10 Steps to Improving Your Financial Fitness
Especially when facing uncertain times, it’s vital to have funds set aside for the unexpected. Investing in the future and adopting spending discipline might sound intimidating at first, but these savings strategies are vital and achievable goals for anyone looking to improve their financial health.
If you think of savings willpower as jumping jacks for your wallet, it’s easy to get started with these exercises for building financial muscle and reducing monetary fat:
1. Think long and hard before using your credit card.
The only way to save and invest is to spend less than you earn. Some spending is impulsive—it feels good in the moment but ultimately clogs your financial arteries. Every time you find yourself considering an expenditure, ask yourself if it’s more important than securing your long-term fiscal health.
2. Bench press “bad” debt.
Just like with cholesterol, there are important differences between “good” debt and “bad” debt. Good debt carries a low interest rate or tax deductibility and can actually increase your net worth. High-interest debt is bad debt. It reduces your net worth and should be paid off ASAP. This includes credit card debt, payday loans, and car loans.
3. Pump up your emergency fund.
A “rainy day” fund is your insurance policy against unexpected bills, like medical care, damage to your property, pet costs, or unplanned travel. Financial advisors recommend keeping at least six months of living expenses safe and liquid – such as in a savings account or certificate of deposit. Less than that adds to your stress levels and can have negative impacts on your overall well-being.
4. Get in the retirement savings habit.
The way to save for retirement is the same way to build muscle – a little bit every week. Put aside money for retirement starting as soon as possible and add contributions regularly – whether through an employer-sponsored plan or your own IRA.
5. Make a budgetary workout plan.
With a budget, you’ll always know how much you have to spend—and not spend. And, as with a diet, if you indulge on one expenditure, you’ll know you need to cut back on another. Leveraging your online banking tools to easily track your regular expenses is an excellent way to create and stick with good financial health habits.
6. Maintain in order to gain.
Make a plan to regularly review your savings and check your progress. Watching your savings grow will inspire and motivate you to stick with your plan and will help you address problem areas quickly and effectively. Understanding your budget will help you achieve your financial fitness goals faster.
7. Audit your credit report.
By law, you have the right to a free copy of your credit report annually. It’s like your annual physical, except you don’t need a doctor. If there are any inaccuracies in the report, challenge them. That will improve your credit score and reduce your cost of borrowing.
8. Blast your spending binges.
One surefire way to improve your physical health is to cut out or cut down on unnecessary snacks and treats. To improve your fiscal health, avoid empty calories. Making meals and brewing coffee at home vs. dining out is a quick way to start saving right away. You also can be more strategic about using coupons, waiting to shop during sales and frequenting bargain-priced outlets. Any belt-tightening is better than none, and you’ll definitely notice the difference in your account balances.
9. Repetition builds strength.
Just as increasing the weight or the number of reps in your lifting routine increases your power at the gym, you can power up your financial fitness by automating your savings. Even if you set aside only a few dollars of each direct-deposit paycheck to be transferred to your savings or IRA or CD account, allocating that money before you ever see it is a solid way to build momentum toward your savings goals.
10. Skip the get-rich-quick schemes.
Millions play the lottery and only one or two win it. Just as it takes time to get into shape, it takes time to build savings and reduce debt. Take the long view.
The bottom line is, well, your bottom line. Building savings muscle strengthens your financial plan, which can help you reduce stress and live a fuller life. Financial fitness just requires a little discipline and a lot of patience.
Save today. Relax tomorrow. Ask us how!