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The Connections Between Financial and Physical Fitness

I’ve been working on personal financial goals for over three years. During that time, I’ve also set goals to get stronger, eat better, and lose weight. Unfortunately, I frequently failed to achieve my health goals…until recently. I’ve lost more than 15 pounds since January and have been able to make a healthier lifestyle stick. As I continue to work on these goals, I see connections between getting fit and getting rich.

1. Today’s Decisions Affect Tomorrow. The hardest part about working towards any financial or physical fitness goal is that it takes time to see results. Sometimes, it takes a long time. To get out of debt or drop 20 pounds, you’ll need to change how you live today dramatically, but you may not see results for six months, a year, or even longer.

One way I combat this is whenever I’m feeling like spending, eating something I shouldn’t, or being lazy and skipping a workout, is I look backwards. I think about poor decisions I made in the past and how they got me where I am today. Then I remember that good decisions today will get me where I want to be tomorrow.

2. Doing the Right Thing Hurts. That old training mantra “no pain, no gain” can apply to building wealth just as it applies to building muscle. Saving money and not spending involve sacrificing things you want, and that hurts. Over time, however, you can train yourself to overcome the pain associated with making daily spending sacrifices—or get to the point where you don’t even notice it any more.

3. Success Takes a Lifestyle Change, Not a Diet. In your quest to get better with money, have you ever gone on a “spending diet”…and failed? I mean, have you gotten all pumped up to save up some cash or slash some debt and, for weeks or months, spent almost nothing—only to splurge for the next two weeks? Or perhaps you paid off a credit card only to use it again shortly thereafter?

It’s the same reason dieters often fail so miserably. Sure, you may see results in the short-term, but most fad diets are unsustainable in the long-term, and the pounds just creep right back. That’s why I don’t typically recommend people in debt never go out to eat again or cut up every single credit card they own. For most people, living for several years without even a few indulgences is simply impossible, and it may lead you to fall off your charted course altogether. Instead, make small positive changes to your everyday life that you can stick with and build one on top of another.

What About You? Have you seen parallels in your financial and health goals? Have you succeeded at one but not the other, or perhaps both at the same time? Do you think there are any differences in how people should approach financial goals vs. health goals? Let us know!

Published or updated on April 17, 2009

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


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  1. Adam says:

    I’m also doing both, right now, and you’ve hit the main points there.

    5am comes awfully early for me, but I drag myself out of bed, no matter what, in order to get my workout done. It’s tough, but at the end, I feel great and am totally glad that I got up to exercise. The pain is temporary, and the results are more than worth it!

    The same goes for financial health. It’s a pain not spending as freely as before, but take a look at your decreasing debt (or increasing account size), and you’ll be glad!

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