Here are three big questions:
Do you know how much money is in your checking account right now?
Would you buy a new car without first researching what you wanted?
If you were given $1 million at birth to cover all your expenses in your lifetime, would you cross your fingers and hope it would last until your final breath?
Most likely, you have at least a rough idea of how much money is in your checking account right now, and you probably won't be waiting until the year 2012 to check it next.
You wouldn't show up to buy a car without knowing what you want, why you want it, and what you can afford.
And if you were given $1 million to cover all of your lifetime expenses, you wouldn't ignore the potential power in that chunk of change. You would find the investments with the highest return and optimize each dollar.
So why do we treat our health differently than any other asset?
Health as an Asset
Health insurance hasn't always been a part of an employment compensation package. It was born out of a World War II wage-freeze. Employers began looking for fringe benefits to attract employees, and health care eventually become a national benefit of employment.
While this system originally increased the number of people who had access to health care coverage, for many of us it has also functioned in loco parentis--in the place of a parent--creating an alarming lack of awareness in our own health and health care consumption.
But health care changes are brewing, and with the advent of more economics-based models, such as consumer-driven health plans, we have the opportunity to begin treating our health as the asset that it is. Here's how:
- Know your "bank balance." Just like not knowing the balance in your checking account, if you don't know your cholesterol, fasting glucose, blood pressure, BMI, weight, and lifestyle/genetics risk factors, you can't know when there has been a change that should concern you. Don't wait until you're overdrawn to find out what your balance is.
- Get informed and ask questions. Before you visit with a health care professional, know what you want to get out of your appointment. Do your own research and have an idea of what you think will work for you and what won't. Your health care provider is your partner in building and maintaining your health and will likely appreciate your level of engagement. MayoClinic.com is a thorough and reliable resource for health information.
- Build your capital. Treat your health like an asset. Commit to taking daily actions that build this form of capital. The little actions (parking farther from the store entrance) and big actions (ready to quit smoking?) all matter.
Your health capital funds your ability to build the other forms of capital in your professional and personal visions. And the power of compounding interest doesn't just apply to your IRA.