Health & Wealth

In­cor­po­rat­ing pre­ven­ta­tive health­care into your financial strat­egy might be the wis­est choice you make, writes Nick Fer­gu­son

Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

It’s cer­tainly true that you can’t put a price on good health—no mat­ter how wealthy you are. In­sur­ance is clearly one part of the mix, and all sen­si­ble financial plans in­cor­po­rate ac­cess to the man­age­ment of health is­sues into long-term wealth plan­ning dis­cus­sions.

This is an im­por­tant el­e­ment, as the financial costs of se­ri­ous and long-term health is­sues can be non-triv­ial. A US poll con­ducted by Mor­gan Stan­ley Wealth Man­age­ment in 2013 showed that af­ford­ing qual­ity health­care wor­ries even mil­lion­aire house­holds, with 68 per cent cit­ing it as a fear.

“Health­care is a silent con­cern for many of our clients un­til it be­comes a real is­sue in their lives and the lives of fam­ily mem­bers,” ac­cord­ing to Robert Se­aberg, head of Wealth Ad­vi­sory So­lu­tions at Mor­gan Stan­ley Wealth Man­age­ment.

Even so, the financial cost of a se­ri­ous ill­ness or de­bil­i­tat­ing in­jury is not al­ways as big a con­cern for high-net-worth in­di­vid­u­als as the op­por­tu­nity cost of a long spell in a hospi­tal bed, which can be ex­tremely dam­ag­ing for busi­ness own­ers.

This is es­pe­cially true in Asia, where many wealthy in­di­vid­u­als take a hands-on ap­proach to run­ning their busi­nesses. Li Ka-shing, for ex­am­ple, ap­par­ently still shows up at his Hong Kong of­fice ev­ery day and con­tin­ues to be the driv­ing force be­hind his em­pire. Clearly, he be­lieves that his per­sonal day-to-day con­tri­bu­tion to the busi­ness is sig­nif­i­cant. But not ev­ery­one is blessed with Li’s re­mark­able health.

“If you’re a busi­ness owner and you get a crit­i­cal ill­ness and have to be out of work for six months or a year, it can have a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact,” says Kevin Strain, pres­i­dent of Sun Life Financial in Asia.

A Rolls-royce in­sur­ance plan is great, but preven­tion is far bet­ter than cure—adopt­ing a healthy life­style is the most ef­fec­tive way to re­duce po­ten­tial health risks.

The vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in Asia recog­nise this, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey con­ducted by Sun Life, but too few are do­ing any­thing about it. Strain refers to a sig­nif­i­cant seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion in Asia as “Gen­er­a­tion O”—peo­ple who recog­nise they are un­healthy and would like to live a health­ier life­style, but feel con­strained by work and fam­ily re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. The “O” stands for over­worked, over­weight and over­whelmed.

Just 42 per cent of Hongkongers say they feel phys­i­cally healthy—con­sid­er­ably lower than any other coun­try in the re­gion, but more than half do not do any reg­u­lar ex­er­cise and less than half are will­ing to join a health-re­lated pro­gramme.

It is tempt­ing to blame the stress and de­mands of work, but Strain doesn’t ac­cept such easy ex­cuses.

“I’m pretty busy and I travel a lot, but I still run three or four times a week,” he says. In fact, he re­cently com­peted in a half marathon in In­done­sia while on his trav­els.

The big­gest health risks for most peo­ple in Hong Kong and Asia are ac­tu­ally di­a­betes and obe­sity, which are di­rectly re­lated to poor diet and lack of ex­er­cise, rather than wor­ry­ing about work.

Stud­ies also sug­gest that the next gen­er­a­tion could be less healthy than their par­ents. Kids who do not learn to be healthy and ac­tive in their early years may find it much more dif­fi­cult to adopt such habits later in life.

In­deed, stud­ies show that al­most all peo­ple who are obese as adults were also over­weight as ado­les­cents, so it’s im­por­tant that par­ents help their kids to strike the right bal­ance be­tween aca­demic achieve­ment and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

But it’s never too late to be­come health­ier. The mes­sage from health pro­fes­sion­als is that small, in­cre­men­tal changes can be ben­e­fi­cial. It is also im­por­tant to be re­al­is­tic, fo­cus­ing at first on just one type of healthy be­hav­iour, such as adopt­ing a bet­ter diet or giv­ing up smok­ing. Don’t try to do every­thing at once.

Liv­ing a health­ier life­style is not some­thing that pri­vate bankers will usu­ally rec­om­mend, but the re­al­ity is that achiev­ing your wealth goals will be much eas­ier if you are healthy and phys­i­cally fit. Your men­tal fo­cus will im­prove, your in­sur­ance will cost less and your med­i­cal bills will be smaller.

“Health­care is a silent con­cern for many of our clients un­til it be­comes a real is­sue”

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