Good health and financial planning use similar methods
Diets such as the South Beach and the Atkins have swept the country. Most of us want to look svelte and enjoy good health, and we are willing to take a chance at trying a new plan that will help us meet those goals. We also want to have money and financial security. What is similar about both of these ideals is the need to adjust our life style so that some of the things that are important to us will happen in the future.
Barbara O’Neill, extension specialist at Rutgers University, suggests there are a number of strong parallels between changing your health behavior and your finances.
Problems generally start small. An estimated 129 million Americans are overweight or obese, and this didn’t happen overnight. Weight problems usually develop gradually, just as debt problems do. Millions of Americans have a permanent debt balance on credit cards and pay increasingly higher charges as their outstanding balances rise.
Overweight people may have trouble getting hired. Personal finance problems affect job productivity. A study by researchers at Virginia Tech found that 15 percent of workers have financial problems that affect their work performance.
Solutions require time and persistence. There is no easy way to lose weight or dig yourself out of debt.
Here are four ways to manage money (and your weight):
Use the envelope method if you want a simple way of meeting your goals. Decide how you want to spend your money and divide it into separate envelopes. Don’t shift money around – stick to your plan, and you’ll find you’re right on track. With this type of plan, you won’t need to keep making decisions. For weight control, decide how many calories you can consume at breakfast, lunch, and dinner to lose weight. Similar to your money envelopes, you have choices for each meal, and you’ll be successful as long as you stick to your calorie allotment. The South Beach diet outlines a daily plan with portion control for healthy weight loss.
If you want maximum flexibility, pay yourself first, pay your bills next and do what you want with the rest. Paying yourself ensures that you will realize your goals. Paying your bills keeps you fiscally fit to enjoy your flexible lifestyle. For weight control, take a multivitamin each day and eat a good selection of healthy foods such as low-fat protein, dairy products and lots of vegetables and fruits. Eat other things that you enjoy but stick to smaller portions.
Some people are good record keepers and are willing to keep track of daily expenditures. The Checkbook Tracking System developed by Marsha Goetting at Montana State University (www.montana.edu/wwwpb/pubs/mt8703.pdf) is easy and convenient. A simple worksheet works the same. Decide how much you want to spend each week and deduct your expenditures on a daily basis. This works without fail if you stick to your plan. Weight Watchers point system allows you to make choices throughout the day but, to lose weight, you need to keep track of your points.
People invest in their futures by spending some of their money now and putting aside some for the future. They invest in their future by eating some of what they like now to enjoy health into old age. Pick a strategy that works for you and start investing in your future.
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Judy McKenna, Ph.D., CFP, Family Economics Specialist, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, email@example.com