Personal Finance

Health vs. Wealth: What’s More Important?

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As far as self-improvement goes, personal finance and health are important to Americans — just think about how many people have New Year’s resolutions like losing weight, getting out of debt or making more homemade meals (a potential two-in-one resolution).

But if you had to choose one or the other (financial health or physical health), what would you prioritize? In an informal, online poll conducted by American Consumer Credit Counseling, nearly 59% of those surveyed said they were more concerned about the state of their finances than that of their physical fitness. A lot of people are looking at both, though: About the same portion, 60%, said their resolutions include money and health goals.

Which Comes First?

It’s not a scientific study — the Health and Wealth poll reached 243 adults — but the results might hint at what people prioritize when it comes to well-being. Money and health have an interesting relationship, because issues in one area could adversely affect the other, like the costs associated with weight-related health issues and the sometimes-expensive aspects of maintaining good health.

Fewer than 4% of respondents said they would go into debt if it would make them more physically fit, and nearly 30% said they would trade their physical fitness for a better financial situation.

Health & Credit

At times, these goals could be at odds (i.e. forgoing a gym membership to save money or being forced to go into debt to pay medical bills), but they can also work together. Like so many things, improving financial and physical health requires balancing priorities, even when life throws you for a loop.

No matter how much work you do on your finances, an unexpected or major illness can still put your financial health in peril. For example, we hear from readers all the time about how an unexpected medical bill went to collections and ruined their credit because they hadn’t budgeted for a major health expense or they didn’t see the bill coming. The best thing you can do to prevent this from happening is to get informed about medical billing, make sure you’ve saved for a rainy day and monitor your credit. You can do this for free with the Credit Report Card, a tool that updates you two of your credit scores every month for free. Any sudden, unexpected drop in your credit scores could signal a missed medical bill, but you’d need to pull your credit reports to confirm this (you can get free copies of your credit reports once a year from each of the major credit bureaus).

If you had to choose one or the other as the most important, what would you pick — financial or physical health? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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