Wealth up, health down.
I’m 34, so the next decade will likely see my health and wealth at a combined maximum. In some arbitrary units of measurement, my wealth will wave to my health as they pass each other on the mountainside. Wealth up, health down.
I’m fortunate to be building wealth, and be physically fit, but my two curves are nonetheless going to cross. At some point before 50, I’ll be comparatively wealthier than I will be healthy. Yes this is terrible science, but it illustrates my point. Depending on your age, your wave may have been a while ago, or is still yet to come.
Health and wealth, to an optimum level for each of us, strike me as two fundamental ingredients to a life of freedom. Freedom in this context is loosely defined as an extreme degree of control in how you allocate time and gain satisfaction.
Dying slower (aka Health)
As we age, our health declines. Yes, there’s plenty that can be done to maintain overall health, but if you’re fortunate to be able to avoid lifestyle disease, then the overall trend is pretty clear. Down.
Slowing the descent and staying healthier than most is so well understood it makes you boring at parties; get enough sleep, a varied and wholesome diet, minimise drinking, don’t smoke, and regularly exercise.
Unfortunately we’re all a messy byproduct of our parents’ unmet needs and botched overcompensating, so realisations and self-directed learning can take decades to materialise out of our familial fog. Discovering healthy habits later in life is better than not discovering them at all, but being taught or discovering them as an adolescent seems logically preferable in the long run.
Fortunately as we age, we can get more in tune with our bodies, we can build stronger relationships, and improve our mental health - all grossly underestimated impacts on quality of life. Again, however, ideally one can do yoga, form rich relationships, and meditate from a younger rather than older age.
Ironically the large majority of developed countries have been able to steer their populations away from self-induced disease. One might argue populations of advanced economies are actually steered aggressively into lifestyle disease by chrony capitalism.
If we consider free will an illusion, however, then can anyone can be blamed for lifestyle ill-health? Sam Harris is devastatingly compelling on the illusion of free will, and at another time we can discuss in relation to lifestyle disease.
Wealth on the other hand, has a tendency to increase as we age, so long as one can avoid catastrophic ruin.
The benefits of compounding and increased earning capacity as we mature, ie more time on earth, theoretically give us more time to accumulate wealth.
However this only applies on average, as the bottom half of populations own essentially no assets, ie no "wealth".
What does building wealth have to do with health?
We can simplify wealth creation
- Being alive long enough to do it (while health declines)
- Creating or investing in something of value, and capture a share
- Not losing it
This raises an important question, what’s the optimal approach? Ends of the continuum are easily suboptimal; working so hard that one dies young of a heart attack, or not gaining enough wealth to enjoy life outside of a salaried office.
The pursuit of freedom, then, is the race to build wealth fast enough, while you're still healthy enough to enjoy it. In another article, we'll try and figure out how much might be enough.
In the meantime, don't kill yourself trying to get free.