It’s always smart to stay physically fit, at every point in your life. But financial fitness is important, too. Are you doing everything you can to boost your financial well-being?
The topic of financial health is certainly on the minds of many people. In fact, 70% of Americans say the COVID pandemic has caused them to pay more attention to their long-term finances, according to a recent Edward Jones/Age Wave survey titled Four Pillars of the New Retirement: What a Difference a Year Makes.
While interest in financial health is widespread, some groups are feeling more positive about their future than others. Baby Boomers came through the pandemic in generally good financial shape, while Gen Z and Millennials felt the greatest negative financial impact, according to the Four Pillars study. And women’s confidence in their retirement savings remains low, as the pandemic widened the economic gender gap, particularly for women of color. So, your outlook may depend somewhat on your demographics.
But regardless of your age or gender, you can still take some steps to improve your financial health, including these:
- Conduct an investment “check-up.” Getting a regular check-up is a key part of maintaining good physical health. And the same principle applies to your investments —you need to periodically assess their “vital signs.” Is your portfolio still appropriate for your risk tolerance and time horizon? Is it providing you with the growth potential you’ll need to help you achieve your long-term goals, such as a comfortable retirement? Is it diversified enough, or do you own too many of the same investments? Even though diversification can’t guarantee profits or protect against all losses, it can help reduce the impact of financial market volatility on your portfolio.
- Take preventive measures. Throughout your life, you probably take medicines as needed, and possibly vitamins and other supplements, in an effort to treat existing illnesses or prevent future ones. You also can, and should, take preventive measures to boost your financial health. For example, do you have sufficient life and disability insurance? If your family situation has changed through divorce, remarriage or the births of new children, have you updated the beneficiary designations on your insurance policies? And have you taken steps to protect your financial independence—and possibly avoid burdening your family—by addressing the potentially huge costs of long-term care, such as an extended nursing home stay?
- Avoid unhealthy moves. Smoking, a sedentary lifestyle and excessive stress are all considered unhealthy for our bodies. But some activities are unhealthy for our financial fitness, too. You may be tempted to tap into your IRA or 401(k) to pay for a short-term need, such as a down payment on a new car, but if it isn’t absolutely essential that you get this car, or if you possibly can obtain other sources of funding, you may want to avoid touching your retirement accounts. For one thing, withdrawals may incur taxes and penalties, but, just as important, these accounts are intended to provide you with some of the income you’ll need when you’re retired—so the more you deplete them now, the more financial strain you may face during retirement.
Staying physically fit requires determination and work—and the same is true for maintaining financial fitness. But the effort you put into staying financially healthy can help you keep moving toward your financial goals.