Personal Finance Bootcamp: Are You Financially Fit?

Like maintaining your physical health, finances fitness takes consistent effort and discipline.

Amy Clover, the founder of the self-help site Strong Inside Out, is a friend of mine who knows all about physical fitness. Amy overcame her debilitating clinical depression and obsessive compulsive disorder through exercise. Her mission is now to help other people discover their inner strength. Recently, she and I chatted about getting physically and financially fit, and how similar the principles are.

I want to share them to help you kick-start the journey toward healthy body and finances. So get your sweatbands and dolphin shorts on, and let’s get to work.

Moderation is key. You hear it all the time: The secret to a healthy diet is moderation. Amy lives by and teaches her clients something she calls the 90 percent principle, which means that 90 percent of the time, you eat healthy (whole or minimally processed) food, and reserve the 10 percent for anything else your heart desires, like chocolate covered pretzels.

Trying to cut yourself off altogether is a recipe for disaster. Without moderation, people become more likely to give up because it is too difficult to resist all the goodies you love.

The same thing goes with your finances. How many times have you said “I’m going to stop eating out,” or “no more Starbucks for me,” only to find yourself giving in to the next invitation? You can allow yourself a little treat, but set a dollar limit to it. When you’re out of that money, you’re done. Keeping yourself within limits allows you to strategically plan for other purchases and savings for goals.

The parts you avoid need the most work. There are probably body parts that you avoid dealing with because they’re your least favorite. These spots are your weakest and need the most of your attention.

Amy’s strategy is to take care of these areas first, twice a week. For her, she hates working abs, but she gets them out of the way first thing in her workouts, so she doesn’t spend her whole session dreading exercising her stomach muscles.

When it comes to finances, tracking spending is most people’s least favorite chore. But throwing a blanket over it doesn’t make it go away. Check in on your spending on a weekly basis. Use budgeting apps like Mint.com to keep yourself accountable, and set automatic transfer from your paycheck into a savings account.

Mental preparation is as important. Besides physical training, athletes practice mental skills such as motivation, focus and self-confidence. Set defined goals to motivate you and celebrate wins along the way.

Before your workout, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” and then, “Why does this mean so much to me?” These same questions work in getting clear with your financial goals. Your answer may be “I want to be an example for my children.” Use this mantra to guide you throughout your workout or when you face tough financial roadblocks.

Financial and physical fitness takes time, moderation and discipline. But once you get on track, you’d be surprised to find how much stronger you become inside and out.

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Written by Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP, the founder of Workable Wealth, an RIA in San Diego. She is a writer, speaker and financial coach who is passionate about working with individuals and couples in their 20s and 30s to help them organize and gain confidence in their financial lives. She has been quoted or featured in various industry publications on the local and national level. You can find her on Twitter at @marybstorj.

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