Because if you’re going to be around for longer, your finances will need to keep up
If you’re anything like me, the current Spring weather is a welcome change from the freezing mornings of winter. You hear the birds singing outside, see the sunshine streaming in through your blinds and actually want to get out into the sunshine and start your day.
I try and keep a fitness routine up during winter and that’s because I get it out of the way in the morning and maintain a general rule of going to the gym with the same if not more regularity that I indulge in my favourite orange and poppy seed cake. It helps that I’ve got my Sweat app on during morning sessions so that I can follow along with Kayla’s routine and don’t have to get too creative, particularly given my general morning mood is grumpy.
The one thing I notice during Spring is that more people are joining me in the gym after a break from fitness. People in the Gym right now are at different levels of comfort in the gym environment. You have the nervous gym goer, eyeing up equipment nervously. The set and forget routine lover who never veers outside of their tried and tested routine as they power through another workout. And the new gym visitor who has made a decision to get a bit fitter so that they have more energy in their life. All different levels of fitness and all to be admired for doing something to improve their quality of life.
And it’s that feeling of motivation and accomplishment from building up your fitness this Spring, that I want you to apply to your finances.
One of the reasons you might feel like you’re bad with money is that it’s hard to master when you’re starting from scratch. I empathise entirely – it’s a bit like stepping onto a treadmill when it’s been months since you stepped into a gym. But over time, if you stick at it and build up your financial fitness, you’ll be surprised how much better you feel over time and how much you can accomplish.
So, strap on your trainers, bend and stretch and let’s start the 5 steps to financial fitness:
1. Figure out how much you owe
I always start with this step because it’s the equivalent of figuring out how much baggage you’re carrying on your climb up a mountain – debt is dead weight and will weigh you down over time. Most debt also comes with interest which means that an original $300 you borrow will grow over time if you add an extra percentage onto it every year and don’t take proactive steps to pay it off the total debt quickly. Look at your credit card debt, any student loans you’ve accrued and figure out how much you owe so that you’ve identified whatever baggage you’re carrying.
2. Take stock of what you have right now
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed after looking at your total debt, this is the flip side which will make you feel better about yourself. So many of us start a fitness regime out of a hatred for certain parts of our bodies but if you appreciated the body you had and all the brilliant things it does for you during the day, you’d likely be more motivated to improve it.
With that in mind, I want you to look at the assets you have now and everything that you’ve worked hard to get, be it a few thousand dollars in savings, the start of a down payment on a house or the Nike air trainers that you worked so hard to be able to buy. We rarely take the time to appreciate how hard we’ve worked for things and taking stock of the assets you already own is a great motivator to do more to improve your finances.
3. Set your goals
Now you’ve established where you are now, it’s time to set your targets that you’re going to work towards. This could a short-term goal, the equivalent of going for a run twice a week such as ditching fast fashion and making conscious decisions to pass on a Zara blazer and instead save up for a higher quality Balmain version. You should also consider setting some more long-term goals such as starting to invest or contributing to your super fund, which will benefit your future self in years to come. If you’re having difficulty setting some goals, we’ve suggested 3 money management goals to get you started.
4. Decide how you’ll get there
The fitness equivalent of this step is the decision to finally buy the gym membership or invest in an exercise app. You’ve set your goals and need to decide how you’re going to reach them. If your goal is to save or cut back on your spending, you’ll likely need a budget app to keep yourself accountable. That’s why so many of us love the Sweat app that Kayla Itsines co-created. It’s a constant source of motivation and reminder of your goals for the week.
There’s a variety of budget apps on the market, from YNAB which gives every dollar in your budget a job to Mint which takes a more visual chart approach to your spending. Find an app that you like and which you’ll regularly use as a motivator to achieve your money goals.
5. Check in every 6 months
Many of us start a fitness regime with the best of intentions but give up after a few months or fall back into old habits. To avoid this happening with your new financial fitness regime, I’d recommend checking in on your progress every 6 months and see how you’re making progress, particularly with your longer-term goals.
We often overestimate what we can do in a day but overestimate what we can do in a year. Checking in every 6 months can be a great motivator to keep going as you build up your financial fitness.
One thing I want to emphasise is that in the same way our fitness levels vary in the Gym, we all start from different levels of financial fitness.
It can feel really hard to get started when you see someone next to you who has got it sorted and is running circles around you when it comes to how clued-up they are on their money. But this is a marathon, not a sprint and once you get started in learning about money and mastering your money, you’ll be surprised at the progress you can make over time.