Saturday, October 8, 2022


My health insurance company keeps telling me to stop spending money.  Interesting!

Mental health, financial health, and physical health - they are all inter-related.  I recounted before how Ambetter Peachtree - the Obamacare health provider in Georgia - has this "My Health Pays" thing on their website.  You log on and watch short videos or read .pdf files and get points. Also, you can accept "challenges" to eat better or walk every day or relax or whatnot, and get a few points a day by logging in and saying you did these things.

Each point is worth a dime, basically.  So if you accumulate 250 points, you can credit $25 to a debit card which can be used to pay for prescriptions, co-pays, or other medical needs.  If you log onto the website religiously, you can score a few hundred bucks this way - more than enough for a healthy person to pay for routine medical care not covered by insurance.

(You can also use these "points" to buy small appliances or get discounts on restaurant meals.  You know how I feel about that, of course - go with the cash!).

The idea is preventive medicine and they want patients to eat better, exercise more and have less stress.  I have some ailments which are stress-related (gout, diverticulitis) and since I retired, they have remained largely in remission.  Since I became debt-free, they are largely gone.

Funny thing, that.  Your financial health and physical health are related - and linked - through your mental health.  If you are constantly worried about paying bills and debts, you will be more likely to get sick.  Stress depresses the immune system, raises blood pressure, and generally makes you tense and nervous.

Conversely, if you are mentally imbalanced or stressed, you may be more likely to squander money to "treat yourself" to a hit of dopamine by buying junk you don't need.  Cart or Horse, it doesn't matter, the bottom line is you end up sick, broke, and depressed.  Who on Earth wants that?

Thus, it is interesting to me that many of the videos they want me to watch and files they want me to read are not related to yoga or eating yogurt, but to shopping and spending.  In fact, an awful lot of them are related to finances.

Today's chirpy video (accompanied by public domain generic music) talks about the HALT! theory.  If you are thinking of buying some useless piece of crap you don't need, take the time to HALT and figure out if you are HUNGRY, ANGRY, LONELY, or TIRED.   Any of these four things (I would add THIRSTY to the list!) makes you want to buy crap.

And retailers know this.  Car dealers live and die by it.  It is why they keep people (or try to) for hours at a time at a dealer - so they become tired, angry, hungry and dehydrated and eventually say, "fuck it, just tell me how much it is!  Where's my Goddamn checkbook?" and off you go in a car you didn't want or need, at a price you were not prepared to pay.

That and the Sunk Cost Fallacy.  People "invest" enough time in things and they feel they would be "wasting" that time by "walking away" so they try to make a good deal out of a bad one - always a bad idea.

For example, we were waiting for the ferry to Algiers point yesterday and we could see the two ferry boats across the Mississippi at the dock.  You could swim this distance, if not for the current and ship traffic.  Anyway the scheduled time came and went and I called their phone number and the lady answering said they were having "mechanical difficulties" and sure enough, they moved Ferry #1 to the other dock and replaced it with Ferry #2.  This meant a half-hour delay.  Mark wanted to leave and move on to something else, but I fell for the Sunk Cost Fallacy and felt that "since we had waited this long," that we "might as well see it through!"

The principle has particular application in the financial world - people invest in things and they lose money, but they feel committed to it so they ride it all the way down.  Or a company plows money into a money-losing project, but since they spent so much already, to give up would mean all that money was wasted.  We see this all the time in Nuclear Power projects that go so far over budget that they have no hope of ever earning back their costs.  "We've spent so much!  Seems a shame to walk away from a half-finished reactor!"  But of course, the cost of completing it is five times what they already overspent.  Yea, I'm looking at you, 9-mile #2.  Bankrupted an entire utility!

But I digress...

The point is, this video illustrates what I have been saying all along - that we are emotional creatures and our emotions sometimes make us do things not in our best interests.  Worst of all, we do these self-destructive things and they make us feel worse - so we do more of them!

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.  Such is the nature of addiction.