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Want to get your finances in shape quick? Shannon McLay, financial planner and author, comes on the show to share how you two can work through your issues and get your finances closer to your goals and dreams!

Getting Financially Fit

Want to get your finances in shape quick? Shannon McLay, financial planner and author, comes on the show to share how you two can work through your issues and get your finances closer to your goals and dreams!

I hope last week’s episode about jump-starting your finances and building momentum motivated you. This week we’re stepping back from the big picture why and now examining how.

To do that we’re going to talk about being fit, financially fit.

You may be surprised that they are a lot of commonalities between being physically and financially fit.

To help explain things, financial planner Shannon McLay is on the show today.

She's the founder and CEO of The Financial Gym, whose passion lies in helping people get financially fit.

The Financial Gym is a personal financial services company that takes a fitness-inspired approach to their clients' finances.

Through her blog, Financially Blonde, her book, Train Your Way To Financial Fitness, her podcast, Martinis and Your Money and her company, Shannon is committed to making financial fitness fun, easy and accessible for everyone.

In this episode, we'll be discussing:

  • Figuring out if you’re financially fit, fat, or skinny (and what they mean)
  • Identifying your problem areas and exercises to work through them
  • How you two can get fit together without fighting about money

You can download and listen to the episode right here or read an edited transcript below.

Hope you enjoy!

Resources to Get Financial Fit and Ready

Want to dump debt and start to get financially fit? Please check out these resources.

If you want to discuss talking with your spouse about money, ask questions, or share your own tips please join us over at Thriving Families on Facebook.

The Similarities Between Physical and Financial Fitness

Elle: Train Your Way To Financial Fitness is an unconventional and fun guide on money that she's created based on her personal experience and the reality she's seen serving clients as a financial planner.

Shannon McLay: Yeah, like I say in the book, I used to be 50 pounds heavier thanks to my little guy.

I think it was after five years I was telling somebody I needed to lose weight. They're like, ‘oh, you just had a baby'.

I was like, ‘my baby can read and he's going to school on a bus. So it's probably time I get myself together'. I can't really call it baby weight anymore!

So I began the process of losing weight and getting myself physically fit.

And at the same time, I was also transitioning to become a personal financial planner.

I saw a lot of similarities in the process of getting physically fit with getting financially fit and getting your financial life together.

And so it's really funny because then as I [worked] with clients, I saw a lot of similarities in my clients and I thought they almost looked like physical representations as well.

So I break out the book is into three different categories and I really view people financially in three different categories.

That's physically fit or financially fit, financially skinny and financially fat.

How I view each of the three fit someone who's financially fit has is living within their means.

They're making what you call smart money choices. But like I say in the book, it just like a physically fit person can always keep working on themselves.

I believe financially fit person can, and there's always room for improvements. And I go through that in the book.

A financially skinny person, I think, is somebody who lives paycheck to paycheck. They're just kind of not getting ahead..

Just like our bodies need skinny people need more food and sustenance, financially skinny people need a little more income and less expenses.

Then a financially fat person is exactly how it sounds. You're over spender, under saver. I admit in the book and bit all over the place, I was not only a physically fat person, but I was also financially fat person.

I think what's important and that I stress in the book, I stress in life in general, is that you can change just like you can change your physical appearance, you can also change your financial appearance.

Nobody has to stay financially fat and anybody can be financially fit for anybody. If I can, anybody can.

Assessing Your Financial Fitness

Elle Martinez: One of the first steps of any kind of real transformation is seeing the current situation for what it is.

For me, it was when my husband and I spoke about money right after we were engaged, comparing our situation and looking at the numbers.

It became clear to me that [we] needed to change. But that's not the case with everyone now, I think.

Shannon McLay: I think this is a hard part for most people. It's easy to know when we're physically fat. Right. The scale will tell us very clearly, are your BMI or you couldn't put a plug in the numbers and easily find out you're you're physically fat realizing you're financially fat.

It's not as easy as it seems because I would never have thought I was from my from my old investment banking days because I made a lot of money. I didn't really have that much credit card debt.

I had a great credit score and I had a lot of I had a great retirement account. They're things where I thought I was doing really good so I would not have said the old me, would never said that I was financially fat.

Then I became a financial planner and sort of look ahead to people's balance sheets and my own balance sheet. I realized that just because I didn't have high credit card balances didn't mean I really used it properly.

I was one of those people I knew I would get a bonus. And so I spent a lot in December and January in anticipation for the February bonus.

You know, consequently, most of my February bonus went to paying off credit cards and things like that. And I just a lot of kind of stupid choices. I could have saved more. I could have made smarter choices. And I didn't. I was honest people. I didn't want to be told no.

I had like big time FOMO and financial deprivation issues. I just didn't say no to anything when it came to spending, and and my justification was that I made money.

The Danger of Justifying Your Overspending

Just because you make money doesn't mean you have to spend money and that that's a big issue with financially fat people.

You justify your lifestyle and we can all justify just about anything. But just like, you know, physically fat people, like I also justified eating like five slices of pizza, like, did I need to eat five slice of pizza? No, but I justified that I was hungry. And so I eat if I eat. So the same thing with money.

We say we have to do things or we justify them. And before you know it, things get out of control. And so I really knew I was financially fat, though, when I knew I wanted to make a career change and start my own company and I would have to take it step back in compensation. And so I was going from making all this money in my investment job. And if I wanted to make a life change, I was going to have to live off a lot less. And that's when it really hit me that I I was financially fat because I couldn't live a different kind of life. I actually blogged about this. I said I was a salary hostage and I was held hostage to that amount that I needed to me to just live and get by. And that's a bad place to be in. Well, you don't have you don't have options and you don't have the ability to pursue your dreams and talk about that a lot with my clients.

As you know, you want to no matter what choices you're making, even if you don't have a very near term goal, even if it's you have this amalgam school, it's kind of out there and amorphous. You don't really know what it is, even if you don't have that. You want to get yourself in your financial house in order so that when that opportunity does come up out of the blue in one year, two your five years, you want to be able to to take it. You don't want your money situation to prevent you from pursuing a dream or a goal that even you don't even know that you have, but you don't want your money to get in the way.

And that was where I was a kid through that. Many personal finance books, which are designed to be read cover to cover training, lead financial fitness takes a different approach. After the introduction, you take a quiz. It's not the past. It's more of an assessment. You'll find out if you fit into the scheme.

And from there, you go to your section that's designed for your fitness level.

Who wants to read a whole book? I mean, I like reading books, not personal finance books. So I get it.

And my book is geared for the non-personal finance reader because I want personal finance to be accessible. So, yes, I mean, what's the point? And this is the issue I have with personal finance books in general is a very one noted. And the problem you have is if you have somebody who doesn't fit that note, then they're going to tune out because it doesn't really apply to them. You're going to talk about investing. But somebody's got a lot of debt. We're going to talk about debt reduction, but somebody who's got money to invest in. And then you you lose your audience. So my book is is geared toward you. After take the quiz then if you're financially fit, you just read the financial hit section. And if you're skinny heri the skinny section or that you read the fat section and and it's very targeted to you and your financial type because there really are different things. And it's a different mindset for each person as they go through the process. So I really wanted it to be as much as accessible as it could be.

Elle Martinez: And I felt like by only having a few sections as the best way to do it with a book that has fitness in the title, you better believe Shannon also included some exercises.

How to Get Your Finances into Shape

Shannon McLay: Yeah. The exercises and my clients my clients for listeners know they get exercises to add to them, get them from the book. And again, it's the same thing. People, when you want to get physically healthy and in shape, you're going to have to do exercises.

And if you've got a problem of your tummy areas, a problem area, your problem do sit ups or planks or something like that, if your legs are a problem area, you're going to do, you know, kickbacks, some kind of leg, workout your arms up. What have you. And so what I do is I I've created physical financial exercises for your problem areas. So, you know, if you are financially fat, I totally get you. I get you. I love you. Appreciate. I am with you. I am a financially fat grow with you no longer. But I am with you and I get what you need help with.

And the financially fat exercises a lot more psychological than anything, because that's really the biggest issue and challenge for financially fat people. It's really mostly like an emotional, psychological thing and then financially fit. People have different exercises.

But you know, but again, going back to you get physically healthy. You do exercises. But if you want to get financially healthy, it's like you do what? And I think it's the same thing.

You do financial exercises and you do them over and over again until it becomes your behavior and a natural part in your behavior. And that's actually a lot of what I do with my clients. They get those exercises and they literally have to do them like three times a week. Like you have to do this three times a week. And to the point that, you know, becomes their issues aren't issues anymore.

Elle Martinez: These exercises are included throughout this section. And we may look simple when you read them. That doesn't mean that will be easy.

Shannon McLay: Seriously, anybody can be financially fit. Anyone. It's just a matter. It just like you could be physically fit. It's just a matter of how much time and energy and commitment you're going to give to it.

And it's and it's for some people, it's easier than others. I mean, some people it is going to be a difficult road. Just like losing 50 pounds is a difficult road. But it but it's totally doable.

It's just you got to put the work in you to work on getting some agency together, having a safe environment or insane and likes to call a judgment-free zone can be absolutely crucial to your success.

I think that we all judge ourselves enough. Right. We all have we all shame and guilt ourselves for different reasons or we feel embarrassed or I think we all put enough pressure on ourselves. And the last thing you need is somebody else kind of throwing it at you. And from my vantage point, my own personal journey and what I've watched with clients. Nobody's perfect. I mean, no one no one's got the roadmap.

No one's got exactly figured out, does everything the right way. And so why should I set the hint and judge somebody else's journey? And I think what happens is.

And I had a life coach. It's me that people just want to be seen as they are, like they just want to come to you and be seen as they are and appreciated for what they are like, warts and all. And that resonated with me.

Once I became a planner and I worked with clients, I really made it a goal of mine to be that person for my clients, to just be the person where they could come be themselves.

And that's how I started. Every client meeting is reassuring my clients that I'm a judgment-free zone.

I don't I don't care how you got here. Whatever here is if you're financially fit, financially skinny, financially fat, I don't care how I got here.

I just care about where you want to go and getting you there.

And when you judge or where people feel like you're being judged, you're just less productive.

I mean, you're going to waste time worrying about it or waste time being concerned about what I'm going to think. And that doesn't help anybody.

Elle Martinez: Would be easier to deal with setbacks. Having a person in your corner just for you one can make a huge difference when you're making significant and lasting teams. Obstacles will happen.

So I tell clients all the time you're gonna have setbacks. I mean, especially if you're starting out financially fat. You've never really tried to get your money together. You are absolutely going to set have setbacks. That's just life.

But it's important to stay on board. So like when I was losing weight, you know, I had would have a bad day and I'd eat like three slices of pizza and I should really have only one in a salad. And I. And when those days happen the next day, I have the choice that I could eat pizza again and continue down a bad road. Or I can eat salad and workout and make up for the pizza I eat. And it's the same thing with money. You can have a bad pizza day. You can have a bad spend day or, you know, fall back. But it's how you choose to live the next day that's really going to be part of your journey. And you've got to make the choice to get back, you know, brush yourself off. I had a couple they just recently had their quarterly their second quarter review with me. Their first quarter review. They went off the rails all over the place. They just got a good meaning. They got F's from me. And and I said, OK, like you're behind.

You're this, you're that. What are we going to do? Like, what are we gonna do to fix this? How are we going to get back on track? And they they put together common goals. They both agreed to it. They both motivated each other. And we just had their review. And they are not only on track for the year, they've overcome that bad quarter, but they're ahead and they're like crazy about it. I mean, like in a great way. And it was such an exciting meeting for me to have with him because because he did it. And, you know, I could have sat there more like, you're never going to recover. You're so far back. And but the thing is, they could. And they did. They just they really commit and they work together. And it was so exciting for me to see it in numbers. It was so exciting for them to feel good about it and to know that they work together and they support each other. And now they're like kind of almost like crazy, like super workout freaks. Like we're talking about spending money and they're like, we don't want to we want to spend less. We have it. We're not spending it. Like they kind of went too crazy, which I love to see. But yeah, it totally can happen. And it doesn't have to take a long time. It just has to take commitment soon.

Elle Martinez: If you're looking for someone to push you to become financially fit, pickup Shannon's book Train Your Way to Financial Fitness.

It's a handy guide to have and it won't take much time for the two of you to figure out what your fitness levels are. And with the tips and exercises, you'll be able to craft a plan based on. Your goals and dreams.

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This episode was originally released in October 2015. Show notes have been updated in December 2022.

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..