This year is your year. Now is your opportunity to acknowledge how satisfied you are with your personal finances and take yourself to the next level of financial fitness. Just as you take great care with your emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical health, this is your moment to tend to your financial health.
How do you even begin? Start with what you know and what you are reading about in this issue of Natural Nutmeg: weight loss. Many of the same attitudes, behaviors, and activities that enable you to lose weight and become healthy physically can be applied to your personal finances to help you become more healthy financially.
I can say this from both personal and professional experience. You see, I lost 50 pounds through specific changes I made in my own life. And I have obtained a level of financial wellness and support my own clients daily in doing the same as a Certified Financial PlannerTM and Private Wealth Advisor.
Start with A Vision
Before I lost all that weight, life was tough: my clothes didn’t fit, I had no energy, and I felt incredibly uncomfortable socially. I avoided having pictures taken of me whenever possible and was deeply saddened one day when I saw that in a photo of a pregnant friend and me, I who was not pregnant looked ready to give birth! Something had to change. After I dried my tears I set my sights forward. I reframed how I thought of myself and envisioned being a physically fit, active, fun-loving woman who felt comfortable in her own body. That vision grounded me and kept me focused on the person I aspired to become in time through changes in eating, exercising, and other behaviors.
I remember vividly the first time I had a vision for my own financial future. I was an 18-year-old freshman in college. In my public speaking course, a classmate delivered a presentation on compound interest and saving for retirement. He explained that the earlier you save and the more often, the more time you had to potentially make money on your savings before you had to use the money. I promised myself at the end of that class that no matter what I earned, I would always save some portion of it. And I retain that savings-oriented vision and approach to finances even today.
Follow an Integrated, Holistic Approach
For me, losing weight was more than just eating fewer calories than I exerted. I had to apply a holistic, integrated approach to how I obtained, prepared, consumed, and burned off the food I put into my body. From preparing more food at home using minimally processed ingredients, to taking my meals to work, to exercising at least 4 times a week, I had to incorporate many dimensions to lose the weight and keep it off.
Similarly, I learned as a newlywed that saving and investing alone wouldn’t make me financially well. In my case, I needed to buy the right kind of life insurance to help take care of the mortgage my husband and I assumed as new homeowners. And I discovered as my husband and I began to look across our previously separate financial lives that there were different kinds of debt that people have and, as a result, various strategies for both carrying and paying off that debt. And I learned from the untimely early deaths of people important to us that it was critical that my husband and I incorporate estate planning into our financial wellness, even if we weren’t rich and didn’t have children. We needed to ensure that the assets we were building as a team during life would be distributed as we wished at death, especially in case we both died at the same time.
Monitor Your Progress Using a Variety of Data
Monitoring my progress losing weight meant more than reviewing what the numbers on my scale showed each week. I monitored my blood sugar levels at regular intervals. Trainers provided me workout routines to follow and I reported both what I completed and how I felt doing it. And at the gym I checked a gadget every month to see how my portion of body fat to muscle changed over time. As I lost weight and gained muscle, I felt less lethargic and more energetic. And I noticed that slowly, in time, I enjoyed being social again and not only hid less often from friends’ cameras but actually jumped into spontaneous silly poses when I felt like it.
In the same way, becoming financially well with my husband has included reviewing both qualitative and quantitative inputs. We developed a financial plan and have been reviewing it annually for years. In between reviews, we strive as a team to continuously save more and spend less. And to check our progress on this we check out our credit card statements and review our savings and investment accounts not only for how they are at specific points in time, but how they have trended over time. After 16 years of marriage, we still experience great joy when our savings and investment account balances are up and relief when our expenses are generally as expected when no major life surprises hit.
Make Adjustments Along the Way
In order to lose weight and keep it off, I have had to continuously adjust my actions. I eat different foods in light of my dynamic metabolism and as my metabolism changes with my age. When my weight loss goal was to be a physically fit, active, and fun-loving woman comfortable in my own skin I followed different exercise regimen than what I do today, now that I have achieved that original goal and want a stronger core, greater muscle tone, and increased flexibility and enhanced agility.
In the same way, sustaining financial wellness is a dynamic process requiring ongoing refinement. As life changed, our financial plan and strategies changed. We adjusted savings, and spending habits to support me leaving a corporate job with global responsibilities and a predictable base salary with bonus potential and starting a second career where my compensation depends on clients valuing the services I offer them, as evidenced through their fee-based payments. And since financial wellness goes beyond money management and includes debt management and insurance, when interest rates lowered, we refinanced our mortgage. We also regularly review both our beneficiaries on our financial accounts and double check that our wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives continue to be relevant.
Engaging Others for Help
I did not lose weight on my own. I had the support of a loyal husband who was open to buying, preparing, and eating new foods right along with me. At different points in my weight loss journey different specialists offered me expert guidance, from which combination of foods to eat to what vitamins and supplements to take, to what kind of exercise was appropriate given my body type and physical limitations. Effectively, I had a team of trained professionals providing me information and advice that I could use in my unique situation to achieve my weight loss dreams.
In the same way, my husband and I have utilized different resources over time to attain and sustain our financial fitness. Our financial plan changed from goals we’d talk about over Chinese takeout as newlyweds to hand written lists of what we wanted posted on the refrigerator to an Excel file my Engineer husband retained on his computer to now a comprehensive output from sophisticated financial planning software that helps us understand where we are today and helps us make projections around our future. When we determined we no longer wanted to prepare our own taxes, we engaged a CPA who had been referred to us by someone we trusted. As we built up our savings and began investing more, we began working with a financial advisor who was recommended to us by someone we trusted. And as the financial industry changed and our own needs changed, we ultimately decided to have me as a Certified Financial PlannerTM and Private Wealth Advisor manage our financial plan and investments with the team of professionals I both work with and trust.
Physical and Financial Fitness
While we could go on further about the parallels between losing weight and financial fitness, I hope that a few key points are clear. Similar to losing weight, when it comes to your finances you have the capacity to envision and realize the future you dream. No matter where you are today on your journey, when you allow yourself the freedom to create, own, and continuously adjust your savings, spending and investment behaviors in light of life’s circumstances, you can experience financial wellness and financial fitness.
Caroline Wetzel is one of Natural Nutmeg’s 10Best Winners for Business/Life Coach. Caroline is a Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFP®) and Vice President, Private Wealth Advisor with Procyon Private Wealth Partners, LLC. Procyon Private Wealth Partners, LLC and Procyon Institutional Partners, LLC (collectively “Procyon Partners”) are registered investment advisors with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). This article is provided for informational purposes only and for the intended recipient[s] only. This article may also include opinions and forward-looking statements which may not come to pass. Information is at a point in time and subject to change. Procyon Partners does not provide tax or legal advice.