After four years of chemical engineering training in college, four more of medical school, one year of internship, and four more years of residency, I have spent the majority of my adulthood learning about science, the human body, medicine, and cancer. And as a result, I know nothing about finances and investing. Absolutely nothing.
Don’t get me wrong – I am perfectly happy with my decision. From a financial point of view, I invested in myself. But I really know nothing about finances.
Investing and Health
Now that I am all grown up, I need to start learning, so I did some investment research and decided to dive in. During my first foray I bought some stocks through Etrade. Things were going smoothly. And then they weren’t. In a matter of a week, I was checking the ups and downs of the market fifteen times per day, with each one eliciting a visceral response of joy or terror, and never anything in-between. It got so bad that I had to put limits on how often I allowed myself to check my investments.
These limits did not work. The stress over this small amount of money was all-encompassing. I began researching more and more regarding investing, though frankly I have little desire to spend my free time reading about stocks prices and predictions and would rather spend my time reading about health and lifestyle, writing, staying active physically and mentally, and enjoying a nice glass of red wine with my dinner.
I view optimal health as a multi-headed hydra, with these heads representing food, physical activity, mental activity and relaxation, sleep, and stress management. Much like defeating the hydra in the Legend of Zelda, each head must be conquered to succeed. The stress management head was definitely getting the best of me each time I logged into my account and this began to disturb other areas of my health.
Dollar Cost Averaging Your Finances
I am the last person in the entire world qualified to give financial advice, and my heap of medical school loans have left most of my choices easy as I hate debt. I do know enough to know that I do not know enough. I also know enough about myself to know that I cannot deal with not knowing enough.
Then I encountered dollar cost averaging. According to Investopedia, dollar cost averaging is:
“The technique of buying a fixed dollar amount of a particular investment on a regular schedule, regardless of the share price. More shares are purchased when prices are low, and fewer shares are bought when prices are high.”
Basically, this strategy involves putting a fixed amount of money into something like an index fund, and ignoring the fluctuations of the market – and definitely not checking my Etrade account fifteen times per day. It allows me to worry less about the daily fluctuations and instead put my trust that over decades, my money will grow alongside the economy.
The interesting part about dollar cost averaging is not the argument that ensues over whether this investment strategy is most lucrative, but it is generally considered to be a stress-free or lower stress method of investing.
Health Cost Averaging – Dollar Cost Averaging your Health
While dollar cost averaging our savings may or may not make sense (it does to me, but again I know nothing about finances), following the same algorithm with our health does. In fact, giving your health a consistent effort regardless of whether times are good or bad to watch it remain strong over the long-haul is definitely a prudent financial investment decision.
Health Cost Averaging – My 6 Steps
- Sleep: I get at least eight hours of sleep nightly. Dipping below is a rarity for me, and very rarely do I even get 7.5 hours. It would take an earthquake or something similar for me to get less than 7 hours. Sleep cannot be gathered piecemeal, with 5 hours one night and 11 the next. Sleep must be cost averaged. I learned this the hard way after pulling all-nighters at MIT. One day I decided 7-8 hours per night was my new absolute minimum for the rest of college. I watched my GPA skyrocket.
- Alcohol/Substances: I enjoy a nightly glass of red as much as the next person, yet we often forget that binging on alcohol can be extremely detrimental to our health. Countering with coffee the next day may be even worse. Even those who follow a strict lifestyle often neglect their body when it comes to happy hours or alcohol on the weekends. One drink a night is fine, 7 on Friday night is not. I aim to avoid all prescription and over the counter meds and have a zero tolerance policy on sleep medications.
- Activity (Exercise): During stressful times, people often exercise less. Regardless of whether we have the time, energy, or even willpower to workout, a steady state of activity must occur on a daily basis. This includes going for a walk, walking on the treadmill, running stress-busting sprints, lifting heavy weights, or taking a class that teaches us something while we exercise. I am a fan of intermixing more intense activities with large amounts of walking. I never take the steps and park in the back corner at work to help increase my daily step count.
- Meditation: Regardless of whether your form of meditation is a leisurely walk, digging into a book, or chanting “Om Bhaskaraya Namaha” in the Buddha position, some part of our day must include a meditative relaxation period to keep our mental health strong.
- Food: Perhaps most important on this list, it is hard to offset the stress of work or other aspects of daily life without wholesome and nutritious meals. Luckily, cooking meals is my source of meditation, guaranteeing that I am providing myself a healthy dinner with healthy leftovers for lunch the following day, all while meditating my stress away. Carbs are kept low, fat is kept high, and protein is kept moderate to low, leaving me with the heartiest, healthiest, and most delicious food to provide a consistent amount of nutrition to my body. These foods also never leave me hungry or craving food, helping me to feel better throughout the day.
- Positive Surroundings: I consistently strive to surround myself with positive people and – as much as possible – eliminate my interactions with negative people. I deal with terminally ill people on a daily basis and my friends and loved ones provide me a social outlet that cannot be compromised and must be available day in and day out. Including negative and toxic people in my circle distracts me from my vital interactions with positive people in my life, and there is no room for this.
Onward – Doing the Opposite
Oftentimes when people invest and try to beat the market, they end up investing and removing money at the wrong time as a response to panic, fear, or stress. More often than not, our response to health is no different. During those stressful and busy times, we need to ensure that we follow the 6 steps above for optimal Health Cost Averaging.
When work is stressful, cooking dinner (meditation) made up of the healthiest ingredients (food) powers us to thrive and be our best. Our personal relationships (positive surroundings) and exercise habits (activity) help us to eliminate stress. Relying on a full night’s rest (sleep), instead of alcohol or other substances ensures that we are primed for the following day. Turning a stressful day into one too many drinks and a late night, leaves no time to cook healthy food and results in a poor night’s rest, compounding all the problems from the day.
Investing in our health is the best financial investment we can make. Regardless of whether dollar cost averaging is a prudent financial decision, Health Cost Averaging is a prudent choice to achieve optimal health.
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