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Five tips to get your financial fitness levels up in 2017

I'm not a big one for resolutions. Apparently I'm not alone.

Of those that set New Year's goals, it is estimated that less than 10% actually achieve them. 

The reason why so many people fail at their goals, isn't much different from other plans and hopes that go bust. Good intentions aren't worth beans.

Losing weight and fattening your bank account are likely the two most popular goals after the X-mas hangover subsides in February when life normalises again. I'm willing to bet they're also the ones with the highest 'fail' rates for aspirants. 

Driving a positive outcome in both these areas comes down to discipline. And that's where the where the real work takes place.

Whether it's passing on that extra glass of wine, or saying no to another pair of shoes and yes to a voluntary contribution in KiwiSaver, it requires three things I would argue: 1) awareness 2) restraint 3) action.

Most behaviours (including a lot of the things we'd most like to change about ourselves) is out of habit. Having the awareness of that fact is a breakthrough but not enough on its own to be a game changer. Reforming habits take strength and discipline.

So maybe you know you're weak on the alcohol consumption. One way to work toward breaking the habit, is obviously not bringing it home. That reduces at least the temptation on the home front, but still leaves you vulnerable to other temptations, i.e.xmas parties where it's offered freely. To the extent that you change your behaviours, permanently, temporarily or in a modified sense, will depend on your restraint and discipline.

On the money side of things, thankfully there is technology to help guard against reckless behaviour. 

Let's use KiwiSaver as an example. For someone who wouldn't otherwise save for their retirement, it's a means of forced savings. Every month, as an employee you pay into it, your boss pays into it, you captures the $521 from the Government assuming you've paid more than $1042 into it. It's pretty efficient really considering you don't have to modify your behaviour at all.

With that in mind, here's five general tips to get your financial fitness up this coming year. 

1) Take stock

You might think that your finances are out of control and a total mess but it's helpful to do an appraisal to see where you actually stand. Take a morning or afternoon to tally up your debt (including mortgage, credit cards, student debt, or other loans you might have.) Measure that against whatever your savings and assets you may have. If you don't have any, ask yourself why and what you'd like.

 2) Make a plan

Everyone has different goals and a different idea of what constitutes happiness and success. Define what success and happiness means to you AND importantly why. Then start to formulate a plan to create the picture you'd like to see. You will quickly realise that as much as money plays a part in that, you can't consider it in isolation from the rest of your life. Everything is connected. Getting richer, just for the sake of it, because you think it's going to make you happy isn't going to result in a realistic or sustainable plan for getting your fitness levels up. It's like thinking you need to be an ultramarathoner, when actually you're really just a walker and you love walking. Why would you do it, apart from wanting a challenge perhaps.

3) Motivate

Consider how you are going to stay motivated to make the changes you'd like to see. For example, if you want to save more money for holidays without going into debt, then you'll need to increase income or else cut back on spending. Once you've decided which option is most realistic given your situation and your personality, then it's useful to have something or someone to help keep you on track. Vision boards are a great way to keep your dreams front of mind, journals, or a friend or even a coach that you can check in with occasionally to hold yourself accountable.

4) Monitor 

After a month or two many people lose their motivation and fall back into olds habits. This takes a hit on your confidence and also ambition to want to change for the better. To prevent lethargy or apathy, or just the busyness of life getting in the way of your goals, track your progress. Depending on the nature of your goal, and time frame for achieving it, mark up your calendar accordingly. Whether it's every few weeks or months, put it in the diary, commit and have a look at what's working, what's not and whether you're spinning your wheels or rocketing toward your goals.

5) Review and reward 

Let's face it. Our goals can change. Unexpected situations, people, and events can throw us in an entirely new direction. What we wanted last year, maybe be totally different from this year. But maybe not. If your plans are not materialising, then go back to step one and two and review. Another thing that may help keep you incentivised is rewarding yourself along the way. Not a blow out celebration that undoes all your hard work but something small or token to keep you motivated. You might find that you reach your goals a lot faster than you  imagined.  If so, maybe go for a bigger goal that will challenge you. That ultra marathon maybe be looking more attractive perhaps.

Happy 2017 folks.

Remember wealth is nothing without health. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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