After feeding her 2-year old daughter, 35-year old Yasmin Sewgobind walks up to the pull-up bar that hangs in her home. She does a total of 35 pull-ups: 5 sets of 7 repetitions each. She then does a short yoga routine. After that, Yasmin quickly showers, drops off her daughter at a nearby nursery and drives to work.
“I bought a used car,” she says. “We’re careful with money and we track what we spend. I also try to get what I need, second hand. That includes all of the furniture in our house and many of the clothes and toys we buy for our daughter.” Yasmin even cancelled her gym membership so she could work out at home and invest more money. “I have a portfolio of index funds,” she says, “And I save about 50 percent of my salary.”
I’ve met plenty of people like Yasmin. They’re physically and financially fit. In fact, the discipline required for one might be connected to the other.
In the 1960s, researcher Walter Mischel began a series of now-famous experiments. He and his research team put treats in front of preschool children at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School. They asked each child to sit alone, with the treat in front of them. Then the researchers left the room. But before doing so they said: “If you don’t eat this treat while I’m away, I’ll give you a second one when I come back.” Not surprisingly, most of the children couldn’t wait 15 or 20 minutes. They gobbled up their single treat.
Years later, Dr. Mischel conducted follow-up research. It’s best described in his book, The Marshmallow Test: Understanding Self Control and How To Master It.
The children that deferred immediate gratification grew up to be healthier. Mischel wrote, “At age 27-32, those who waited longer during the Marshmallow Test in pre-school had a lower body mass index…” They also reached higher levels of education and higher income levels. On average, they were more disciplined and less impulsive as adults. I’m guessing Yasmin would have aced the marshmallow test.
Thomas J. Stanley and his daughter, Sarah Stanley Fallaw found a similar connection between wealth and exercise. In 2015, they surveyed almost 12,000 millionaires across the United States. After her father’s death, Sarah Stanley published the findings in The Next Millionaire Next Door. They found that millionaires exercise more than twice as much as non-millionaires.
I can hear what you might be thinking: Millionaires have more free time. That’s why they exercise more. But that might not be true.
According to Stanley and Stanley Fallow’s research, the average millionaire spends more time working than the typical non-millionaire. Millionaires work an average of 38.4 hours a week. In contrast, the typical non-millionaire works 32.1 hours a week. Millionaires, however, might be more productive with their time. For example, they spend far less time on social media. The typical millionaire spends an average of 2.5 hours a week on social media sites. Meanwhile, the average American succumbs to spending 14 hours a week on Facebook and its ilk.
This comparison, however, might not be fair. After all, young people spend more time on social media. That pushes the national average up. But it’s still worth thinking about. If millionaires have the discipline to spend just 2.5 hours a week on social media sites, it frees up time to exercise.
I asked Marcel Daane what he thought. He’s an award-winning executive coach, speaker and author of Headstrong Performance: Improve Your Mental Performance With Nutrition, Exercise and Neuroscience. He wasn’t surprised that millionaires exercise more than most. “From the hundreds of assessments we completed over the past year,” he says, “we observed that high corporate performers tend to score higher on fitness and health than the average employee.”
It’s well known that people with higher incomes tend to be healthier than the poor. For starters, they can afford higher quality food and better health care. But take two people with similar incomes. Assume one of them decides to save more money for retirement. According to Washington University researchers Timothy Gubler and Lamar Pierce, that decision boosts their wealth and their health.
In July 2015, they published, Healthy Wealthy and Wise: Retirement Planning Predicts Employee Health Improvements. They looked at employees from an industrial laundry company. Their average salaries were about $39,000 a year. The company started an employee wellness screen in 2010. They also introduced a 401(k) retirement plan that matched 50 percent of the employees’ contributions.
The researchers found that those who contributed to their company’s 401(k) retirement plan recorded improved health benefits two years after they began to contribute. The company’s health screen included blood work. It measured risk factors relating to diabetes, cholesterol, kidney, electrolytes, white blood cells, prostate, iron, calcium, cell balance, enzymes and thyroid. On average, those who decided not to contribute to the plan didn’t improve their health.
As for those who contributed to their 401(k), Gubler and Pierce believe it made them think about their futures. That includes their health and their wealth.
Perhaps, if we want to be healthier, we should save more money. And if we want to be wealthier we should hit the gym every day. Strangely, these factors might be more connected than initially meets the eye.
Andrew Hallam is a Digital Nomad. He’s the author of the bestseller, Millionaire Teacher and Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas