Financial independence means nothing if you don’t have your health

Money is great.  It provides security, options, and freedom.  If you work hard, practice relative deprivation, and save enough money to become financially independent, you will have reached a commendable milestone.

However, financial independence means nothing if you don’t have your health.  It doesn’t matter that you have $5 million if you aren’t around to enjoy it, or if your health is so poor you can’t travel, start a business, teach a class at the local community college, or play with your grandchildren.

Therefore, it’s important to optimize your physical health while optimizing your financial health. Like most things in life, you can’t improve what you can’t measure, so let’s review how to measure your financial health and then propose a way to measure your physical health.

Measuring your financial health

Although you can track many financial variables, such as debt, spending, expense ratios, asset allocation, portfolio performance, and net worth, the only two numbers you really need to focus on are spending and net worth.

Everything else is secondary, because once your net worth exceeds 33x your yearly spending (using the 3% rule), you have reached financial independence and optimized your financial health.  Don’t try to make it more complicated than this.

Measuring your physical health

Similarly, it is possible to track many variables pertaining to your physical health.  If you visit your primary physician regularly, he or she will likely monitor things like your BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, kidney function, and blood sugar.

While those are important, they do not tell the full story.  It is possible to have normal values for all those benchmarks and still be unhealthy.  Instead,  I encourage you to focus on functional measures of health – what can you DO – in addition to the numbers.

Functional measures of physical health

If you want to enjoy life to the fullest, you need to be able to swiftly and skillfully move around and interact with your environment.

You might have to help a neighbor move a barbeque out of their pickup truck, sprint away from a suspicious character in an alley, perform CPR, cut wood for a fire, stack your winter tires in the garage, bend over to tie your shoes, reach overhead to place a bowl on a high shelf, get up after falling on the ground, carry heavy grocery bags from the store to your car, hike up to Manchu Pichu, or dive down 20 feet to see the sea turtles in Maui.

To excel at all these things, you need to optimize your endurance, speed, power, strength, flexibility, and balance.  In the table below I’ve outlined some ways to measure these functional goals. Of course, the goals will be different for each person depending upon your starting fitness, genetics, and age, but you can use this as a guideline to set some of your own concrete functional health goals.


While you’re working on your financial health, don’t forget about your physical health. Track your health numbers, but also work on your functional fitness.  In addition to financial independence, you need optimal health to enjoy the highest level of freedom.

“Live Free MD” is a sports medicine physician who blogs at his self-titled site, Live Free MD.

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