Today, more women are taking charge of their physical fitness than ever. Not only is regular exercise good for your health, but when you look good you also begin to feel good. We women can obsess over being curvy in all the right places, but how often does that include your wallet? A few simple changes in your financial routine can get your bank account in great shape too. Follow my tips below and you could start seeing results right away.
Just like cardio, a smart retirement plan focuses on the long run. One of the most basic aspects of physical fitness is good cardiovascular health. A healthy heart and lungs will help ensure you live a long, happy life. While many women aren’t applying that same philosophy to their retirement savings, a couple of simple adjustments can help you take full advantage of the benefits. First, try to maximize the employer percentage match on your 401(k) contributions. This is the easiest way for you to quickly increase your savings balance. Second, although it can be tempting, don’t ever touch your retirement savings. Except in time of dire emergency, this money is completely off-limits. Remember that this is your nest egg, they center of your long-term plan. Keep focused on the end result and strengthen your resolve to go the distance.
Weighed down by debt? Here’s how to shed those pounds in no time. High amounts of debt may sometimes feel like a burden that you just can’t budge. If you’ve gotten to the point where your debt is overwhelming, it’s time to make a plan. I suggest putting together a “snowball” payment schedule to get rid of those heavyweight debts faster. KK.org has an easy-to-use calculator spreadsheet that allows you to keep track of your debts and helps you minimize additional interest. The snowball method starts by committing to a minimum payment on all of your debts. Next, determine how much additional money you can afford to put towards your debt with the highest interest rate. After you’ve paid it off, reallocate that debt’s payment towards paying of the next debt with the highest interest rate, and so on. As you start to see progress in reducing your debt, you’ll become even more motivated pay off existing balances and keep a closer eye on spending. This will help keep you out of debt in the future.
Yoga and Pilates are great, but make sure you are financially flexible as well. We all know that having a well funded savings account makes good financial sense. However, I suggest having a second, much smaller savings account that I like to call your personal flexible fund. Every paycheck set aside 3-5% of your income and deposit it into this account. Trust me, you’ll hardly miss the money, but it will pay dividends every month. Your flex fund is essentially mad money savings, like extra cash you might put in a cookie jar. This money will act as a buffer against life’s unexpected surprises like a missed birthday gift, an unplanned lunch or even a cracked windshield. By keeping your flex fund healthy and using it responsibly, it will leave you feeling limber when life puts in you in a tight spot.
Just like physical fitness, taking care of your finances is an ongoing process that requires planning and patience. You can’t expect to see results overnight, but if you keep at it consistently, you will definitely get yourself into financially fit shape.
As a financial planner and principal of California Financial Advisors in San Ramon, California, Michelle Perry Higgins specializes in wealth management. Over the past 17 years she has built a successful practice advising executive professionals into retirement, and her passion for finance has helped hundreds of individuals better understand the process of investing and fiscal planning. Ms. Higgins was featured as a 2012 and 2013 Five Star Wealth Manager Award, Diablo Magazine, and was also ranked in the Top 50 Women- Owned RIAs in 2013, Top 25 Women RIAs 2012 and Top 40 Under 40 by WealthManagement.com. She has been quoted in Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money and The Los Angeles Times, is a contributor to Examiner.com and is a Wall Street Journal Expert Panelist. Ms. Higgins is a frequent public speaker on retirement planning, investments, wealth management, college education funding, estate planning and insurance. She is also proud to mentor college students interested in entering the financial planning profession. Ms. Higgins graduated from St. Mary’s College, with a concentration in business administration and economics.