotional and physical dis-ease.

The delicate relationship between wealth and health has changed little in our society since I was a kid. Back then I was pulling my own teeth out to get a buck from the tooth fairy. Now, my fellow adult sojourners and I seem to be engaged in a similar, albeit higher-stakes, body-for-money exchange.

According to the American Psychological Association Stress in America 2012 Report, money (69 %) work (65 %) and the economy (61 %) remain the most oft-cited sources of stress for Americans. What was the most common reason given by adults for not doing more to manage their stress? “Being too busy” or “Not having enough time” topped the list in the 2012 APA report.

Everyone who is missing the tooth fairy right now, please raise your hand.

If you need another reason to keep reading, add this to your list of why considering wealth and health matters. It appears that stress reduction – typified by better money management – is now an important anti-aging strategy. Yeah, they didn’t teach me that in cosmetic surgery school either.

In a landmark 2004 study by researchers at The University of California- San Francisco, excess stress was proven to cause shortening of telomeres (age controls at the end of your chromosomes) and premature aging. Money —> stress —> premature aging. It turns out my momma was right – you really do bet your butt.

Ready for some advice that can help prevent short telomeres, thinning hair, flabby arms, and wrinkles?

Let’s bring in the financial specialist.

Caleb Ng is a rising star in the world of finance in Canada. After piloting me (Cessna 182) to beautiful Long Beach, Tofino, we sat on the remote B.C. coastline and talked about, well, pay dirt.

Me:

When we were waiting for the weather to clear in Victoria you said to me, “most people don’t get finance. They understand investing to a certain degree, but they are lost when it comes to finance.” Explain.

Caleb:

Most people’s jobs do not pay them to understand money. The majority of people spend their entire life honing their skills to become an expert at their profession by producing a non-financial product or service, which in turn benefits them in the form of a salary. Then there are others whose job day-in, day-out is to study the product of money itself, and to harness the adage of money-making-money.

Understandably, because the finance field attracts the brightest minds insofar as there certainly is no dearth of MIT graduates on Wall Street, true finance becomes incomprehensible real quick. This is all to the advantage of those who are ‘in the know.’

“Knowledge is power and financial institutions never go without a profit off the backs of client dollars…”

If someone asked you to simply calculate the first three years of your mortgage amortization and accordingly each year’s interest payment, could you? Do you know the difference between an annual percentage rate (APR) and an annual percentage yield (APY), rates that everyone who has bank account deals with on a continual basis? Don’t worry if you can’t, as many financial professionals’ on a retail level would be clueless as well.

Me:

I have written and lectured on the money-health challenge from a doctor’s perspective. Can you offer some insights from your side of this counseling table?

Caleb:

The parallel of physical health in financial health would be, at best, contentedness. Peace of mind with your finances adds to inner peace, which is essential to good health.

With a good doctor, a semi-conservative accountant, and an adept investment advisor, you’ll live longer, look younger, and sleep better. The problem therein lies with those who define their needs as, “more,” or “not enough,” because unlike being physically sick, the disease of living for more is insidious, less noticeable, time consuming and telomere zapping. One needs to know who they are and therefore what they want, how to get there, and when they’ve arrived. And it’s not because of what the Jones’ are doing. Contentedness is subjective, but each person must define it for him or herself. Once your plan has been formulated, get regular check ups!

Like your physical health, denial is not a recommended option when it comes to financial fitness.

(Remember that uncle who never went to the doctor? RIP.) Furthermore, a plan consisting of nothing more than hope and prayers is an exercise in futility and I’ve seen that far too often. Protect and grow your assets; manage your liabilities; and down more green drinks!

Me:

You may not be able to help us master our money right now, but have you any additional tips you can share with the audience?

Caleb:

Consider this: when economies drop into deep recession; jobs diminish and fear strikes the headlines, what happens to most well-run businesses? They keep on as business per usual, emerging stronger in the end. Remember, as long as there are people working, and businesses running, there is always investment money to be made – you just have to know where to look. Arguably, stress is most often caused by fear of the unknown, so invest wisely and do it early.

Speaking of early investment, nowhere is time (and aging) more venerated than in the field of finance – where the time value of money and compounding are oft heard, but rarely understood.

For if it were, there would be many more adherents. To sum it up, the importance of starting early and intentionally cannot be emphasized enough.

Last of all is, be consistent and methodical. As it is said, “Investing should be more like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas.”

While the paint does dry, and the grass does grow, so also will it be with your pennies multiplied.

 


Caleb Ng, CFA, MBA is a money manager and stock picker that believes, apart from owning great companies, life isn’t all about money, and there is a child in all of us. Caleb is a certified ARISE MD Sherpa.

Resources

Full APA Stress in America report: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2012/report-summary.aspx

Practical money saving tips: Article — 10 Stupid Ways That Smart People Waste Money

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