It’s the end of the year: a time when we often find ourselves taking stock of the past and looking towards the future. It’s got me thinking about how I used to be a half decent athlete. At age 47, I no longer am one. I know how to exercise; I know how to gym and I know how to eat. Yet, I never quite get it all done. So now, once a week, I pay a Personal Trainer to exercise me.
Second only to your health and personal fitness is your financial fitness. But how do we keep financially fit when we’re faced with what can feel like an overwhelming number of decisions to be made and relentless admin to keep on top of?
My wife Lisa recently attended a course on Getting It Done! One of the things it encouraged was the regular practise of writing things down as they come into your head. In other words, don’t try to store these thoughts in your mind; rather put them down on paper, and later, reflect on them. Then do it all over again: it’s important to continually write ‘To Do’ Lists, revisit them and reprioritise.
In that spirit, here are 10 questions that will get you to assess your financial fitness. Grab a note pad, and as we go through them, scribble down what comes into your mind. You may not have all the answers but at the very least it will get you thinking.
- Do I know what my expenses are and what I spend every month?
- Do I know what I save every month both for retirement and for discretionary saving?
- Does my employer offer me group benefits and if so what are they?
- Am I over or underinsured?
- Do I know how much debt I have? Do I know the interest rates I pay on each of these debts?
- How do I feel about my current financial situation? Stressed, comfortable, content, insecure, happy, angry, frustrated, hopeless …?
- What is it that makes me feel that way? Risk of reduced earnings, potential redundancy, personal debt levels, economic climate …?
- What would it be like to not have that ‘feeling’ about my finances?
- What is within my control and what have I got no control over?
- What can I do to change the way I currently feel about my finances? i.e. Can I afford the lifestyle choices I am making? The home I live in/the car I drive/ the schools I’ve chosen for kids/where I shop/ the holidays I take?
Some of the questions above will give rise to more questions. Keep revisiting your notepad over the course of the next few days and jot down your additional thoughts. The important thing to note is that you must make a start and not give up too quickly.
If you have a partner it’s also a good idea to do the exercise independently of them and then compare ‘notes’. Spend some time pondering and discussing your points and answers together.
You’re now on your way to taking better control of your financial fitness. Just by writing down your answers and applying your mind you are taking the important necessary steps to get a better control of your financial situation.