The Surgeon General warns that smoking is hazardous to your health. According to the American Lung Association, smoking-related diseases take more than 430,700 American lives each year. That's apparently not enough to get people to quit, though, not even Fools.
So we'll add an addendum to the Surgeon General's warning: Smoking is hazardous to your financial health. Smoking costs the United States approximately $100 billion per year in health-care costs and lost productivity. That's $100 billion that could be put to much better use: schools, roads, job training, saving Social Security, a dependable voting system -- even tax cuts.
But forget the good of humankind. Let's think about you. How is smoking affecting your portfolio? Well, potentially in a pretty big way. And we're not even talking about if you happen to own tobacco kings like Altria's
Think about the money you spend on cigarettes. Depending on where you live, you could easily be paying $4 per pack. Maybe you smoke a pack a day. That $28 a week translates into $1,456 per year. Instead of standing out in the cold for all those smoking breaks, you could have taken an annual trip for two to Cancun.
Let's go a little further. You started when you were 17. We won't even adjust for inflation or increased prices or taxes on cigarettes or tell your mother ... yet. We'll just say you smoked your $1,456 each year for 40 years until you're 57 years old. By now, if you haven't died of lung cancer or heart disease, you're thinking you wouldn't mind retiring soon. After all, your lungs are black as tar and you're having trouble making it up a half-flight of stairs. Heck, you deserve to retire.
Unfortunately, your nest egg isn't all you'd hoped for, and there's no way you're going to be able to call it quits anytime soon. But then you start thinking, well, what if I actually had quit smoking and saved $4 a day over these 40 years? I'd have $58,240. Wow, that's a lot of money.
But what if you made your money grow by adding it to your stock market investments once a year?
If you invested that $1,456 in stocks every year for 40 years (using a Roth IRA to get tax-free growth) and managed an average annual return of 10%, you'd have more than $800,000 by the time you were 57. That's like paying yourself almost a million dollars not to smoke. And now you're in a lot better health, and maybe you can retire early and make it up a flight of stairs.
We Fools are always thinking long term. But if you're not well enough to enjoy it when the time comes, what's the point? Maybe we should add a 14th step for smokers to our 13 Steps to Investing Foolishly: Don't die! Stick around to reap what you sow.
For more information about the effects of smoking and for help with quitting, check out the American Lung Association. For moral support from fellow Fools trying to quit, check out our Quitting Smoking discussion board. You don't have to try to quit alone, Fools.