The Fallacy of Sacrificing Health for Money

Would you trade health for money?

It’s a crazy question, you might think.  The thought of intentionally become less healthy, just to get money, seems dumb.  Well, that’s because it is!

However, many people regularly do this. Tons of people, actually.  Count me among that group, by the way. The reason I say that is that early in my career, I worked late quite a few nights.  There were dozens of times when I worked from 8 in the morning through midnight, focusing on various deadlines that I might have had at the time.  It all sure seemed so important at the time.

Now, there are some times when have to do whatever it takes to get the job done.  But we should limit those instances to the truly necessary times, and they should be few and far between.  Am I suggesting that we get lazy and not work hard? No, of course not.  But, it simply isn’t sustainable or sensible to push ourselves to the point of compromising health just to make money.

I got thinking about this whole topic when I heard a quote recently that went something to the effect of (paraphrased) “he sacrifices health for money. Then he sacrifices money for health“.  Apparently noted as Dalai Lama-sourced wisdom.   Well, I do think it’s wise, and it can get you to think.

If you push yourself to be on the go all the time, what might you be compromising?

  • Diet – the more harried you are, the more you might be less likely to cook at home and eat a nutritious meal.
  • Sleep – we’ve talked about this here, where sleep and money are related – you don’t want to trade the former for the latter.
  • Stress – imagine getting to the point of debt-free living, and think about how that might remove a lot of stress from your life (acute job pressure, bills, etc).

Ultimately, we need to think about the role of money in our lives, and how it is interrelated with the other aspects of it.  The irony of the whole thing is captured in that saying I noted above, where we trade off our health to make money but we’ll end up spending more later to take care of the health we previously neglecting!

My Questions for You

When have you sacrificed health for more money?

Is this something you consciously think about?

What suggestions do you have for how to successfully handle this?



  1. says

    When one is young and the reality of mortality hasn’t quite sunk in yet, it’s easy to sacrifice health for money. I know I’ve done it, but probably for stretches of months at a time, not years. Youth makes it feel relatively easy to absorb stress and bounce back readily. But the effects may not show up until one’s 50s or later in the form of heart disease, cancer, limited mobility, etc. Safeguarding one’s health should be priority #1 our entire lives–it really pays off in the currency that matters: quality and quantity of life.

    • Squirrelers says

      Kurt – I’ve done it too, and I think that you make great points how things don’t show up until later in life. When younger, that seems so far off. But life moves fast, for better or worse!

  2. says

    I think more people do it then they realize. I mean when you look at your day most people have to get up get ready, drive, work, then drive home. That is a lot more then 8 hours per day. And its for money, and when you are too tired to cook you buy food or eat out. Most people don’t think they are sacrificing health for money but in a way we all are so some extent.

    • Squirrelers says

      Thomas – yes, I think that it some way we all might be doing just that. Of course, there are degrees to which this is done, and some folks go way beyond what is reasonable in terms of tradeoffs.

    • says

      That’s a great point, Thomas. I was all set to come down here and say that I don’t sacrifice my time to make more money, but I guess you’re right – I do without even realizing it. I’m not the type of person who is going to put in 60 hour weeks at the office to get ahead (I’m perfectly happy making less money and only working 40 hours), but when you factor in my commute and the bits of time here and there that I spend answering emails at home, it’s getting a lot closer to 60 hours…

      • Squirrelers says

        Gen Y – that’s a good point about how when we add in commute time and other added time, our total hours worked can be quite a lot. Every extra hour can be more painful, as the opportunity cost is personal and/or family time.

  3. says

    I’ve learned to manage my time–to work on this that are important and will produce a better result even if it’s not an immediate result. The things that require me to respond, such an emails, phone calls, meetings, I place them toward the end of the day when I don’t need too much energy or creative thinking to accomplish them.

    • Squirrelers says

      Ornella – seems like a good approach. Focusing on what’s important, and allocating things to different times of the day based on energy levels, is smart.

  4. says

    I would never trade health for money. I see people with millions of dollars but they cannot enjoy life and have fun partying or traveling because they are sick. Sadly, they end up using their money to buy medicine and pay hospital bills. Hence, I do not abuse myself and my body. I also teach my family about healthy lifestyle — nutritious meals, regular exercise, sufficient rest and sleep, and lead a less stressful life. Young age cannot be a guarantee that one cannot get sick. I have a few colleagues and friends in their early 30’s who are experiencing hypertension. The husband of my colleague succumbed to death after a heart attack while at work.

    • Squirrelers says

      Cherleen – wow, that’s too bad about those people that young having such problems. Defintely good to make it a habit to make good decisions with our health, as without it it would be a lot harder to do what we need to do and to enjoy life.

  5. says

    So glad I came across this article, you make excellent points! Thought provoking and right on. I was one of those people who sacrificed my health working a corporate job at a company that mandated us working 10 hours days with half hour lunch. I was in sales so I often worked through lunch (with a client, but it was still not my own time), and then of course evenings and sometimes travel that included weekends. I threw in the towel to all that, lost weight and exercised, and this reversed a small heart blockage as an extra bonus. Now I coach people on a health program (Take Shape for Life). What a reversal in my life! Anyway, thanks for the article, glad I found you, I will check back to see what else you’re writing about. I think I’ll share this on my Facebook page, it’s totally relevant!

    • Squirrelers says

      Debra – thanks for the nice words. Great that you stopped that lifestyle which involved health sacrifices, and were able to gain health benefits by taking action. Good job!

  6. says

    I see this far too often. Especially your points about diet and sleep. It seems that many people that are chasing success and money forget the importance of not skipping meals or sleep. Then they become unhealthy and actually LESS productive than before. Great awareness to this issue and thank you for sharing.

    • Squirrelers says

      Mario – thanks for the comment. I think we have observed similar things, people chasing money then losing health and becoming less productive. I’ve tried to change my ways, and am continually working on this.

  7. says

    Putting your health on hold for money in your youth is easy. Before 40, I had no real health care coverage and saw a doctor maybe a handful of times. The problem isn’t sacrificing for money in youth, but rather maintaining unhealthy habits that come back to haunt you and make the Dalai Lama’s prediction a self-fulfilling prophesy. Smoking, drinking, and other lifestyles will send your money out the door later, when the piper arrives for his payment that is due.

    Hopefully the solution is in this health kick that seems to be picking up steam, and also better education about money and finances. The future may very well hold a society that doesn’t have to sacrifice health or money to attain the other.

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