Collecting My Annual Health Dividends

This sound like a post about the medical industry and collecting my dividend payouts. If that’s what you’re looking for, then I’m sorry to disappoint.

It’s actually about something that all Singaporean males should be familiar with – the annual Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) that we must take every window from the current birthday to the next.

MINDEF is so effective that each NSmen is given an SMS birthday greeting, which accompanies with it a reminder for us to fulfil our IPPT requirement, or else we will either be considered an IPPT defaulter or take up to 20 sessions of Remedial Training (RT), which really imposes a time burden on any full-time worker.

But rather than seeing this as an NS obligation and a mere chore, I choose to reframe my approach – I see it as a dividend payout on my ability to keep myself fit, which gets increasingly more difficult as the years pass, owing to more work and family responsibilities. In return for exercising regularly, MINDEF gives a tiered structure of rewards – Gold, Silver, Bronze and Pass with Incentive.

Some people say it’s money from the government in exchange for about half an hour of IPPT, but there’s definitely a lot of training that needs to go into maintaining that level of fitness!

The standards are pretty high and it is not given that one goes away with any awards. But I guess MINDEF is generous enough to allow for multiple attempts, more to encourage those failing to pass as well I suppose.

With COVID-19, MINDEF actually announced that IPPT requirements would be waived this year. But I felt that my fitness was still decent enough to be worth collecting some money, so I booked for an IPPT session anyway. Given my age, and recent 2.4km performances that I have been running on my own, I was honestly not expecting to get too much out of it. I was even mentally prepared to accept a Pass with Incentive. But I surprised myself by clocking a sub-11 mins for 2.4km and overall just barely scrapped a Silver.

Anyway, the point of this post is this: If I were to valuate this amount like a 3% dividend payout, which is benchmarked to the STI ETF, this comes up to about $17k, $10k or $7k in capital, depending on the award received. That’s one way of thinking about the human capital cost that MINDEF is placing on every physically-abled male who is ready to activate in a moments’ notice.

Just as a firm that does well enough for the year pays out dividends, we could potentially apply the same thinking here: From my own perspective, I generally exercise about 3 times each week, and it is about half hour each session. So based on a 42-weeks window, that’s about 63 hours of exercising. Put another way, I can quantify my exercise at about $159/hr so that I ‘earn’ enough capital in my health portfolio and consider myself fit enough of the $300 Silver award.

Of course, the cynic may say that 63 hours for just $300 is $4.76/hr and working as a part-timer in a fast food restaurant probably gives a higher rate. But honestly, I don’t think many of us actually think of exercising solely for the money, and there are a platitude of health benefits from exercising just because. So that would not be the correct way to frame the effort-rewards ratio.

What do you think about framing the numbers in this way?

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