How lifestyle can affect your financial health

'Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise', or so the saying goes. Many of us choose to get up early to beat the Jakarta traffic while the rigours of the day usually result in an early retreat to bed. Not sure if it all makes us healthy, wealthy and wise but there is certainly a correlation between lifestyle, health and wealth. Let's look at some of the issues.


It has been estimated that a 65-year old couple in the US would need to spend $200,000 on healthcare during retirement based on the man living to 80 and the woman to 85. Agreed, medical care in the US is very expensive but costs are escalating everywhere. If you are in employment there is a good chance that you have medical insurance but one day you will have to pay for it yourself or 'pay as you go' which could be financially crippling. Of course you may decide to return to your home country and 'enjoy' the benefits of free healthcare. If you are British and you choose the latter option you are in for a shock. The once world-leading National Health Service is creaking at the seams. You may still receive adequate emergency treatment but if you need non-urgent surgery such as a replacement knee you may have to wait your turn for several years. Many people die before their turn comes up, which of course helps shorten the list. It is even rumoured that there is a ten-month waiting list at abortion clinics.


When Gordon Brown was Prime Minister he raised a few eyebrows when in a New Year message to healthcare staff he indicated that people may have to fulfil 'new responsibilities' in order to establish their right to care. While no-one is likely to be refused treatment in an emergency, patients who smoke, drink heavily or become seriously overweight are increasingly being refused places on waiting lists for elective treatments and even non-urgent heart surgery. As anywhere in the world, if you are wealthy you can jump the queues and opt for private treatment, but at considerable cost.


A growing body of evidence points to the fact that moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week can substantially reduce the risk of developing some of the most costly and debilitating conditions including heart disease, cancer, stroke and even dementia. If you can stave off dementia and live on your own longer you can avoid the huge expense of long term care. But there are also immediate cost benefits. Being in good health in your earlier years means you will pay the lowest premiums for life, critical illness or income protection insurance, whilst any serious condition will preclude you from insurance cover or result in a higher premium.

Some health insurers have been slashing premiums for those who allow their diet and exercise regimes to be monitored. Others are offering discounted membership of gyms.

Other benefits of a healthy lifestyle? Less time off work, greater alertness and a greater chance of advancing your career with the accompanying financial benefits.


How many times have you heard comments such as 'my father smoked like a chimney and lived to his nineties'? How many great world leaders have survived to old age even though they were smokers? Indeed, such cases are true, but in the past our lungs were not bombarded with the high levels of pollution that surround us today. Few people are now likely to live to a ripe old age if they combine smoking with the other toxins in the air that we cannot avoid. In the past few years I have attended funerals of four acquaintances. Two of them were in their sixties and two in their eighties. And guess what? The two in their sixties were smokers and the two in their eighties were not. Hardly a big enough sample to prove a point but you tell that to an insurance company! If you are a smoker and you apply for life or critical illness insurance you could find the premium is at least 50% higher than that applied to non-smokers. One bright spot for smokers - they can often obtain more generous annuities. These are pensions that are paid out as long as you are alive.


It is never easy to break away from lifetime habits. But if you feel your lifestyle is affecting your health and is threatening to hurt your pocket then it could be worth making a supreme effort to change things. There are endless opportunities to participate in sports in Jakarta. There are plenty of gyms if you are not too keen on the outdoors. Not all sports require Olympic standards.

'Hashing' is an example of a sport for all ages and abilities. You are made welcome whether you can run a fast 10k or if you can just walk once around the beer truck. It gets you out and into a new routine. You also get to see parts of the countryside and local life that the average expat would never see. The run is usually followed by a social 'circle' where everyone can relax, tell jokes, sing or just insult all the other nationalities in the circle. Almost nothing is sacred and no-one needs to get embarrassed. If you have a long nose you may get a 'Hash' name reflecting that. One of my friends is not in the least bothered to be known as 'Elf' because he is short. The important thing is to get some exercise, usually well outside the city, and to have a good laugh. It all makes for stress reduction and a feeling of well-being the next day (bruises and hangovers excepted). There are several Hash 'Chapters' in Jakarta and I will be happy to point anyone who is interested in the right direction.


It is certainly outweighed by the obvious benefits, both physical and financial, of a healthy lifestyle but there is another issue that has to be faced. If you are to live well into your eighties or nineties you are going to need a significant amount of wealth or pension to fully enjoy those extra years. Few people, particularly expatriates, have properly prepared for retirement. Most are also unaware of the serious changes that are happening in the field of pensions as financially crippled governments struggle to balance their budgets.

But more on this next time, unless the current turmoil in the financial markets takes a more serious turn for the worse, in which case I will have something even more depressing than pensions to write about. In the meantime, stay fit and healthy. See you in the gym!

Colin Bloodworth has worked as a financial consultant in Indonesia since 1992. He is Director of PPI Indonesia and can be contacted at or +62 21 3004 8024