30 Times and Then You’re Dead. Unless…How to Get Rich With Exercise

This post explores how exercise can make you rich by increasing earning potential, savings, and  the chances you’ll live longer. Plus, a special social benefit of exercise especially for introverts at the end.

“Dude I got to thinking.”

“Yeah?”

“What you said about skiing only thirty more times in your life really hit me.”

We sat on a chairlift at a local hill. Nothing like the mountains out west we both craved. A great day skiing with a lifelong friend nonetheless.

Apparently, my friend had taken to heart my well-practiced, passive aggressive speech that I normally reserve for my wife.

Yes honey, we can stay on the east coast. I guess I’ll just resign myself to skiing only 30 more times before I die. *Walks off downtrodden*

I’m 37. 37 plus 30 is 67 in my book. I’d be lucky to be active much less downhill skiing in beautiful mountains at that age. So, I’ve got 30 more trips in me potentially.

Or many, many more if when we hit FI in our late 40s.

But I’m hedging my bets in other ways. Which leads me to a confession.

My Confession to You

I have a confession to make that may cost me my FI community card. Ready?

I spend $380 a month on a personal trainer.

Let me rephrase.

I invest $380 a month in my health via a personal trainer.

One more time. I can do better.

I invest $380 in myself via a personal trainer every month and it is the best damn investment I make.

As you’re tearing up my FI membership, let me throw some knowledge at you. According to the CDC, “people who are physically active for about 7 hours a week have a 40% lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week.”

So, I am working over 40 hours a week to get to FI, but I only have to invest 7 hours a week to cut my chance of pushing daisies early by 40%?

Okay. Fine. No big deal. Let’s do seven hours.

My Second Confession

I suck at working out consistently. Seven hours is not easy for me to schedule.

I’ve been around long enough to know my strengths and my weaknesses. Sticking to a consistent workout program with no accountability is not one of my strengths.

The trainer works for me.

Being accountable to someone and making a significant investment is necessary for me in this area.

But if I want to ski (hike, surf, chase grandchildren, swim, bike, etc.) until I’m 110 then I need to make this investment in my longevity.

Plus, there are benefits to this investment that will help you and me reach FI sooner.

Exercise is Good for Your Health Wealth

Math says that $380 x 12 is $4,560. Ouch. That surely has to be killing my path to FI right?

Not so. Multiple studies show that better health equals more wealth.

One study suggests that working out just 3 hours a week increased earnings by 9% over those who didn’t (another study found a 6% for increase for males and 10% increase for females).

On the flip side, being obese is the same as not having a bachelor’s degree or a decrease in household income of 25%.

And being a skinny man can decrease your salary between $10,000 and $15,000 per year.

Is this fair? Don’t look at it that way. You’re getting stronger and healthier and if people want to pay you more to do so because of aesthetic biases, hell, I say let ’em. Plus, it is more than the aesthetic that contributes to an increase in pay from exercise.

Exercise improves mood and increases energy, making you more productive and a friendlier coworker.

It is win-win for you and your employer (or business if you own).

A better mood and more energy makes you happier and better able to enjoy time outside of work. Exercise also promotes deeper sleep so your non-waking hours are more…woke?

The point is that getting fit pays healthy dividends. (That right there is what my wife calls a “Dad joke.” I call it great writing.)

Scaleable to the Masses?

“But FIIntrovert, you’re rich I tell ya. What you’re saying to do is impossible. I can’t spend $4,560 a year on a personal trainer like you. I’m outta here!”

Now hold on cowboy. We showed you above that exercising regularly can have a benefit through increased salary. If the studies are right and the increase is 9%, then you only need to be making about $51,000 per year to make that type of luxurious spending pay off by getting a raise to $55,590. Yes, you won’t get that raise every year but after one year you’ll be in a habit and not need a trainer.

And lest we forget, I am not telling you to go get a personal trainer at this great expense! (and neither are the studies)

The Return on Investment in Your Health is Huge

Let’s say you are just slightly more disciplined than me and can get yourself to a group exercise class. I live in a high cost of living area and here is what I found:

  • Crossfit = $2,088/year
  • Pure Barre = $1,700/year
  • Core Power Yoga = $1,860/year
  • Orange Theory = $2,040/year

The median wage in the US is a little above $44,000. A 9% salary increase yields $3,960 making even the most expensive option a net positive of $1,872 just on a salary increase alone.

Okay, okay. Even at a median salary and a net positive return on investment you say this is too much. If you have even more discipline than me and can drag yourself on your own to exercise a few times a week, here is what you might pay for a regular gym:

  • 24 Hour Fitness = $568
  • Gold’s Gym = $300
  • Planet Fitness = $149

Again, even at the most expensive, if you can motivate yourself to do your own workout then the return on investment in year one at a $44,000 salary is $3,392.

For those of you with super discipline and some knowledge, you can workout at home for free by using YouTube videos, making a home gym, or simply going to the park and doing suicides on the basketball court.

There is literally no excuse for not investing in yourself. The ROI is too great. And I have shown that even with my egregious personal trainer expense, the economic benefits nearly accrue to the median salary in the first year.

Enough with the Increases, Show me the Savings!

But wait there’s more! Savings.

Another study says that just walking 30 minutes a day will save you $2,500 a year in healthcare costs.

I’m talking walking here folks. But that $2,500 easily pays for a CrossFit membership.

Fitness can also save you money by simply eliminating one behavior for a healthier, more enjoyable behavior:

  • Walking and biking rather than driving saves on car maintenance and gas
  • Hiking and taking in nature’s scenery rather than scenes from a movie saves on sedentary entertainment expenses
  • Buying fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed meat rather than expensive and nutritionally weak processed meals saves on food costs
  • Drinking water is less expensive than sugary soda and other drinks
  • Going out and playing sports saves money on mindless cable TV consumption
  • Save on alcohol and cigarettes by not wanting to negate the gains from your investment in your health

My work colleague kicked ass in his workout the other day. Here is our text conversation afterward:

Related Reading: How I built my investments from $11k to $210k in three years

Stop Canceling Gym Memberships in the Name of FI

You gotta stop.

Please.

(Substitute “gym membership” with guitar practice, ski passes, indoor rock climbing clubs, CrossFit dues, dance lessons, Barre and yoga studios, etc.)

This has to end.

All across FI social media groups and online forums I see people proclaiming, “I canceled my gym membership!” There is pride. Excitement. Even joy!

Why? Did frugality and the path to FI relieve you of the guilt of not using your membership? “Ah! I am on the path so I no longer have to pretend I don’t have time for the gym. I simply don’t go because I’m saving money!”

No my friends! The path to FI is paved with rippling muscles and toned bodies. Studies have shown that with exercise you will:

  • Earn more
  • Save more
  • Live more

How can exercise not be a pillar of financial independence? The FIIntrovert says it is. There is just no point in FI if you are not around to enjoy it actively.

Early Retirement Will Make You Live Longer…But There’s A Catch

An article came out in the New York Times titled “The Connection Between Retiring Early and Living Longer.” Well, here’s the connection. If you live an active life in early retirement that has meaning, you’ll live longer. If you live a sedentary life with no meaning, retirement sucks.

That is why the “Why of FI” get so much attention.

Related Reading: Fellow blogger AardvarkAdvisor compiled a few bloggers’ “Whys for FI”  

It is all pointless if you get there with no passions, no longevity, and no happiness.

“…no matter where you go, you will always bring yourself. So if you are not in a happy place while pursuing FIRE, you sure won’t be happy once you reach it.” Tawcan in FIRE. RIP. 2014-2018

You can live at home until you’re 35 and sit in the basement eating Tide pods for all three meals but you won’t arrive at FI in very good shape.

Remember, FI is about living well. We’ve demonstrated that exercise is both a means to FI through earning and saving more, as well as a means to living better both in and out of FI. Exercise!

Social Benefits of Exercise For Introverts

Oh hello. I didn’t forget about you. This entire blog is for you! Let’s talk about another benefit of exercising specifically for introverts.

Social Collision. It’s one of my favorite terms.

Social collision is going to the same place at the same time over and over again. You are likely to run into (collide with) the same people. I wish I had understood social collision earlier in my life.

Before I was the FIIntrovert, I used to go out to random bars each weekend at various times with irregular frequency. Each time was like hitting reset. I could not figure out why I wasn’t meeting people.

My understanding of social collision took off when I joined CrossFit. Because I’m an introvert, it takes multiple encounters for me to warm up to someone and get to know them. Hell, to even talk to them.

With CrossFit, I started to go to the same classes each day, at the same time, and guess what? The same people also did that and I “collided” with them just from being in the same place. As a result, I formed friendships with some of the people in class and we started going to…wait for it…events that other CrossFit people and their friends went to. Lo and behold I started meeting people who my friends were friends with by going to the same events over and over. I went out on some pretty cool dates and made some great long-term friends.

This really seems obvious now that I write it but it took me until my 30s to figure out this basic social concept.

So introverts, I highly recommend a group exercise environment. If you don’t want to do a group, try going to your gym or dog park or yoga class or wherever at the same time and day every visit. You will meet people naturally and easily. I promise.

Related Reading: Yes, Introverts. You can Enjoy Your Job. Pursue Financial Independence

Further Reading on Health and Fitness in the FI Community

27 comments Add yours
  1. Came here from the Rockstar forums.;)
    Great points! I am surprised though that skinny men can expect to earn less on average. I actually thought you meant “increase” until I read the link. Overall though, the gains from good health are substantial enough to serve as an incentive to anyone IMO.

    1. Thank you Enoch! I appreciate the kind comments here and on the forums. As a former skinny guy, I can tell you that even adding 5 pounds of muscle changes people’s perception of a skinny guy. People just view you as more authoritative. Plus I think we tend to feel people who take care of themselves will take care of other aspects of their life (not saying that is true, just how we humans judge each other at first glance). Thanks again for reading and your comment!

  2. This is a great post and thanks so much for featuring me! 🙂 I had a personal trainer 3 years ago and it was worth it! I found they pushed me harder than I would have pushed myself 🙂

    Now that we’re saving for some big expenses down the road, I’ve cut out the personal trainer but I’m considering a Daily Burn subscription. I just want something fun that will keep me from thinking of exercise as a chore 🙂

  3. Being overweight or ‘unfit’ can actually add costs to one’s life so spending on a gym membership, personal trainer, or even just equipment in your own home to increase your health is worth the expense if you use it.

    Great post, thanks for the link!

  4. Great article! I let my orange theory membership lapse for the last 8 months to save money. I think I walked on my own about a dozen times. I renewed and went to my first class yesterday. I know my self discipline limitations and am trying to automate my weaknesses. Signing up to OT classes and auto saving are part of this. Thanks for writing this!

  5. Damn, there is so much wisdom packed in here, I kept nodding my head in agreement. I’ve struck a balance between wanting to be fit and being frugal by doing a basic gym membership without a trainer or crossfit level cost. However, I think you’re definitely right that the social and accountability benefits can make those options absolutely worth it.

    I also definitely agree that living a life where your hobbies improve your health is going to be well worth it, even if you’re spending on things like gym memberships or driving out to hiking spots. It’s not worth getting hyper focused on cutting all costs when you’re also removing value from your life.

    Also, to be clear, are you saying I should NOT eat tide pods in my basement? That might be a deal breaker…

    1. Thank you Andy! I am sure there are frugal group workout options. I think Brad at ChooseFI said that his jujitsu gym is free.

      I am not a physician but I feel pretty confident eating Tide Pods will not get you to FI ; )

  6. Good post. While I am intrinsically motivated to work out and get by just fine with my $10/month Planet Fitness membership, you have to do what works for you. Your health is NOT something that is worth sacrificing, and that was the best takeaway I got from this post.

    1. You are awesome! $10 a month at Planet Fitness is fantastic! I am hoping that after a certain time I will be able to motivate myself and design my workouts. It seems to be working as I do some bodyweight and running on my own now that I am several months in with the trainer.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. Lock in the gains by not eating like a dumb-ass! That’s hysterical. And I really like you’re writing style…a lot.

    Thanks for featuring the guest post from The Vigilante on our site. It’s a great one.

    PF is personal, whether that’s Personal Finance or Personal Fitness. You’ve got to know what works for you and do it.

    Great post!

    1. Thank you Mrs. Groovy!

      Agreed. Great point! You have to know what works for you personally with both investing in wealth and health. And it is okay for it to change as your situation changes and your grow and mature. But don’t put off investing in yourself when the ROI is so good on both the saving and earning end. Double positive impact from taking care of yourself on the road to FI!

  8. I agree, it’s worth investing in something you’ll use – you can easily make the case for the personal trainer rather than the gym if you’ll turn up for the trainer, but not the gym.

    I’m lucky that I like running outdoors, it’s a great free exercise, but sometimes it is hard to get out there.

    1. Running outdoors is fantastic! I think it is awesome you have the discipline and motivation to get out there on your own. I can do it when I have a race to train for but not otherwise.

  9. Hey you’ve got some great research here and it’s well argued. As an analytical engineer type I am convinced by the data as much as the ‘feels’. I bought a book called The First Twenty Minutes that shows how you gain a huge amount by just getting started (https://www.amazon.com/First-20-Minutes-Surprising-Exercise/dp/0142196754) and that works for me.

    As a chaser of FI my wife and I too have not cancelled our gym memberships ($27 a week) and I’m working on the balanced approach of ‘Why’: Finance, Health, Mind. I find the cardio exercise adds both energy and mental clarity (we have our ups and downs with personal commitment for turning up.)

    I’m probably more Introvert than you 🙂 I train alone, don’t usually (almost never) do groups and have never had a PT. Currently this works for me, with a few tips and tricks from my wife’s trainer (who has said I would be a lot better with a trainer :-))

    1. Thank you for the book recommendations!

      If you’d ever like to do a guest post or if you want to be a case study or interview candidate for a post let me know! Goal is to assist 1,000 introverts get to FI through the material on the site.

  10. Great post man! Don’t want to make you feel bad but I stay fit for $0 per month or year. I cycle, run, paddle, and climb mostly, with one or two days of weights at home thrown in. I’ve never had a gym membership in my life and If I do want to use fancy equipment my job has a nice gym and is pretty close by.

    I have a post on the fitness-wealth connection coming up soon. My fitness has been the #1 thing that helped me achieve FI.

    1. I unfortunately have to spend the money to make myself go. I wish I could do it for $0 but at almost 38 I know I need to be held accountable. That is awesome you have the discipline in this area!

      Looking forward the post! I’ll add it to the list here when it comes out!

  11. Thank god someone is finally talking cents (ahem) about gym memberships and FI. It seems like one of the first things people cull when they’re on this FIRE journey.

    I’m aiming to exercise 5hrs a week, so congrats +++ if you hit 7. Gym work is one of my favourite ways to stay fit. I run – essentially free – and swim – $4 a pop – too but the gym is my favourite by far yet costs the most. So what. I’ve seen family pharmacy bills for medication re. weight related health problems and it is thousands per year. I know where I’d rather spend.

    Thanks very much for the mention too!

    1. Thank you for helping spread the word! People get so wrapped up in cutting costs they forget to take into account long-term costs of health and quality of life. That is a great perspective to have on what medications for diabetes or heart disease cost every month versus a simple gym or rec center membership.

  12. Amen to this. Without your health, it becomes really hard (or even impossible) to enjoy any other aspects of life. Spending time with friends/family, working, traveling, etc. Health should be a top priority, not something that is sacrificed to save a few bucks. Good stuff.

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