By FPA member Catherine M. Seeber, CFP®
Last Updated: December 20, 2011
The frustration of frequent gym goers with the “newbies” setting unrealistic goals and non-sustaining commitments of changing bad behavior overnight have waned. What are some ways to avoid defeat and stay motivated, not just for the New Year, but all year long?
- Stop fantasizing. You may not become the next Jessica Alba or Matthew McConaughey, so realize that up front. Set aside, for a moment, the dream of owning a 42-foot yacht with an assortment of servants. It just may never happen and such senselessness only paralyzes one to institute a plan and inhibits progress.
- Resist the fear of commitment. Ah, the “C” word. Up at dawn, leaving the confines of your warm bed to join a group of others equally as unenthusiastic. No one is asking you to pigeon hole yourself into an unhealthy situation or fall into an abyss of no return. The reality is, however, you need to decide how much time you are willing to spend on developing and implementing a financial plan and calendar yourself the required meetings so the expectations are outlined in advance. Change takes time and time requires a commitment.
- Begin by getting your house in order. The last thing you want to do is begin an exercise routine with a lycra spandex outfit two sizes too small and set yourself up for embarrassment and failure right from the starting line. Set out practical clothing and buy comfortable shoes. Organize all debt and expenses, listing all balances, required minimum payments and interest rates. Run a credit report and review your Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) score. Take inventory of all sources of potential income.
- Forget about miracles for a moment. Do you recognize the phrase “you can lose weight in just five minutes a day”? Well, if you and everyone else could do it, then the statistic of more than two-thirds of U.S. adults being overweight or obese is grossly overstated. Financial stability requires developing a strategy and adhering to a non-emotional discipline.
- Ignore the headlines. Stop reading the diet stories in the tabloids and stop listening to Jim Kramer’s Mad Money. This will only result in failed results and fictitious speculation. These suggestions come from a great belief that there is a glimmering pot of gold at the end of the rainbow awaiting us all.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Personal trainers and financial planners have the knowledge and skill to alleviate the possibility of a strained groin muscle or a risky Bernie Madoff hedge fund investment. Check with the SEC, appropriate state agencies, your local Better Business Bureau and CFP Board to determine if complaints have been filed against the planner you are considering.
- No one said you had to do this alone. Be sure to invite a friend to join your gym routine (a little competition doesn’t hurt). Make the effort to share the responsibilities of all financial decisions when it affects the lifestyle objectives of someone else.
- Deviating from the plan is not an excuse to quit. There is nothing shameful in rewarding yourself: you can eat that chocolate chip cookie or buy yourself that special bauble. Just make sure you return to your path and avoid falling back into bad eating and spending habits.
- Don’t ignore the warning signs. Similar to not taking care of your body, if you overlook the warning signs of fiscally irresponsible behavior, the cost has a snowball effect. Credit card companies will begin to charge higher interest rates, which will make it more difficult to meet the minimum payment, which will result in late charges that significantly increase your outstanding balance.
Becoming financially fit is not a once a year endeavor and requires an entirely new way of living to accomplish lifelong sustainable results. Good habits begin to morph into a new way of life. If you eat it, you wear it; if you don’t have it, don’t spend it. It’s that simple.
FPA member Catherine M. Seeber, CFP®, is a Principal and Financial Advisor with Wescott Financial Advisory Group LLC. She is also president-elect of the FPA’s Philadelphia Tri-State Area Chapter.