More important than saving, charges or advice

If you’re reading this, there is a reasonable chance you will be obese, if not now then in the not too distant future. According to a report published earlier this month by the National Obesity Forum, at least half of the UK population will be obese by 2050. In fact, the experts claim this forecast is an underestimate of the true scale of the problem.

Obesity brings with it a host of problems and challenges, not least a whole raft of chronic diseases. That it is entirely preventable by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle makes the likely appearance of a ‘Fat Britain’ something quite shameful for our nation. Move over smoking, the NHS has a bigger (no pun intended) health crisis coming down the tracks.

I write this as someone who was, for a short period of time, technically obese. As measured by the not always reliable Body Mass Index (BMI), I tipped the scales to a BMI of just over 30 at the end of 2011. This was thankfully all the motivation I needed to turn my health around, drop 70lbs in the space of nine months and discover the various benefits of regular exercise.

The word ‘holistic’ gets thrown around a lot in the world of Financial Planning. In the past, I’ve been slightly critical of the shift by some advisers towards Life Planning, with its hippy mantras and propensity for practicing yoga. As someone who usually aims to avoid making their clients cry during meetings, it has always felt like too much of a leap from the more money focused Financial Planning.

But perhaps some form of Life Planning is needed and can have a bigger impact, particularly for retirement planning, than Financial Planning in isolation. For all the advice we can deliver helping a client accumulate sufficient wealth to live a desired lifestyle in later life, what good is it if they are eating themselves into a miserable retirement loaded with chronic health problems and an early grave.

It probably isn’t the role of the Financial Planner to dish out diet and exercise advice though. Even the yoga pants wearing Life Planner might consider this too much of a stretch. What options does this leave us with?

Perhaps we should all be more selective about those we choose to work with. Following a Financial Plan to achieve specific goals requires a lot of dedication. Asking that of someone who lacks the willpower to eat healthily or visit the gym more than once a month is probably destined to failure.

That is not to say we should fail to welcome through our office doors those who both need our help and express a desire to change their behaviour. We should however be realistic about the long-term impact we can make, even with the most technically brilliant Financial Planning, to those who choose to sabotage their life and health by making certain lifestyle choices.

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6 thoughts on “More important than saving, charges or advice

  • Good work, Martin. It’s made me think a bit more, and given me an idea for another article. One question for now, what was the most powerful motivating factor in creating the initial motivation to change?

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    • Thanks, Phil. Personally it was a range of motivating factors which motivated me to change, but the most powerful was probably becoming conscious that I was, in a sense, failing my daughter by not being in optimum health.

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      • Same with me Martin, I gave up smoking in 2007 but never really did anything else different.

        I had two children, in 2009 and 2011, and decided that if I wanted to be running around with them throughout their childhood I’d need to buck my ideas up. I’m now fitter and healthier than I have ever been, probably since the age of 14 (when I started smoking).

        That said, perhaps a recommendation to have children, with the associated financial burden, is not quite the most suitable suggestion to motivate lifestyle change. I would add however, that my long and short term savings have also been reset and put back on track, as has appropriate protection and proper wills to boot, so maybe kids is the answer?

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  • Martin, from a personal perspective I agree with you 100%. Health and fitness is an important aspect of my life sadly losing my father at a young age and having a mother with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I once heard a quote on a podcast that told people to “invest in your own health” and this really struck home with me. Well done on the weight/fat loss.

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    • Thanks, Adam. Sorry to hear about your personal experiences and I agree that investing in our health is as important, if not more important, than investing in our personal finances.

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  • MIne is a similar theme but perhaps a little further down the track..

    My grandchildren have always known me for my passion for cycling and football and although I have always been ” fit ” -whatever that means – when one boy followed me onto the bike and the other developed a passion for sailing I decided that I would do whatever it takes to remain able to join in with them whenever possible. Which I am delighted to say I do having last week done a 50 mile ride with the 12 year old = I am 69 and crewed in the Christmas dinghy race with the 14 year old on a very cold lake..

    They have me down as being a triple digit in age terms which I hope will one day be reality.

    As far as the obesity issue goes I was privileged last year to take part in some research into the effects of long term exercise on the ageing process and obesity at Guys Hospital.

    The Government has no idea of the cost to the State of obesity or of us living longer and has commissioned some data research and fortuitously the consultant heading up the project was a cyclist who I managed to persuade to include me as a volunteer.

    The project is ongoing but if anyone doubts the wisdom of looking after your health it will amaze you when published..

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