While swimsuit season may be ending, financial fitness stays trending year-round. According to a recent study, “save more and spend less” was the top New Year’s resolution for 2017. In fact, financial resolutions have cracked the top five year over year, and hold steady behind losing weight.
So, why aren’t we all walking around with smaller waist lines and larger wallets?
Well, because maintaining financial health requires a lifestyle change – just like maintaining your physical health. The changes you make to get yourself on the right path need to become positive lifetime habits that are part of your daily routine.
10 Tips That Will Help You Get (and Stay) Financially Fit
Here are 10 tips to help you get started living the life you want:
1. Know your “why” behind money. Your specific reasons for working, investing, spending, and saving. If you don’t have that figured out, you don’t have anything to fight for. You can’t live intentionally with your money, because there’s nothing guiding your behavior.
2. Set goals and assess them regularly. Three years from now, what has to have happened for you to feel successful, both personally and professionally? From your answers, pull out your top five goals – and write them down! Categorize them into short, medium and long-term goals. You can also use the SMART method to help you define your goals further:
- Specific – Don’t set broad goals.
- Measurable – Track your progress.
- Assignable – Take personal accountability.
- Realistic – Only do what you know you can do.
- Timeline – Give yourself a deadline.
3. Know your expenses. Between lifestyle creep and fixed expenses, most people don’t fully grasp how much they’re spending. Every year, you should sit down and reevaluate your expenses versus your income – no matter how much money you make. That way, you can gauge your spending habits, and see where your money is being allocated. This can help keep your net worth out of the red.
4. Know your current financial position. To be able to get where you want to go, you have to understand where you are today. You then have to be able to optimize your current financial position as your information changes. Without being able to see your entire financial life in one place, and evaluating how everything is working together, you may not end up living the life you want.
5. Avoid drastic changes. Crash diets aren’t solutions for long-term success. Rather, slow and steady wins the race. Identify all the changes you’ll need to make to reach your goals, and work through them gradually. This way, your focus is on creating lifetime good habits – not clicking the instant button.
LIFE HACK: Saving 1% more of your income each year is a small change that can produce big results down the road.
6. Tune out the noise. There is more financial noise than ever in our media today. That’s why you need to adhere to a disciplined, rules-based approach to your financial life, based on your most important values. Like Warren Buffett said, “Market forecasters will fill your ear, but never your wallet.”
7. Make sure your financial strategies align with your most important values. The only constant in life is change. As your life changes, your strategies should then be updated based on what matters to you most at this moment in time.
8. Know the difference between risk and volatility. Risk simply means the probability that your investment will lose money. It has no direct effect on your returns. Volatility is the amount of fluctuation a portfolio can experience. The higher the volatility, the more erratic your compound returns can be. Volatility is one of the biggest wealth eroding factors you’ll encounter. That’s why you have to mitigate it.
9. Practice cost and tax management. Investing costs and taxes matter – they can erode your returns just as much as volatility. Your strategy should work to lower the cost of expense ratios and be tax efficient. Remember that a good advisor can be worth a reasonable fee. Just be sure they’re providing you with value-based solutions, not selling you products.
10. Create an Investment Policy Statement. Even the best investors can get nervous when the market moves. But when the market moves, you need something that reminds you why you’re invested a certain way – that reminds you of your most important values, and stops you from making poor decisions. That’s when you pull out your IPS. If an investment decision doesn’t meet this criterion, you shouldn’t invest in it.
Why Does It Matter to You?
Being able to live the life you want is the ultimate goal. But, let’s take that one step further – being able to life the life you want, at every stage of life, is the ultimate goal. That’s why maintaining your financial health is so critical. Not only will it ensure that you remain optimally positioned for success today, but it can increase your chances of success in the future.