Thursday, April 8, 2010


As a part of our ongoing research on health and wealth, we found a project that studied the relationship of a person’s weight with their financial net worth. The study found that gaining weight resulted in a loss of wealth and returning to a prior healthy weight restored a person’s financial losses. Weight was measured using Body Mass Index (BMI), a calculation used to estimate a healthy body weight based on a person’s height.

The results differed by race and sex, but for whites, particularly women, high net worth was associated with a low BMI and high BMI levels were associated with lower net worth.

White females’ highest net worth was at the low end of the normal weight range (BMI 20) and white males’ highest net worth was at the upper end of the normal weight range (BMI 24). Small weight losses did not impact wealth much, but the study found that when a boomer aged person decreased their weight by 5.8 BMI points from the overweight range (BMI 27.5) to normal weight range (BMI 21.7), their net wealth improved by more than $4000. A 10 point decrease in BMI resulted in a wealth increase of $12,720 for white males and $11,880 for white females. To put the $12,720 increase into perspective, that amount is 25% of the average balance of Fidelity retirement savers’ 401K accounts in 2008

Although we have always felt that getting our BMIs back under 25 into the normal weight range was important for our health, we now realize that our weight is also important for sustaining our wealth and happiness.


Powells said...

I love reading your blog! I was just hopping you could give me more on this topic. It is very interesting. The study you cited and they graph you showed tells us that finances are effected in conjunction with weight, but give me the how. Is it unhealthy foods? bad stress vs. good stress? Not able to afford activities that release this stress? There are probably many factors that
effect the "how" of less money making us fat.

Hilo Living said...

Thanks for your comment Powells. We know it seems counter intuitive, but being overweight results in less money, not the reverse and the study shows that losing the weight reverses the loss. Our best speculation is that there is a cultural bias towards people of a certain weight, in particular economic opportunities. Others have speculated that uncontrolled eating may be related to overspending. Whatever the cause, we are much more motivated to get our BMIs into the wealth range.

Anonymous said...

I think that there are at least two reasons in play here. One being, fat people are less likely to receive promotions and higher paying positions, than their not so fat co-workers. Thinner people are viewed as "winners". As where fat people are looked at as, welp...loser's. Because everyone knows(even fat people, that you can lose weight if you really, really wanted to. You never saw a fat person in a concentration camp. I rest my case. Fat people can lose weight.

I think the second reason could be, that good for you, good quality convenient foods cost good money. On the other hand, cheaper foods, when bought for their convenience, are high caloric and fat. Most lesser financially endowed people are usually without the dietary skill-set to make a low budget meal a healthy one. Mac N'Cheese ain't it.
If one is wealthy enough, they may also have enough time and money to go to gyms, play golf, racquetball, tennis, use their swimming pool and perhaps have time to see their 'work out' instructors and consult a nutritional dietitian. These people are out there and make up part of the statistics, so they have to be counted in.

Strangely, until the last century or so, Being fat was only something the wealthy could afford. The rich were the original owners of diabetes, heart disease, gout, etc. The poor met other fates such as community diseases and malnutrition, but rarely succumbed to the wealthy man's aforementioned maladies.

nomnomnom said...

What was the sample population?

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