Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Healthy Habits: The Intersection of Money, Health, and Happiness

Leveraging Your Financial Intelligence: At the Intersection of Money, Health, and Happiness is a new release from Doug Lennick, Roy Geer and Ryan Goulart. The authors represent starkly different generations and backgrounds. Doug is a CFP and member of the baby boomer generation. This is the sixth book he has authored or co-authored. Doug and co-author Fred Kiel’s book Moral Intelligence was recognized by the Harvard Business Review as a must read. Roy is a member of the silent generation and creator of a tool that has helped thousands achieve happiness. (Roy passed away before the release of the book). Ryan is a millennial who earned his degree in neuroscience. Together they offer proven research and eye-opening personal stories about the power of money and how all of us can harness that power to live happier and healthier lives. This book is for everyone, whether you are living check-to-check or sitting on a hefty savings.

Money, Health and Happiness
It’s no secret that when you are financially stressed it directly affects your physical and emotional wellbeing. Research shows cases of heart disease, stroke, diabetes ulcers, arthritis and a whole host of other conditions go up in households where the annual income is lower.
For example:
Incidence of Diabetes
11.0 - In Households with an annual income of $35,000 or less.
5.9 - In Households with an annual income of $100,000 or more.

Incidence of Heart Disease
8.1 - In Households with an annual income of $35,000 or less.
4.9 - In Households with an annual income of $100,000 or more.

Doug, Roy and Ryan provide countless other examples of the connection between money and health. Money and happiness, while connected, can be complicated. We all agree that money provides comfort and security which are components of happiness. However, the idea is to have enough, not more. The book uses personal stories and research to better illustrate this connection.
After establishing the role money plays in our lives, Doug, Roy and Ryan outline how readers can build and leverage their financial intelligence to live a healthier, happier and more fulfilling life.
The goal is to plan for the certainty of uncertainty. Using this premise, the authors guide readers through several common life scenarios to better cement the necessity of taking hold of your finances. One key concept of the book is the Smart Money Plan which starts with a roadmap for worst-case scenarios related to life, health and the economy before moving to more desirable life scenarios.

I had a chance to interview Ryan to learn more.

What is financial intelligence?
  • Financial Intelligence  is the capacity to make smart, responsible, values-based decisions with and about money in the presence of competing and difficult to deal with emotions. One develops this by first understanding the values that one has individually and applying them everyday life. You can take advantage of this free exercise here:
How do finances, health, and happiness relate?
  • Let’s assume that many of you have experienced a situation in the past where stress has affected your financial, physical or emotional health. Think about how that felt. Think about how that feeling affected your ability to make effective decisions. Think about how those ineffective decisions caused you to reach for or do things that weren’t good for your health. More specifically, let’s focus on financial stress and its influence on our physical and emotional well being.  
  • One of the main tenets throughout our book is how financial stress affects our physical and emotional well being. Similar to your own experience, when financial stress rises, your ability to handle things emotionally goes down. As your ability to handle things emotionally goes down, your irrational decision-making goes up. And as your irrational decision making goes up, your physical and emotional well being go down. This is what we call misery. It is miserable to live in this type of situation. Conversely, if you leverage your financial intelligence, you can create wisdom. As you decrease your financial stress, your ability to handle things emotionally goes up. As your ability to handle things emotional goes up, irrational decision-making goes down. As irrational decision-making goes down, your physical and emotional well being go up. By understanding your values and making decisions consistent with them you are able to limit your financial stress and therefore improve your physical and emotional well-being.

If someone hasn’t yet begun savings, how can they start?
  • As silly as this sounds, starting means starting. It is not about how much you start with, but rather it is about starting. Let’s say that you are 25 years of age and decide to start saving $50 a month may sound like a little (and might mean two fewer cups of coffee per month) but over a 40 year period its worth $98,429 when put into a mutual fund at a 6% return.

What was the most surprising thing you found in the research for your book?
  • Financial stress knows no age, income level, gender or race. Consistently the interviews from doctors to families from well off people to accumulators resulted in stories of periods of high financial stress which affected there physical health. As financial stress affected people’s physical health consistently, their reports of emotional well-being went down.  It is this prevalence of financial stress that was shocking and equally shocking was the way people were able to decrease it by focusing on who they are ideally.

What sets your book apart from other financial guides?
  • The purpose of this book is to improve one’s life by addressing areas of behavior. If you want to understand your current condition regarding your financial and physical health and emotional well being look into your past behaviors. If you want to predict your future condition look into your present behaviors. If you want your future condition to look different, change your behaviors now.  Our behaviors end up getting us in trouble, but they are also what will ultimately result in our success.

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