My morning routine is pretty much the same most days. I hit the snooze on the alarm, and within a few minutes the dog gets annoyed enough that he jumps on the bed and pulls the covers off me. I start the coffee (always with fresh-ground beans), crack some eggs, and make a big breakfast of pancakes, bacon, and the occasional cinnamon roll…. At least, that’s what I’d like to have for breakfast, but nowadays more often than not it’s oatmeal or yogurt with some granola sprinkled on top.
I’ve never been fat, but the last few years I have managed to pack a few extra pounds on that never quite went away—who hasn’t been there before? Still, since doing something about it involves work and discipline, I was happy to just buy bigger clothes and be outwardly mildly disappointed in myself for the lack of self-control at the snack bar.
Then a few months ago, while making a joke about the calories in the dessert I was eating, a friend of mine suggested that if I was serious about the weight that there are apps that I could download to help. Something that night made me curious to find out more, so I downloaded an app called “Lose It,” started tracking my food intake, and lost close to 20 lbs over the coming weeks.
The concept is simple, and it works. Track what you’re eating, measure it against how much you should be eating to lose weight, adjust your intake, and keep doing that. Remarkably, it was easy to do. I learned a few things about myself (such as just how much I tend to eat in snacks and drink in soda), and I look and feel healthier. Incidentally, financial planning works exactly the same way. Start by tracking your spending, define a goal and build a plan around it, then adjust your spending and save money as required until you hit that goal. It might take longer or shorter than expected based on how realistic your goals are and other circumstances, but eventually you’ll get there.
Of course, planning your finances can be a bit more complicated as you pull in other ideas that need attention. You should plan what happens to your assets if you pass away or become disabled. Variables such as market volatility and inflation make planning less accurate (imagine if the calorie count in that sandwich might change suddenly overnight!). You may have goals other than “retirement” that may compete for your savings. Furthermore, unlike choosing to eat less, having more available dollars to save isn’t always an option.
It can be daunting. I get it. And it’s not nearly as much fun as spending your money. Credit cards, fancy cars, and lavish vacations are the glazed donuts of your financial-appetite. Sometimes the simple solutions, like my Lose It app, aren’t enough. In those circumstances it pays dividends to talk to a medical professional or a personal trainer—someone to keep you on track, to make sure you’re doing things correctly and efficiently, and to provide advice and encouragement as you go along.
Again, the parallels are clear. A good financial planner will be up front that it isn’t magic. They aren’t there just to show you glossy reports and to tell you what you want to hear. Rather, they—we—are there to help you define your goals. To help keep you on track. To make sure you’re creating a portfolio that’s appropriate and efficient.To help you research options you probably don’t have the experience to look for. To provide well thought out advice and encouragement as you go along.
Whether you’re trying to lose a few pounds from last year’s holiday parties or are finally ready to dig through those VA benefits websites and 401(k) statements, just remember that you can do it—and we’re here if you need help!