Nov 20, 2013 Be Financially Fit for Life
The world is exploding with products and services targeted to keep us physically fit— from phones that count our steps and track calories to armbands that monitor REM sleep. There are diets with no carbs, diets with juice and diets on a beach. It’s the same with your financial fitness. There are blogs, articles, tweets and posts claiming the next great fad will give you “all the income you’ll ever need”, or “make you rich overnight”. With so much information and misinformation out there, it can be confusing, but using three simple tips can help keep you financially and physically fit.
Step 1, Aggregate. In your workout plan, are you counting calories and points? Miles and minutes? Often by simplifying your plan, you can achieve the best long term results. The old adage “never keep your eggs in one basket” has its place, but in investing that can mean having many different accounts open, which can be a nightmare for managing your current investment strategy. It can even make it a chore just to find out how much you have and how much you are saving. Rebalancing can become an arduous task entailing 10 different phone calls and multiple internet log ins. No wonder it’s easier to just leave the accounts alone. The more simply we can view things, the easier it is to implement sound long term decisions.
There are several aggregators on the market. Mint.com and Yodlee are free aggregators that will allow you to see all your checking, savings, and investments with one log in. Other sites charge a nominal fee. Most of these sites sell your information to advertisers so you have to be comfortable with a few extra credit card offers in the mail. Your advisor may also offer a solution to look at your entire financial picture at once. Many charge an ongoing fee for such services. Some offer position information only, while others offer allocation, performance and even recommended positioning.
Step 2, Regular reviews. In our busy lives, it can be tough to take the time to sit down and make a workout plan. It’s even harder to honestly assess how last year’s plan came together. It is no different with a retirement plan. Make sure you set aside at least one day per year to reflect back on how things have changed since last year. Did you save more than you planned? Did your net worth change? Then look forward to the coming year. How long till the kids are in college? Are you contributing enough to your retirement? If this task sounds daunting, consider hiring an advisor to meet with at least annually. This doesn’t need to be painful, but small changes over long periods of time can make the difference between finishing that marathon and retiring on time or coming up empty with miles left to go. The power of goal setting and patience can’t be underestimated.
Step 3, Do the work. You made a plan, you joined the club, you got the gear….but did you get your butt off the couch? If not, you aren’t doing yourself any good. Make sure you do the work. Monitor the investment’s performance, keep an eye on your allocation and pay attention to changes in your benefits plans at work. It isn’t glamorous and often amounts to very small changes repeated over and over, but it shouldn’t be underestimated. Even after people pay for financial plans or estate plans, they often don’t make the changes necessary to give the plans their best chance of success.
Following these three “no-nonsense” steps can help put you on the road to fitness. Aggregate to keep things simple. Set realistic long term goals and employ the patience it will take to get them accomplished. And don’t forget to do the work. A plan is a dream if you don’t get off the couch.
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