What do personal finance and physical fitness have in common? On the surface, these two important areas of our lives are completely different. One involves earning, spending, saving, and investing. The other one is about nutrition, exercise, sleep, and overall health.
But if you dig deeper, there are many similarities between health and wealth. It goes beyond finishing a whole pint of Haagen-Dazs (coffee flavor, please) or going on the online shopping spree when you’re stressed or going through emotionally tough times.
The same mindset and strategies we use to maintain a physically healthy lifestyle can be applied to improving our finances. Girl, put on your favorite Lululemon leggings and fill up your Swell water bottle. Let’s get financially fit!
1. Find your “Why” to motivate you
Making lifestyle changes is not easy. When times get tough, you need to have a compelling reason to keep going. In health, you might want to have more confidence, look better in skinny jeans, or have more energy to play with your kids. When it comes to your finances, finding your why is the first step towards financial success. Money is not an end in itself. It is merely a tool to help you achieve a particular goal.
Ask yourself, what do you want from your money? Is it more time to spend with your family? An opportunity to live wherever you want? A luxury to buy what you want? Freedom from financial risk? A chance to donate to the causes you support?
Being clear about your unique “why” is what keeps you on track when you face hard financial choices.
2. It’s personal, no one-size-fits-all solution
Do you have a friend who swears by intermittent fasting, ketogenic diet, or whatever the latest diet fad is? It might have worked wonders for them but might not be a solution for you. We all have different genetics, lifestyle, and willpower.
For example, my husband just finished a 5-day diet that mimics fasting. His results are transformational. But! I’m 100% certain this approach is not going to work for me. If I wanted to fast for health reasons, I would rather not eat for one day each week for a month than fast for 5 days straight.
Similarly, our financial success is very individual. Let’s not forget about “personal” in personal finance. Everyone’s situation is different. Your financial plan must work for you and only you.
Even classic advice like paying off your debt before starting to invest, or keeping your emergency fund at 3-6 months of your expenses isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
Finding financial tools and approaches that fit with your existing lifestyle is a key step to achieving your money goals.
3. Use the right tools
A little structure and preparation goa long way in achieving our goals, both in health and in wealth. After you’ve identified your “why”, the next step is to figure out “how”. You need a plan of action.
For our health goals, we might create a weekly meal plan, commit to exercising a certain number of days a week, find a workout buddy, or sign up for one of the calorie-tracking apps. Maybe your Apple Watch is cheering you on and you’re competing with your sister on who burns more calories each day, like me.
Apply that same mindset to achieving your money goals. Are you saving for next year’s European vacation? Maybe you need to get a money management app like “Personal Capital” to see where your money is going and where you can cut without feeling deprived. Are you planning to start a business or buy a house within the next couple of years? Maybe you need to sign-up for Ellevest money membership to have a customized financial plan that keeps you on track to achieving your goals.
Dreaming about a financial or health goal doesn’t make it happen; mapping out how to get there and taking action will.
4. Simplicity above all
I am a big fan of simplicity. I feel like if you keep things simple, it’s much easier to stay focused.
Weight loss is a multi-billion-dollar industry with solutions, workouts, supplements, and diets of all kinds for every budget. But we all know a simple truth. It’s calories in vs. calories out. If you want to lose weight and improve your health, you should eat less, exercise more, drink water, and get better sleep. There is no magic pill.
Finance is no different. The financial services industry makes billions of dollars in fees every year by making money management look complicated and making you feel like you’re not smart to do it on your own. Instead, it’s very simple. It’s dollars in vs. dollars out. If you want to grow your wealth, you should spend less than you make and invest the difference. It’s that simple.
If you’re trying to make a lasting change, complexity is the enemy of the progress. Don’t complicate your life with expensive protein shakes and exotic derivative investments. Keep it simple with fitness and personal finance and you’ll get 90% of the way there.
5. Keep a long-term perspective
Whether you are trying to improve your physical or financial health, you should aim for a lifestyle change. Keep a long-term perspective in mind while changing your daily habits. Taking one small step at a time and sticking with it is much better than making a drastic change for a little while and then falling off the wagon completely.
Let’s say you decided to start saving more money for retirement. If 15-20% of your gross pay seems impossible right now, start where you feel comfortable. Even if it’s 1%. Then gradually work yourself up to 20%. The important thing is to take action and stick with it.
Every small positive thing you do for your health or your wealth will compound over time to yield great results. Small decisions add up to big wins down the road. Always remember that.
6. Be kind to yourself
Have you ever watched someone “blow” their diet? They went overboard with the French fries and wine. Instead of being kind to themselves and vowing to do better tomorrow, they decide that they’ve already screwed it up and might as well give up. Who wants another slice of cake?
Similarly, if you spend too much money during the Nordstrom Anniversary sale, you say to yourself that you’re bad with money anyways and completely give up your dreams of financial freedom.
We all make mistakes. When this happens, be kind to yourself. Stay focused on your goals and try again tomorrow. And when you do decide to splurge occasionally, enjoy it!
The bigger picture
So, health and wealth, fitness and money. Taking control of these two aspects of your life alleviates a lot of stress and provides a lot of freedom and choices. I hope this article helps you approach money and fitness with the same mindset. I’ve noticed that once you get one area of your life in check, the other seems to easily fall into place for a lot of people. It’s all about focus on a goal and small, consistent action.