Don’t Lose $1,121 To This Mistake (Or, How To Make $1k This Weekend!)

Loss aversion is a powerful human motivator, on average. But it’s also distinctly anodyne for cold and calculating Spocks out there, and it’s pretty un-motivating for a certain kind of risk-seeking personality.

So this post’s title is phrased two ways to cover the maximum population. Those who hate to lose can focus on not making a stupid mistake. Spocks can revel in the marginal equivalency of not losing $1k versus getting $1k. And the final group can foam at the mouth about how to pull in four extra figs this weekend.

The post’s title also is phrased two ways as a nod to population coverage with things like simple disease-prevention and hygiene. Which really only work their magic on society if most people play along.

And, yet, for all 136.8 million of us Americans in the 18 to 49 year-old age bracket, there’s two-to-one odds we’re failing to do our part for society.

It's free. It saves you a bundle. Nurses.
It’s free. It saves you a bundle. Nurses.

It’s costing society big time. And it’s costing the people who don’t do their part very directly.

So those people need to play along and stop being lame and just do it already.

The sooner the better.

After all, it’s free, and you get to hang out with nurses for a little bit, and you’ll be much richer because of it.

It’s A Pain

If you haven’t figured out yet that I’m talking about flu shots, then you probably haven’t gotten yours yet, and you should right now.

Here’s a rundown of the relevant statistics.

Out of those 136.8 million ‘Mericans aged 18 to 49 (i.e., the big bulk of our labor force), only around 42.6 million (or roughly 30%) get flu shots. That compliance rate is by far the worst of the CDC’s reported age brackets. Among those 65+, for example, 70% get vaccinated.

So more than two-thirds of 18-49 year-olds go unvaccinated each year. That’s 94 million people. Which means, if you’re one of the (many) unvaxxed who thinks you don’t need to get shot up because everyone else in the office or bar or traveling circus does (i.e., herd immunity argument), you’re pretty much playing Russian roulette with four bullets chambered in your six shooter.

Your odds of winning the free-rider game are pretty bad here.

And if you do happen to be one of the 40 million Americans who gets the flu each year, you’re gonna be gross and diseased for somewhere between 7 and 14 days.

And you’re gonna miss 3 to 7 days of work, on average.

According to economic studies into this kind of illness-related work absenteeism, the average cost of a missed workday is $224.36. For a 3-day stint, that translates to $673, and for 7 missed days, that’s about $1,570 in cost. The midpoint of those two values is $1,121.

So that’s what missing your flu shot can cost you. Or what you can make by getting your flu shot. Or however you want to think about it.

(Those figures imply annual earnings of around $56k, which is pretty much exactly the median U.S. household income from 2015. If you earn more, or if you’re paid by the hour, or if you’re an entrepreneur, the numbers get much uglier in a hurry.)

Shot In The Arm

“But FL, I’m paid a salary, bro, and I get sick days, man, and anyway, feeling like I got dropped from a crop duster into a wood chipper is a great excuse for me to catch up on my Lifetime made-for-TV movies,” you say.


First, just because you’re paid salary doesn’t mean your absenteeism doesn’t cost you. Assuming you actually contribute something of value to your employer, your missed days hurt the bottom line, which hurts your employer’s ability to pay, which hurts your earning power.

And I can tell you that when people I counted on missed work because of preventable crap like the flu, it didn’t make a compelling argument for a bigger bonus or raise. Bottom line: If you miss work, you pay for it one way or another.

(And, by the way, missing work is a fantastic way for your company to explore life without you. Sometimes it’s only obvious how little somebody’s contributing when they’re not around for a few days.)

Second, just because you get sick days doesn’t mean you’re exempted from the above considerations.

Third, Lifetime made-for-TV movies are punch line material. Not a good reason to come down with the flu.

“Then maybe I’ll just go into the office when I’m sick. I’ll load up on DayQuil and nobody’ll know the difference,” you say.

Don’t even. If you infect half the office with your crud you’ll run your bonus/raise odds into the same orbit that one of those Lifetime movies has of winning an Oscar. And you might get sent home anyway. And then you’ll have publicly made two bad choices: Not getting immunized when you could, and then playing roulette with everyone else’s health after you got sick. Which is a track record that doesn’t exactly have “upper management” written all over it.

Play Misty For Me

Most years you can get your flu shot without the injection. It’s called Flu-Mist or intranasal spray or live attenuated influenza vaccine. And it’s amazing for people like me who fear needles more than pretty much anything else. But it’s not recommended this year, and so it’s gotta be intramuscular. Which is a shot. Which I hate. But which I got anyway. And if I could do it, so can you. Because I hate shots worse than you. That’s a science fact.

It’s not so much the pinprick I don’t like. It’s the sensation of the fluid getting pumped into the muscle. Like something’s gonna burst. Hate it. Hate. It.

Plus my shoulder hurts afterwards for like two days. Which sucks.

Once (when Flu-Mist wasn’t available) I got a flu shot in one shoulder and a tetanus shot in the other. And then, like an hour after that slugfest, I learned I had to be across the country the next morning. So I hopped a redeye at a last minute’s notice. Which meant coach. Which meant no shoulder space. Which meant sinus-clearing levels of discomfort for the overnight and the next day and the flight back a few hours later.

It sucked.

But the flu shot was still worth it. It’s always worth it.

So, even if you detest needles. And even if you’re gonna get stuck on a redeye in coach. And even if you’re gonna be sleepless for two days. And even if you love Lifetime made-for-TV movies, just get your durn’d flu shot already and save yourself and everybody else a whole lot of hassle and grossness.

After all, the shot’s free as long as you’ve got health insurance (which you absolutely should). And it’s usually administered by nurses. And it’ll save you a thousand bucks. Or make you a thousand bucks. Or half of both. Which at least half of nurses probably think is pretty cool.

Luchadores, please don’t tell me you’re skipping the flu shot because of any cockamamie anti-vaccine conspiracy theory. Have you gotten your flu shot yet?


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