The Value of Social Interactions

Much too often we can get lost in the means and forget the ends we seek. Finances are not to be viewed in a vacuum. Our work in financial planning that looks and plans for the future requires discipline and insight to “secure” a viable future without hindering our present reality. How beneficial is it to barely survive as a pauper at a young healthy age and wealthy, alone and unhealthy at an older age. Balance, or flexing and flowing, is important to master. We name this as Human Capital. While there is minimal financial cost to connect with others, the reward in good health, longevity and long life are proven if we do so. Moreover, investing our time exercising and strengthening muscles supports physical health that may make the golden years golden rather than rusty and tarnished.

Susan Pinker’s TED talk published a year ago illuminates the profound and perhaps obvious need for connections with other human beings. She offers the results of several studies about longevity, lifestyle and happiness, as well as, a direct experience visiting Sardinia, a small Italian island filled with centenarians. Her presentation invites us to look closer at our relationships and how we value this aspect of our lives. It invites us to expand our asset classes beyond stocks, bonds and real estate, by adding Human Capital. What might be the value you place on your Human Capital?

Maybe living past 100 is not one of your objectives; it is not necessarily mine; but the quality of life while our birthdays accumulate each year does interest most of us. It may surprise you to know that Social Integration and Close Relationships are the most important aspects to living a long life. These human conditions are more important than ceasing unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking and engaging healthy habits like exercising and maintaining a lean body mass.

Neuroscience offers us the scientific data about our biology when we engage in social interactions and real human connections. The production of oxytocin and dopamine – the feel-good hormones and the decrease in cortisol – the stress hormones – are the natural human byproducts of connectedness. And, these natural biological secretions, when our social intelligence is activated, when we are rewarded emotionally, and when we are more engaged, help us to stay healthy and vibrantly alive.

Our family friends traveled to Ireland this summer on a two-week vacation – cut short by prolonged illness. Each family member became feverishly ill with the flu, causing most of the planned excursions to be curtailed or eliminated. The entire experience was unfortunate. They were mostly miserable and the waste of financial resources is a place to get curious about how our health, vitality and physical well-being are the essential ingredients to enjoying life, this human existence. How often do we sit outside in our backyards and revel in the grass growing, that we are connected to all of life, and that connections to each other enable us to thrive?

My parents are at the ends of their lives; their bodies lose strength with each passing week. Their life purposes have diminished to visits from family and friends. And sometimes they are only interested in visits from their grown children. Is Oxytocin only flowing when family comes around?

There are many more questions here than answers, on purpose. Our wondering in this article – when there is constant financial news in the background – is, given our devotion and preoccupation with financial statements, investments, cash flow, and more, how much attention and consideration are we giving to the very nuanced and important aspects of what makes our lives flourish? Our connections to each other and with each other matter deeply. Our attention to stable relationships, at least three people we can count on no matter what, is more important than most of the issues we address daily.

On your net worth statement, what is the value you place on Human Capital?
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