5 Tips for Financial Fitness
How to flex your financial muscles for a healthier life.
According to a recent TD Bank Fiscal Fit survey, seven out of 10 Americans feel that sound financial health can have a positive impact on overall health and well-being. For those who have a financial plan in place, the number increases to eight out of 10.
However, as many continue to focus on their 2015 health and fitness efforts (and probably increasing momentum for the summer!), I’ve noticed a number of people delay pursuing their financial goals. Some aren’t sure where to begin, while others feel overwhelmed about the perceived time and effort.
The sooner you start investing in your financial future, however, the more time you have to build a healthy life and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
As a San Diegan, I live in a health-conscious, physically-fit community. In fact, just last year, an Anthem Blue Cross Foundation and the American College of Sports Medicine survey ranked San Diego at No. 8 for residents’ fitness. With the strong correlation of well-being and financial health, and our community further encouraging physical fitness, as evidenced by the recent GO by BIKE initiative, it only makes sense that we should all be working hard on our financial fitness.
Here are my simple tips for building a healthy financial life:
- Identify Goals & Create a Plan. Similar to outlining your fitness goals, such as improving flexibility, strength training or lowering body fat, it’s important to write down your financial goals. The specifics may change over the years, as you raise a family or embark on a new career, but the overarching goal and your commitment should remain fairly consistent. So, consider the end-game. Are you looking to accumulate wealth? Plan for retirement or a child’s college education? Or do you want to set a good example for your children and make sure your dependents are taken care of? Then, create a plan to get there.
- Start Out Slow. Most fitness trainers advise against an all-out body-straining routine on Day 1. Instead, a slow ramp-up process is recommended to avoid injuries that can further hinder your fitness goals. The same applies to financial planning. For instance, start your savings out slowly—you don’t need to immediately put half of your paycheck into savings. While that’s an ambitious goal, you can start with allocating $10-$20 per paycheck and raise the amount as you get more comfortable.
Starting out slow can prevent you from jeopardizing your financial future. For instance, just because you’re determined to build wealth doesn’t mean you need to immediately purchase a home. In fact, that may seriously damage your financial health and hurt you in the long run.
- Commit to Financial Health. In fitness, mental preparation is key. In addition to creating a plan and getting started, athletes practice mental skills to get to the next level and beyond. In building your financial health, it’s also important to be confident, driven and focused.Consider the big picture. In addition to putting the gym time in, athletes make better choices with their diets, for example. The same goes for financial health. Having an investment strategy or retirement plan in place is great—now maximize your financial health by reducing fees and taxes, saving more of your paycheck and optimizing your charitable contributions.
- Streamline the Journey & Have Fun. It’s easy to skip the same boring workout, especially when it’s in an inconvenient location, or you are feeling tired or not sure if your efforts are paying off. In San Diego, many have turned to boot camps, CrossFit or stand-up-paddleboarding to break the routine. Others work out with friends or have invested in a personal trainer to keep themselves accountable and have the best experience.In building your financial strength, I recommend streamlining the process to ensure your goals are on track. For instance, automate your savings plan. I bet you won’t even miss the funds automatically transferred to your account but you’ll feel the difference. Also, find a financial planner you trust and enjoy working with. Not only will he or she help with accountability, but you may appreciate the journey and really feel the progress.
- Run a Progress Report. Speaking of progress, it’s a common fitness practice to check in on your development. Some people record times, repetitions or weights; others do a monthly workout fitness text. When it comes to checking on your finances, the important thing is to check in and make sure you plan is on track, and you’re making strides in the right direction. You can do this weekly, monthly or even bi-annually. Having a financial roundtable is especially important when you share financial responsibility with others, such as a spouse. The report is a great time to see your overall financial picture and ensure you are both on the same page.
Most people focus on fitness to live a longer and healthier life. And the longer we live, the more important finances become—particularly when it comes to saving and retirement planning. So, as you continue to ramp up our fitness efforts this year, consider making strides on your financial plan. Starting is half the battle so create a plan, start slow and before you know it, you’ll build a financially healthy life, which can have a positive effect on your overall health and well-being.
Taylor Schulte, CFP® is founder and CEO of Define Financial, a San Diego-based fee-only firm. He is passionate about helping clients accumulate wealth and plan for retirement.
About the Author
Founder and CEO, Define Financial
Taylor Schulte, CFP®, is founder and CEO of Define Financial, a fee-only wealth management firm in San Diego. In addition, Schulte hosts The Stay Wealthy Retirement Podcast, teaching people how to reduce taxes, invest smarter, and make work optional. He has been recognized as a top 40 Under 40 adviser by InvestmentNews and one of the top 100 most influential advisers by Investopedia.