I like to think I’m pretty good about saving money for retirement and managing my finances. I give money to my investor on a monthly basis and work with my accountant to make sure I’m making good financial decisions. However, I recently met with a financial planner who takes an overall view of one’s complete financial picture that made me realize there are some things I could be doing differently. The experience got me thinking about how similar it is to taking care of one’s self physically – there are a lot of different options, opinions and strategies, it requires regular commitment, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
- If you don’t plan ahead, you’re screwed. You’ll get to the end, realize you made a huge mistake, and there’s nothing you can do to correct it. It’s easy to live for the moment and skip that workout, eat that extra bit of food, buy that cute pair of shoes or that new car instead of delaying gratification and thinking of the payoff later. The hospital is full of people who regret not taking better care of themselves.
- You have to keep making small deposits over time. Every little bit counts over the long run. Not doing anything for a long period of time and then making a big deposit or doing a really hard workout is not a good strategy. Exercising and eating healthy on a regular basis are like making regular deposits into your retirement account: compounding interest wins every time!
- Hiring a professional helps. I had a checklist of all the things I should have in my portfolio – disability insurance, life insurance, estate planning, retirement accounts – and thought the list was all I needed, but it’s not that simple. There are better insurance plans based on your needs. There are better accounts to be putting your money into. Unless you know the ins and outs of all of them, you’re guessing. There are a lot of diet and exercise plans out there and it’s not as easy as simply choosing one and starting. It may or may not be the right strategy for you based on your goals and lifestyle. It helps to meet with a professional (performance coach, personal trainer, dietician) who can look at the big picture (nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress) to make sure you’re being as strategic with your time, energy, and resources as possible.
- It’s an emotional topic some people don’t like to talk about or confront. If money management issues are a challenge, they’re sometimes easier not to think about or acknowledge. Same goes with health, diet or exercise issues. It’s better to tackle things head on: reality may be uncomfortable, but it’s critical to understand where you’re at and create an action plan you can execute one simple step at a time. Break it up into bite size actionable pieces that are easier to confront and accomplish.
- Once you get started it’s not so bad. You may have built up a mindset of how horrible getting financially or physically healthy will be – lots of pain, suffering and denial involved. You may be surprised to learn it’s not as terrible as you thought. In fact, focusing on one or two things consistently makes a big difference and you begin to grow more confident and committed to your plan, and it becomes a normal way of life.
- Small sacrifices now, big payoff later. You can always start saving money or exercising next week, right? We may put things off until there’s a more convenient time, but the reality is that there will probably never be a “good time”. So many of my clients say family is one of the most important things in life, and they work hard every day to provide for them and plan for the future. In the process they ignore their health thinking they’ll have time for it later, only to find out “later” was too late. Life can change dramatically in the blink of an eye. Invest in yourself NOW so you can enjoy your future to the fullest.