31 causes of failure #6: ill health

sick butterfly

I abandoned this series (based on the 31 causes of failure Napoleon Hill lists in his classic Think and Grow Rich) for a while, but then I decided that abandoning it was actually succumbing to the fifth and most recent cause I wrote about: Lack of self-discipline. Unfortunately the next cause of failure is one that’s somewhat out of our control: ill health. I’d like to put ‘ill health’ into two different categories and examine why one of them is far more likely to be a cause of failure than the other.

The first category is out of our control. You can get sick for reasons completely outside your control: you can have a genetic disposition towards cancer, or suffer a car accident or simply be unlucky enough to come down with some disease. It happens; we’ve all heard anecdotes about perfectly healthy people who suddenly got ill for one reason or another.

The second category is more unpleasant: illnesses you cause. You eat too much junk food and become obese: say hi to heart troubles, diabetes and hypertension. Smoke and you invite cancer. Live a stressful lifestyle? Get ready for all sorts of illnesses. It’s easy to assign blame, of course, for blatantly bad behavior. But most people indulge in some behavior that’s not ideal; few of us are perfect exercise machines with carefully and consistently monitored food intake.

Here’s the kicker about ill health, though. More than any other item in this ’causes of failure’ series, ill health can derail your plans and prevent you from achieving your goals. Why? Just read.

  • Medical bills make up half of bankruptcies
  • Half of Bankruptcies Due to Medical Bills, Harvard Study Says
  • bnet: Medical expenses responsible for half of U.S. bankruptcies, according to new survey.
  • Healthcare Crisis In America Medical bankruptcy: middle class families at risk (Dr. Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Law School, Testimony before House Judiciary Committee 2007).

29% of people with credit card debt indicated that some of that debt was medical-related. It’s a bit dated, but a 2006 USA Today, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard School of Public Health survey showed that 25% of the households affected by cancer said they had used up all their savings dealing with the fallout from cancer, and one-tenth could not afford basics such as food, heat and housing. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world without a universal health insurance system. U.S. health care spending is approximately $2 trillion per year, or $6,697 per person. The United States continues to spend significantly more on health care than other countries in the world.

In 2006, the U.S. census reported that more than 45 million Americans had no health insurance; more than 9 million children lacked health insurance in America (those are dated stats, of course). I don’t intend to get into politics for more than a second here, but the health care bill – mockingly and (in my opinion) disrespectfully called Obamacare – will not fix these problems. It may help slightly, and it may hurt slightly, but the root problem hasn’t been fixed: you can be financially destroyed by a medical problem.

That’s the issue. Is it fair for someone to lose their life savings because they get cancer? I don’t think so – but that’s the way it is now, and I doubt that will change anytime soon. In my opinion, only universal single payer health care can solve this situation; whether you view that as a good or bad thing is up to your own political mindset. So for this cause of failure – one of the most important ones, over which we have some of the least control – you have to be extremely focused. Ill health can impair your ability to work; it can drain your savings; it can make progress towards your goals difficult, or even impossible. Taking care of your health is the single most important things you can do for your wealth. I’ve written before about losing weight and how I quit drinking soda.  Regular exercise and a low-stress lifestyle are key, as well.  But it’s important to remember that the sixth cause of failure from Hill’s Think and Grow Rich is one of the few that sometimes lies outside our control.

Previous posts in my “31 causes of failure” series:

Photo Attribution Some rights reserved by Eliezer Borges

7 Replies to “31 causes of failure #6: ill health”

  1. So glad you resurrected this health issue! Great information here.

    For this 73 year old retiree it’s been narrowed down to three important disciplines… maintaining healthy gum tissue, doing the no-flour no-sugar thing, and maintaining a mild exercise routine.

    Gum disease can bring in a whole host of ill health issues. From inflammation to heart disease. The no-flour no-sugar thing is an obvious benefit, even if it’s more like low-flour low-sugar. Mild exercise for me is a simple ten minute workout 3 days a week, and a half-hour brisk walk 5 days a week.

    Keeping in mind that there are no guarantees of good health… but there are guarantees of ill-health. So why choose to guarantee ill-health?

    1. Don, thanks for the comment – gum disease is something a lot of people overlook, I think. And you’re right: you can easily give yourself ill health, and far too many people think of it as something they can ‘do in the future.’

  2. It is refreshing to see someone with a similar opinion about the health care plan. I think we look at health particularly diet, weight, exercise in relationship to looking good rather than actually being healthy. Bringing the focus back to the “health” concern rather than the “looking good” focus might help us all. Great post!

  3. I’ve faced down ill health over the last decade. While I don’t look healthy and live a fairly healthy lifestyle, I’ve been unlucky enough to have a chronic autoimmunity condition and 2 bouts of the big “C”, plus all sorts of surgery and what not. Haven’t let that stop me. But yes, it does a number on your finances. Esp. here in the U.S., where insurance companies have us by the you-know-what. I’ve even come to the point where I have given up making claims for things done to me in the past just because I’ve stressed out more over those claims than I did about my health! The irony is deafening.

  4. As someone who was hit by the double whammy of divorce and a life-altering disease (chronic and disabling arthritis), I can say you are right on the money. And when it happens, there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.

    I recovered financially from my divorce, but the disabling illness wiped out my career, my savings and my future earnings. I’m now on SSI disability, essentially cutting my income by over 3/4 of what I once made.

    That this country doesn’t have universal health care of some sort still amazes me. It may not have changed my future, but it would have helped me keep what I once had.

  5. I think the real problem is that far too many people take their health for granted.
    Studies have shown that MOST illnesses are avoidable. That being said it takes A LOT of effort to do the things that are required of a person to stay healthy.

    Red meat causes Cancer…and other things you don’t know.
    Our society is set up to protect corporations far more that the individual. The person/company with the most money often controls what we see and hear. Look at Opera, she got sued by the Beef industry and now she won’t even speak up against them. Set aside the crazies like Kevin Trudeau and there is A TON of information on how to avoid the negative effects that modern day products cause on our bodies.

    Do we really exercise enough and control our intake enough.
    In the past centuries our lives have changed substantially. We move very little in the course of a day and “working out” is a chore. Because of T.V., computers, and video games are bodies are not taken care of.

    And how about the professor who went on the Twinkie diet? He lost 24 Pounds and his cholesterol improved; simply by REDUCING his Calorie intake. We’re fat, We’re Lazy, and we have the marketing giants stacked against us.

    Disclaimer-Not ALL Disease falls into the “preventable” category but many upon many of then do.

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