Monday, April 03, 2006

Impact of the Gene Pool Lottery

How do genetic factors influence your net worth? No, I’m not talking about the discovery of a spendthrift gene or a frugality gene. I'm talking about some of the natural advantages and disadvantages that you were born with.

Jeff over at pfadvice.com floated the idea of cutting back on the number of visits that we make to the dentist’s office each year as a way to save money. Several folks disagreed with his suggestion, including one individual who wrote “if you lost the gene pool lottery when it comes to gum disease, think about upping your visits. In the long run, it can save you a lot more money on gum surgery…not to mention your teeth!”

His comment made me laugh. But it also got me to thinking about the gene pool lottery, and the ways in which certain physical weaknesses impact my net worth. Let me be quick to say that I don’t have any significant health issues. And for that, I’m profoundly grateful. But at times, I do envy other folks, in the sense that they don’t have to pay for certain things that I have to. Here are a couple of thoughts that come to mind:

- Gingivitis, cavities, receding gum lines, sensitive teeth, you name it, I’ve got it. My retainer snapped in half a few years ago, and because I grind my teeth at night, the teeth in my lower jaw are beginning to shift again. If it gets any worse, I may need to get braces. Potentially an out of pocket expenditure of $4,000 or more, since my dental insurance won’t cover it.
- When your eyesight is as bad as mine, money is no object when it comes to thin lenses and lightweight frames. Thankfully, as of my last annual checkup, my eyes have finally stabilized (one of the few benefits of getting old). For the first time in over 2 decades, I didn’t need a new prescription for glasses/contact lenses. If I were a better candidate for laser surgery, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
- 8 week rehab program for chronic back and knee problems, at a cost of nearly a hundred dollars per session. Thankfully, my health insurance provider covered part of the cost.
- Orthotics, arch supports, and specially modified shoes for folks who pronate when they run.
- Thick, unruly hair that requires frequent trips to the hair stylist. $50 every 4 to 6 weeks (and that’s really pushing it).
- Standing tall at 5’2” (think short arms and short legs). Being shorter than average requires frequent trips to the tailor, foot rests, foot stools, etc. Thank goodness for the advent of petite sizes.
- Severe lactose intolerance means that I’m always on the hunt for either lactaid pills or milk and dairy substitutes. Ever try ordering a latte from Starbucks made with soy milk? That’ll be an extra 50 cents, please.

Clearly, some folks have it better and some folks have it far worse. For example, my food allergies seem pretty insignificant when you think about people like my friend who developed a food allergy to corn products. If you've ever looked at the back of most processed food labels, you'd know that corn syrup is used to sweeten pretty much everything. Needless to say, her grocery bills are quite a bit higher than mine.

So, did you win or lose the gene pool lottery? And how does it impact your bottom line?

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