Just being not-sick doesn’t mean you’re actually well. Ever know someone who seemed fine until the heart attack? It’s likely he had underlying issues such as poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle.
Now: Ever know someone who seemed fine until the bankruptcy? Chances are he had issues, too, such as compulsive spending or champagne tastes and a tap-water budget.
He’s not alone: According to the Center for Financial Services Innovation, 57 percent of U.S. adults struggle financially.
We get annual physicals because catching a problem early beats trying to cure an entrenched ailment. Our finances need checkups, too.
However, this fiduciary scrutiny should happen more than once a year. Plan on a quarterly or even monthly “money date” to keep tabs on your treasury.
Give your budget a thorough going-over. Are you overspending in any category?
If so, brainstorm solutions: cutting back in other areas, cooking more, getting a roommate, seeking a side hustle.
Don’t have a budget? Use sites like Mint.com or the “Managing Your Money” page at Consumer.gov.
Monitoring vital signs
Just making book isn’t enough. Without a plan you’ll never get ahead; in fact, you’re likely to slip backward.
A healthy budget includes categories like “emergency fund” and “irregular expenses” (e.g., insurance or holidays).
Saving may feel impossible but it probably isn’t. Start with $5 a week, then challenge yourself to find more.
Your GP probably runs a metabolic panel each year. Similarly, you should screen your finances for issues like:
Overpayment — a better deal on phone, Internet or insurance could be just a few clicks away.
Life changes, such as insuring a new purchase or dropping collision coverage.
Retirement progress, especially if you haven’t looked at the plan since your 2014 automatic enrollment.
If your cholesterol looks dicey a doctor will prescribe alterations in diet and exercise. Based on the results of your financial checkup, stipulate some money modifications.
Start with short-term objectives such as paying off consumer debt or building that EF. Meeting these goals will give you the confidence to aim at long-range targets like homeownership, entrepreneurism or early retirement.
Make financial health a priority
Financial health doesn’t mean you can’t ever spend money. It means living the best life you can within (or slightly below) your means, and with an eye toward your future well-being. It means freedom from worry now and freedom from want later on.
Changing your money habits can feel daunting. But you don’t have to fix everything immediately.
In fact, you probably can’t. If a doctor recommended dropping 20 pounds you couldn’t do that overnight, either. Instead, you’d come up with a sustainable plan.
When it comes to fiscal fitness, each step you take – or don’t take – ultimately makes a difference. The biggest mistake you can make is doing nothing at all because you feel like you can’t do enough.
(Note: This post is part of the #FinHealthMatters competition, sponsored by the Financial Blogger Conference and CFSI.)