Self-care check-in: How’s your financial health?

Relaxing on the patio, keeping your cholesterol in check, regular exercise and healthy eating—it's all part of your self-care. But don't forget to take care of your financial self, too. And just like getting a workout in or eating broccoli isn’t always fun in the moment but good in the long run, practicing financial self-care is one of the best ways you setup your future self for success.

Listen to the signs

Your body gives you cues all the time (like when it’s time to eat or sleep). When financial feelings or worries start to pop up—such as knowing you’ve spent more than you should or that one big expense could set you back—it’s good to pay attention to those cues, too.

Before you read any further, just know that there’s no shame in feeling any of these things. Getting your finances in order might seem easier and more comfortable to put off, but anything we put off tends to loom over us and make us feel worse.

The great news is that there are fairly simple and painless ways to practice some meaningful financial self-care. Alyson Klug, Head of National Sales at TD Wealth, emphasizes the importance of ripping off the bandage. “The biggest thing I’ve learned in this business is 'don’t procrastinate',” she says. “Start now.”

Go for the goals

Practicing financial self-care isn’t sustainable if you don’t have goals or a vision. And just like with staying active/working out, eating healthy or other forms of self-care, it helps to have long- and short-term goals. A few examples.

Long-Term Goal Ideas:

  • Be able to retire by the age of 65
  • Save for a house with 20% down
  • Create a college fund for kids

Short-Term Goal Ideas:

  • Create a budget
  • Pay off your credit card(s)
  • Cancel a paid subscription that you barely use (you know the one)

Laying out goals is the first step; making an actionable plan is the second. Like with other forms of self-care, simply saying “I want to work out more” isn’t enough. Financial goals are the same. “It’s not something you can set and forget,” says Klug.

Turn good behaviors into good habits

Saving once in a while is good—making saving a lifestyle is better. Klug encourages looking closely at your expenses: “Habits like buying coffees at the drive-thru, ordering lunches, renting movies—these things add up.”

She recommends replacing bad spending habits with good saving ones. “Try to sweep money right into your savings account so it doesn’t tempt you to spend. Stop thinking of credit cards as free money. Get rid of a hobby or habit that costs you money—and with your family, can you find fun things to do that don’t cost anything?”

Building healthy spending and saving habits takes time, but Klug says to keep going. “The biggest thing is, don’t get discouraged. It might be easy to think you can’t do it, but you can.”

Start small, then grow

Instead of focusing on a big list of financial to-dos, zoom in on one thing at a time, starting with the most urgent task. Get those bills paid down first before you start addressing long-term goals, or secure an emergency savings plan before you start saving for a vacation.

Once you’ve done that, break the big things (like setting up an IRA) into little goals as well, as small as you can make them. Check off the boxes as you go—you’ll feel super accomplished.

Have empathy for your future self

Self-care is all about what we’re doing now to help us later on. We often think of taking care of our future selves “in terms of health,” says Klug. “I’m doing things to be healthy today, so I’ll be healthier longer. How can you start doing that with your accounts?”

Try picturing yourself “when you’re 60, 70, 80,” Klug says. “Look at that person and say, ‘I’m going to take care of you.” By practicing financial self-care now, you’re on track to create the best life possible—your future self will thank you for it.

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This article is based on information available in July 2021. It is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide specific financial, investment, tax, legal, accounting, or other advice and should not be acted or relied upon without the advice of a professional advisor. A professional advisor will recommend action based on your personal circumstances and the most recent information available.