As someone who had always said that he has spent his whole life out-exercising his bad eating habits, I am definitely tuned in to reports on weight and weight loss, especially if they have financial implications.
That being said, I was surprised to see that, according to webwire.com, the American “weight loss market” only grew by 2.2 percent in 2016, to a total spent of $66.3 billion. I honestly thought that it would be significantly more. The revenues of commercial chains, like NutriSystems and Weight Watchers, were up, as were the revenues of meal replacement products, like shakes and nutrition bars (over $4 million).
That being said, research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that nearly four out of ten U.S. adults were considered to be obese in 2015-2016, up over 9 percent from 1999–2000. What is of even more concern is that obesity for those ages 2 to 19 was up over 4.5 percent for the same time period.
On that subject, what I found interesting, for its personal finances implications, was a recent USA Today article which indicated that “public health experts renewed calls for an aggressive shift in strategy — one that would change the food environment through initiatives such as soda taxes, rather than just focusing on behavior.” I guess that means that if you are a “junk food junkie” like me, you had better plan to increase your food budget in the future. There may be a tax coming, on not just soda, but on candy, potato chips, tacos, pizza, chicken wings, ice cream, and who knows what else. The answer for me is to have a “bad food for you” savings account (not to give up those things) — and, yes, to keep exercising. Something to think about.
On a different subject, a recent survey by Merrill Edge found that Millennials actually save more of their income, percentage-wise (19 percent), than Generation Xers (14 percent), Baby Boomers (14 percent), and seniors (12 percent). According to Motley Fool, the problem for them is that they just don’t make that much. That is why it mistakenly appears to many of us that they don’t save much. We look at their absolute savings, not their percentage of savings. Again, according to Motley Fool, the average salary for a Millennial is just over $35,500 per year, which is well below the national average of $44,148. Something to consider, and talk to them about, as many of your children and grandchildren go off to college, and perhaps will incur a substantial amount of student loan debt.
On yet another subject, I have started to use the new Farmers Insurance marketing slogan in my CARE financial literacy presentations in the schools, when I talk about the unique knowledge and experience of the presenters, who are members of the bankruptcy community, who have seen it all. “We know a thing or two because we have seen a thing or two.” I don’t think that Farmers will mind.
In the last column I promised that we would look at a few more insights on money and money-related behavior from the new book “Dollars and Sense.”
We have discussed in a prior column that, from the perspective of behavioral economists, we don’t always think and act rationally with respect to money and how we spend it. That could not have come as a surprise. In addition, we don’t look at the lost opportunity costs (what else could we have spent that same money on), which might make us more rational about our spending. We also discussed how we tend to think relatively about big expenses, but obsess over little expenses.
Another interesting insight discussed in “Dollars and Sense” is that we try as much as possible to avoid “the PAIN OF PAYING,” and that those marketing to us use that to their advantage, including especially the financial industry. The “pain” apparently comes from thinking about giving up our money, and, get this, research has shown that paying stimulates the same brain regions that are involved in processing physical pain.
Not surprising then, many of us do everything that we can, with the help of the financial and retail industries, to minimize the pain of paying. Enter credit cards, automatic bill paying, gift cards and e-wallets.
When it comes to lessening the pain of paying, here is what authors Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler had to say about credit cards. “Credit cards are like memory erasers from a science fiction movie, but they live in our wallets. Studies have found not only that people are more willing to pay when using credit cards, but also that they make larger purchases, leave larger tips, are more likely to underestimate or forget how much they spent, and make spending decisions more quickly.”
That should give you pause, but you kind of knew that already, didn’t you? As I always say in my CARE presentations, stay in touch with your hard-earned money as much as possible. You will make different and better spending decisions — in part, because paying will be “more painful.”
John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo