by David Dupont Financial Advisor |RBC Wealth Management
When I’m running, biking, or swimming, I find myself with a lot of time to think. For me, getting lost in my thoughts makes the workout go smoother and faster. Like most people, my thoughts generally run through the typical range of topics – kids, family, relationships, sports, and work.
Ah yes, work…the one topic for me that is so difficult to get out of my thoughts for very long. I’ve been a financial advisor for 27 years and many of my clients have been with me for a very long time. They’re intertwined in my life. I know about their families, their finances, their dreams and goals, and I know what I want to do to help them. My work is a big part of my life and therefore it’s difficult for me to not let it enter into my thoughts.
While I’m running/biking/swimming, one recurring thought that comes to mind is that there are so many parallels between a healthy physical lifestyle and a healthy financial life. I often think about someone that wants a more healthy, active lifestyle. Maybe they want to lose weight, quit smoking, join a gym, eat better, or run in a local 5k race. Maybe they’ve already reached a certain level but want to push further. Whatever they want to do, there is a Day One when you have to start and commit. As the saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.
The same applies in your financial life. In study after study, the number one source of stress for people is money. We all know that stress is one of the worst health issues – it can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, substance abuse, and unhealthy disputes between partners. A doctor once told me that high levels of stress can have a bigger negative health impact than smoking. Just as someone decides to lose weight, they also have to decide to take positive financial steps forward. What does this look like? It’s going to be different for everyone, but three basic positive steps are: 1) paying off your credit card debt, 2) making (or increasing) significant contributions in your 401(k) or other retirement plan, and 3) not spending your entire paycheck – set aside some money in savings. It comes down to just living within your means.
None of this is easy. You’re not going to lose the weight that you want to in a hurry – you didn’t gain it overnight and it’s going to take time. Make your goal to weigh yourself today and going forward commit to only dropping, never gaining. It may take months. Similarly, your credit card balance may take months or years to be fully paid off. Commit to it though. No more balance going up – only going down. Create smaller, short-term goals that are a piece of a grander, long-term plan. The successful steps will give you confidence to keep going and push farther. Thinking about how you’ll feel when you achieve your goals is also a powerful motivator, so keep those thoughts in mind.
These are not quick fixes. It’s not a diet. I firmly believe that diets don’t work. Lifestyle changes work. I also believe that physical changes and financial changes require a mental change first. You have to acknowledge that you’re not where you want to be and start to formulate a plan that sets goals for the changes that you want to happen. You’ll probably need help too. Maybe that’s hiring a coach. Maybe that’s surrounding yourself with like-minded people who have similar goals that will support you. There’s an amazing power to writing down your goals and posting them in a place that you will see often. Also, share those goals with another person. Accountability becomes a big motivator. Human nature says that it’s much easier for us to let ourselves down than it is to let down another person that we care about.
So think about what you want and take that first step. There’s no reason today can’t be Day One.
The information included in this article is not intended to be used as the primary basis for making investment decisions.
RBC Wealth Management, a division of RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Member NYSE/FINRA/SIPC