Healthy Living, Healthy Investing
Health, wealth, and happiness. These are goals that many—in their own way—shoot for in life. All three goals could mean different things to different people, but the themes would be the same. It stands to reason then, that the
skills and habits that create health are not all that different than those that generate wealth. And the responsible living central to both is key to personal satisfaction and happiness.
The same types of decisions that make you healthy can make you wealthy. Many people understand that eating a banana instead of a candy bar will lead to a healthier life. Most people also know that they should save for retirement instead of spending all of their money on this season’s newest fashions or electronics. The secret sauce to being healthy and wealthy is to make more of the good decisions than the bad ones over a long period of time. The harder the decision is to make, the greater effect it has on your goal. For instance, sticking to a balanced diet and budgeting are the hard decisions to stick to, but they are also the choices that have the greatest impact on health and wealth long term.
The way to create meaningful change that leads to the goals you would like to reach in life is by creating a habit of making good decisions. The fad diets and the get rich quick schemes don’t work. The person who gets rich is usually the one who wrote the book, and the fad diet creators were most likely in good shape before they created some flash diet trend. Making one decision is easy, and it only affects your life in a small way. Turning one good decision into a habit today can change the story of your life. In the end, health in your body and health in your life are about a steady stream of good decisions in one direction.
Know What You Want
The first decision requires clarity. You must know what’s important to you, what your goals and priorities are. Everyone is different, and therefore, their goals are different. One person may think that feeling good in the morning is what being healthy is all about. The next could want to be able to run a marathon. Some people want to be millionaires and others just want to be comfortable in their lifestyle which would not require millions of dollars. Take the time to determine what is truly important for your specific situation in both health and wealth. That will help immensely when deciding which habits are the right ones for you to change.
The big long-term goals of a certain weight, a certain amount energy in your step, or a certain balance in your retirement account can’t be achieved simply by setting the goal out there and hoping for results. Once you know what is important and you know where you want to end up, set a short term goal that gets you closer to the end goal. 3-month, 6-month or 12-month increments to your goals help you clarify what behaviors you need to focus on and make the big goal more tangible.
When you’ve crossed that short-term hurdle, celebrate in a small way and set another goal that gets you a bit closer and repeat. Keep in mind that you do not have to be married to the end goal for all of time. If your priorities change, change the goal and keep making progress. Life happens, and you are allowed to change your mind. It’s much easier to change your mind about your financial end game when you’ve built up some good habits, then constantly switching your goal with nothing built up to give you momentum.
Do I Have to Be Good All the Time?
There are a few key concepts to keep in mind while building a habit out of good decisions. The first is allow yourself to “cheat” from time to time. Cheating is nearly always a necessary evil when creating a new habit. Every week have a cheat meal that you allow yourself, so you don’t go crazy avoiding the foods you love all the time. Every once in a while, splurge on yourself and go to a nice dinner or buy yourself a nice outfit that doesn’t necessarily fit perfectly in your budget. This may be more of a quarterly cheat than a weekly one, but you get the idea.
The second concept that helps is to make the decision that you can stick to for a long period of time into a habit as opposed to the one that is extremely difficult to choose every time. For instance, if your coffee stop on your way to work is extremely important to you, don’t change the stop. You may want to change when you stop or what you order, but if you need that 5-10 minute caffeine break to get the day started, take it and change something else! The same is true in finance. Don’t try to cut everything back to bare bones. Pick a few key places to start exhibiting new habits and then celebrate small wins. Along the way, if you want to keep paying a little extra for your gym membership or your cable bill while you try to limit your eating out, it’ll probably be ok.
The step that stops most people in their track while reaching toward a healthy and wealthy life is tracking your progress. The organized types can’t wait to make a spreadsheet that links to seven different pages and outputs graphs, but the majority of people in the real world hate having to track every little thing in either health or wealth. Again, keep in mind that the hardest habits to create make the biggest impact. Thankfully, there are tools out there that can help with the tracking. The important metrics to track for heath are food intake and exercise. You should keep a food journal to know what you are putting into your body from a calorie, fat, carbohydrate, and protein standpoint. With the exercise log, keep track of both cardio and resistance training. It is hard to know whether or not you are improving if you cannot remember how you did the last time you worked out. For wealth, the important numbers to track are your personal financial reports such as a balance sheet, net worth statement, and cash flow/budget. There are lots of good tools for tracking these things and your financial advisor can help you aggregate the data.
Make Sure You Have Support
The last piece of the puzzle that can truly help someone reach toward their preferred future is accountability. Having someone who knows you personally, knows your goals, and has knowledge of the steps it will take to reach those goals can supercharge your results. If you have someone in your corner who is rooting for you to succeed, it can make you want to make better decisions. If you are coming off the rails, the professional will know what you need to get back on track. Also, when life changes and goals change, a fitness or wealth professional can help you make your next great decision.
If you are willing to put in a small amount of work up front to make a few good decisions into new habits, the result will be a new lifestyle. The way you see the world will change. You could find yourself walking past the processed food aisles of the grocery store and sticking more to the outside lanes than you ever had. (Have you ever noticed all the healthy stuff is on the outside?) What’s really amazing is how your taste buds change when you eat healthy for a while. Not only will you not crave overly sweet or high fat content foods, when you eat them, they won’t even taste good anymore.
In the same way, you may find your financial “tastes” changing. Where once you didn’t notice it a bit every time you pulled out the Visa card, suddenly you may find that you cringe at the thought of not paying cash. Or when initially watching that 10% go into your 401(k) every paycheck felt like a real bummer, now you can’t want to get your statement and see how your disciplined saving is building up! As we stated in the beginning, financial and physical health are built on the same chassis of ideals. By starting with goals and then continuing to put one good decision after another, you may find that a potentially healthier and wealthier you is not so far away.
Securities and advisory services offered through National Planning Corporation (NPC), Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Additional advisory services offered through Trilogy Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser. Trilogy Financial Services, Trilogy Capital, Inc. and NPC are separate and unrelated companies.