Hope you enjoy this is a guest post I wrote for personal trainer and coach Wendy Ida! — René
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Chances are if you’re serious about your health and fitness, you’re probably using some type of tool to keep you on track. You might be working with a personal trainer, like Wendy Ida, using a mobile app, or utilizing a wearable tracker, such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch. Whatever method you’re using, it’s all about accountability. Believe it or not, the same holds true for your personal finances. After all, a goal is a goal, right? And frankly, the route to success is pretty much the same. If you want to improve any aspect of your financial life, setting goals, creating a plan, and tracking your progress are critical to being successful. Just as you would follow these steps in creating your fitness plan, let’s review how the same steps can be applied towards your Financial Fitness Plan.
- Begin with the end in mind. What are your goals? What are you trying to achieve? Having a specific goal in mind will help you stay laser focused on the outcome. For example, if your goal is to buy real estate, be specific about what you want to buy. If it’s a single family home, be clear about the details. How many bedrooms and bathrooms does your house have? Does it have a yard? What part of town do you want to want to live in? Be as specific as you can and set a date for your goal to be achieved. This step, while seemingly elementary, is actually fundamental to how successful you’ll be in meeting your goal.
- Write it down. Putting your financial goals in writing and looking at them periodically—say, weekly or monthly—will keep them fresh and real. Also, when writing your goals, see yourself as having already achieved the goal as opposed to meeting the goal sometime in the future. Instead of saying, “I want to be debt-free,” state your goal as: “I am debt-free and no longer have balances on my…” …fill in the blank: credit cards, student loans, auto loan, etc.
- Track It. Know what your starting point is so that you can track your progress and celebrate your wins. It may seem a bit daunting at first, and it might not even seem that a lot is happening at the beginning. But, trust me, you will see progress because now you’re paying attention. On the other hand, if you discover that progress is waning, you’ll know exactly what to do to get back on track.
- Keep it simple. How you track your progress will greatly depend on what’s the most easy and convenient. There are tons of apps out there, a lot of which are free or nearly free. Minimally, you’ll want the app to include an aggregation tool that will connect and pull in transactions from your financial institutions, allow you to create customizable budgets, and send alerts, if, for example, you exceed your monthly budget. Utilizing this type of tool is very powerful because what you see is your financial life in real time.
- Finally, work with a professional. Just as you would hire a personal trainer to design a customized fitness plan and provide guidance and accountability, the same can be said about meeting your financial goals. A Certified Financial Planner or CFP® is akin to a Financial Coach. They can help provide clarity about your financial goals, create a customized plan, and assist in tracking your progress. Many CFP® professionals charge flat fees, so you’ll know exactly how much you’re paying for their services. To locate a Certified Financial Planner in your area, visit either the national CFP Board website (www.cfp.net) or the Financial Planning Association website (www.plannersearch.org).