Personal and Financial Fitness – They’re More Alike Than You Might Think

December 20, 2022

You may have seen an earlier picture of me, maybe my bio picture from June of 2022, or an earlier picture on our social media. I was up to 230 pounds in the middle of 2022, the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life. My body, mind, relationships, and wallet were all suffering as a result.

I turned 60 in January of 2022, and in advance of my annual review with Todd, I set some goals for myself. Goals that could affect not only my CFP practice and the firm, but more importantly could affect my personal and family life as well. One goal was to RUN in the Dewey Goes Pink 5k once again on October 8th. Setting that goal was the catalyst for my weight loss journey. I told myself, come rain or shine, I will be running the 5K on that day and I did just that! It wasn’t fast but it was steady. A pace I could stay with for 5K or even longer. Our personal finances work is the same in many ways. Steady and regular gets you to the finish line. Sprint and stop may get you there but likely will take much longer and hurt a lot more! In the past, my wife Becky and I had participated in many 5Ks in Dewey over the years until about 3 years ago when I started gaining weight. My blood pressure and cholesterol were going up and my doctor started me on medication for both. During the climb of my weight, I found that not only was I struggling physically, but also felt equally as heavy on the mental side, I was simply unmotivated.

In July of last year, after visiting our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter in Columbia, Maryland I was talking with my son about many things. First, was his recent weight loss as well as their investments, savings, and the cost of their new home. It made me realize that he had taken time to direct his efforts on these things and this too was another sign that I needed to refocus. I had to get back in control of things. I also had to take control back for the sake of my wife, my family our friends, and my professional life. As of early December 2022, I officially reached my goal of losing 50 lbs, and I’m headed to a maintenance weight of 175 pounds, which was my “running weight” throughout my 40-year High School, College, and Air Force Career. I’m looking now to add muscle and guard against frailty as I age.

So, are these words of wisdom about our minds and bodies or about our net worth? It’s about both! So…What do physical fitness and personal finance have in common?

On the surface, there are a lot of differences between your physical fitness program and your financial wellness. One involves primarily your income, spending, saving, your emotions, and investing. The other involves physical activity, nutrition, emotions, and overall health. Our personal financial and physical fitness are some of the most critical areas of our lives. Have you ever felt physical stress or anxiety over either how you feel in your skin or your financial situation? Likely you have. So, it’s no coincidence that there are so many similarities between fitness and finance once you start peeling away the layers of the onion.

While we spend money every day and eat food every day, how do we know that what we’re doing is going to yield positive results over long periods of time? Physical fitness was a big part of my life for a long time. I was active in sports and outdoor activities in school, and it was a required part of my military career as well. Yes, I knew some things about nutrition, but because of exercise and my activity level I wasn’t as concerned, nor did it negatively impact me back then. Over the years, my thoughts, knowledge, and emotions about food have also changed.

Your physical fitness is truly personal. So is your financial fitness. Both are unique for each person. Just as unique as each person in any context, friend, colleague, or neighbor, each is unique. One thing though, we all have in common, is that if you want to change your behavior, on any topic: food, exercise, or money, you must analyze your own situation and what needs to change. It’s probably ingrained in an action that eventually has become a habit. Habits are little rituals, just like brushing your teeth. You don’t brush your teeth only when you feel like it, you brush every day! Habits don’t change overnight, habits about anything take time to form.

Don’t just take my word for it. In 2021, HSBC Bank, one of the largest financial institutions in the world conducted a “Life +Factor Study” of over 10,000 people from the UK, Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Singapore. The study was to better understand the relationship between our physical health, mental well-being, and financial fitness. Mark Hussein, the CEO of HSBC wrote: “The study not only highlighted a strong correlation between these three factors; and observed that when one aspect of wellbeing improves, the other dimensions improve as well; it also demonstrated how financial planning helps our general wellbeing.

It shows that making small changes in long-term financial planning can have a positive impact on our mental and physical health. For example, nearly three-quarters of those who review their financial plans at least once a year have average or above-average mental health – while half of those who do not review their financial plan claimed they have below-average mental health. Similar results were found for those who have healthcare protection and those who have comprehensive retirement plans.

In my view the best endorsement was among those who take financial advice: “74% of respondents, report average or above average mental health, whilst more than two out of five (42%) who do not take financial advice have below average mental health.”

Medical studies show time and again that stress negatively affects our mental and physical fitness directly. Much of this stress is found in your financial fitness. If you aren’t sure what your financial situation will be when you want to retire, that causes stress. As an example, Covid-19 was a huge stress driver. However, many reports that the lockdown period caused many to make the wise decision to save more money, to think about their retirement, their children’s education, buying a home, ways to increase their income, and improved their overall financial planning because people took the time to assess things. That’s great news! So, is the answer that stress improves your financial situation? Not at all. It was the choices that many people made during Covid’s worst times that today have helped relieve some pressure around one big stressor, money. Hopefully, the trend continues as we move further away from the lockdowns.

Personal Fitness Trainers are specialists in what they do; help people who want to improve their physical fitness. Improved physical fitness does lead to an improved sense of self-worth and confidence which reduces overall stress, therefore helping with your overall mental health. A true holistic Financial Planner helps people, families, and business owners improve their financial fitness. Improved financial fitness, like personal fitness, leads to an improved sense of self-worth and confidence which also reduces stress and helps your mental health.

I firmly believe that financial matters directly impact our mental wellness. I firmly believe that physical health directly affects our mental wellness. Medical and industry studies show this connection clearly as well. I’ve had a chance to experience this firsthand through 2022. I feel more confident in many ways because I started paying attention to both of these more closely, my physical fitness and my financial fitness.

As we approach the end of the year, I ask you to look at your own situation. Are you confident that your income in retirement will afford you the lifestyle you want to maintain? Do you feel that improving your financial situation can reduce stress in your life? What does your dream retirement look like? Have you planned how you will spend your time in retirement? Do you need to start to plan or seriously assess your financial plan in anticipation of being retired, or should I say, unemployed?

At Blue Rock Financial Group, we might not be able to lead you in a workout routine, but we can help you strengthen your financial health. Both are personal choices. We aren’t able to force anyone to make changes around health and money, however, the knowledge you gain by working with us may be the insight you need to pay closer attention to. If you choose, we will help give you the confidence that you can get there from here.

A Very Happy and Healthy,
Theo Dressler, CFP®