Cancer. The mere mention of it strikes fear in many people. Yet most of us would never imagine ourselves being inflicted by this horrible illness in our lifetime. Recently, an ex-colleague of mine died from stomach cancer. His death caused a stir in the office because he was young (in the mid-thirties) and had everything going well for him. What is it like for a wealth builder to be struck by cancer in Singapore?
According to data released by Health Promotion Board (HPB), cancer is currently the leading cause of death in Singapore, accounting for 29.7% of deaths in 2015. In the investment community, ex-SGX CEO, Magnus Bocker died from cancer last month. Prior to that, founder of SharesInvestor.com, Dr Michael Leong lost his battle against colon cancer.
It seems like cancer is on the rise in Singapore. According to the HPB report, it was estimated that the lifetime risk for developing cancer in Singapore population is approximately 1 for every 4-5 people. This is not surprising as Singapore has an ageing population, so the number of people diagnosed with cancer is expected to rise.
In terms of statistic for cancer in Singapore, the number 1 cancer for males is colorectal (colon and rectal) while the number 1 cancer for females is breast.
Lifestyle habits and behavioural factors lead to the increasing trend of cancer in Singapore. As our country become wealthier over the decades, many of us become obese and live a sedentary lifestyle. In the pursuit of wealth, we tend to forget that “health is wealth”. Although it may sound cliché, if you think deeply, nothing in this world is more important than staying alive. You lose money in the stock market, you still get a chance to fight another day. But if you lose your health, it could be the end of the game for you.
The death of Dr Michael Leong jolted me and made me realize that life is not merely about making money. This blog was partly inspired by Dr Michael’s Shareinvestor.com and his abrupt death in 2016 had a profound impact on me.
In one of his articles, he wrote that “money does not make a life”. At one point, money is important to all of us. But beyond certain stage, when we have built our wealth, it is important to be contented with life and start asking yourself what is truly important to you beyond monetary yearning. Dr Michael’s points were like wake-up calls and drove me to make changes in my life.
From the late Dr Michael Leong, I learned the importance of managing my health proactively. When I was younger, I used to feel invincible and would eat and drink whatever I like. I also had a habit of sleeping late. As I grow older, I keep telling myself that such a lifestyle is not sustainable. Sooner or later, I have to pay a price for not making positive changes in my lifestyle. The urge to change for the better increases over the years as my family commitments increased steadily.
Since 2016, I made the will to institute some positive changes in my lifestyle. As the saying goes, you start to become more fearful of death as you become older. I guess that is some element of truth in it.
To reduce risk of cancer, I am adopting a three-pronged strategy – eat healthy, stay physically active and go for annual health screening. According to America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical activity, such as running, may reduce the risk of cancer. Generally, adults should have moderate intensity of activity (brisk walking) of 2 hours 30 minutes or 1 hour 15 minutes of vigorous intensity of activity (jogging) every week. Hence, to achieve this, I signed up for a gym membership near my office since 2016 and has been hitting the thread-mill machine three times a week.
The motivation to stay healthy stems from the love for my family. Being the sole breadwinner, I often wonder how my family would cope if I am gone or become terminally ill. However, as my career progresses, the inertia to work out increase exponentially. Very often, I give myself all sort of silly excuses not to exercise, especially after a long day at work. But I tell myself that it is now or never. I owe it to my family to maintain a good health as I don’t want to become a future burden to them.
When I go for exercise, I often tell myself that I am investing in myself. By sacrificing time, what I get in return is a better health. When I am in good shape, I can then provide a good life for my family.
At the lowest point of my life, I have only $250 in my pocket and just graduated from school in 2005. On looking back, it was really a touch and go situation because of the need to support my ailing father. It was indeed a humbling experience to be penniless and starting life from the bottom. I do not claim that I have “made it” now but my current financial situation is definitely much better than 12 years ago. Nonetheless, if given a choice, I would still want to go through that phase of my life because it makes me cherish what I have now.
At the end of the day, building wealth is important but there must be a balance as well. Our success in life journey is not defined by the amount of wealth we built, but on our values, legacy and our relationships with our loved ones. When you look back at your journey, you would realize that there is a lot of abundance in this world. So sometimes, there is really no need to hold on to every penny that you made and it may be pointless to go all out to make that extra few dollars. Start giving and stop taking. You would learn that life is great after all.
Nobody can predict what the future holds. And I cannot guarantee that I will not be struck by cancer in the future. But I have taken steps to mitigate the risks of cancer. Financially, I am confident that my portfolio of insurance policies is adequate to allow my family to continue the same standard of living for the next 20 years should I die prematurely. I know many people view life insurance as a waste of money but for me, it is like buying a piece of mind.
Life is unpredictable. Have you taken steps to protect your loved ones? Don’t procrastinate any more. Start empowering yourself with knowledge of wealth building and join me in my money journey.
Read my other related articles:
- Dealing with cancer
- Understanding the difference between terminal illness and critical illness for insurance
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SG Wealth Builder