HEALTH AND WEALTH: Let's talk Finance with Lauren Woodcock

I'm thrilled to share with you a super smarty-pants guest post by my friend Lauren Woodcock. She's been part of our FitVista Tribe since Day One and a huge supporter of the blog!  So, when she asked about pairing up for an article on health AND WEALTH, of course my answer was YES! 

As many of you know, I spent 8 years working in Finance (in Institutional Sales and Consultant + Investor Relations at a well-known Asset Management Company in NYC). I'm a huge supporter of maxing out your 401k, investing in smart and safe mutual funds, and building up your savings EARLY.

Let compounding work its magic. My sizable pile of savings and retirement accounts made my career shift to health coaching, personal training and wellness possible. 

FYI this post is NOT sponsored, just something I felt compelled to share with you all. 

So without further ado, here's my quick intro to Lauren and then read on for her saavy tips, that WON'T stress you out! And well, if they do. That's OK. Take a deep breath. Rip off the band-aid. I'm so glad you've got this on your radar. 

PS: Want more inspiration, health + fitness tips, and pretty pictures of mountains and veggies? Seek more and let's make sure we're Instagram connected here at @michellefitvista

xo, Michelle

Meet Lauren!

Lauren Woodcock is a Financial Consultant with Sequoia Financial Group. As an avid distance runner, hiker, skier and just all around activity-loving person, Lauren's goal is to bring personal finance to the wellness conversation.

Lauren graduated in 2011 from Dickinson College. Initially motivated to do anything but join the family business of financial planning, Lauren moved to New York City to pursue her MA in Art Business at Sotheby's Institute of Art. Despite working as a financial planning intern throughout her childhood and years in graduate school, it wasn't until Lauren left school that she realized that her lifetime education in retirement planning was the most valuable thing that she could offer people. 

Today, Lauren works on a team of eight financial professionals, focused on HOLISTIC retirement planning. Based in Saratoga Springs, Lauren gets her dose of nature on the reg, and then travels down to the city often to meet with clients.

 

 Look at Lauren finding her FitVistas.

Look at Lauren finding her FitVistas.

 

HEALTH AND WEALTH: HOW YOUR FINANCIAL HABITS CAN HELP (OR HURT) YOUR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH

BY LAUREN WOODCOCK, Financial Consultant/Sequoia Financial Group

 

As a lifelong athlete, good habits around practice, training and nutrition have always been an obvious path to success.

Even when it wasn’t convenient, we showed up; running in the pouring rain or sweltering heat. Beyond the lesson in commitment, the benefits of an active lifestyle on our overall wellness are impossible to ignore, especially today.

However, the "real world" hands us responsibility, stress and BILLS. Countless challenges and deterrents are thrown at us daily from different angles, overwhelming us in a way that can make maintaining a healthy lifestyle feel impossible.

It is my goal for finances to not be one of the many hindrances to our mental and physical well-being. 

Despite growing up in the financial planning business, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I saw the true effects, both positive and negative, of finances on one’s overall wellness. We may not like to admit it, but money has the ability to enhance or wreak havoc on our health and relationships. It’s ALL connected.

Luckily, just like there are ways to improve our physical health through nutrition and exercise, developing the right habits around money management can help strengthen our body and mind.

The proactive steps that we've taken in our nutrition and fitness routines are the same ones that we need to apply to our finances: education, discipline, consistency and a little sacrifice along the way. 

 A breathing picture. Finances can seem scary, I know. But knowing what's going on is incredibly powerful.

A breathing picture. Finances can seem scary, I know. But knowing what's going on is incredibly powerful.

 

FINANCIAL HEALTH 101: GETTING STARTED

Assess where you are: 

Just like the nutrition and exercise log that your trainer has you fill out, you need to see where you are today in order to make improvements.

Net Income (after taxes/business expenses)

Expenses (ALL of them!)

Assets (401k, brokerage, bank accounts, etc.) 

Debts (school loans, credit cards, car, mortgage)

Insurances (disability, life)

Legal Documents (will, healthcare proxy, etc.)

Whether it’s a handwritten notebook, your computer or personal finance software, get all of this information organized and in one place.

 

>>>>  INSERT, DEEP BREATH RIGHT HERE <<<< (It's Michelle here and this is definitely something I'm still working on personally!)

 Creating your own trail, your own story. Even if it feels hard. (And cold).&nbsp;

Creating your own trail, your own story. Even if it feels hard. (And cold). 

 

Define a goal(s) and develop a plan that you can stick to:

Look at where you are and think about where you want to be. Are you right on track? Way behind?

Either way, define a few items that you think can be improved. These goals can be long-term: “save enough to put 50% down on a new house by 2025” or short-term (and perhaps less exciting): “increase my annual 401(k) contributions to 12% of my salary by June”.

It’s also okay to dream. If you plan for it, you’re that much more likely to achieve it. Just like with your fitness/wellness goals, it’s key to visualize where you want to be. 

Tackle one thing at a time. Keep it simple. Prioritize.

If you have made an inventory of your financial situation and need help to determine these priorities, then don’t be afraid to seek professional advice. If you’re confident with where you are, focus on building a monthly savings plan. For example, after the necessary month bills, you still have $1,700 left:

401(k): $1,000/M

IRA: $100/M

Brokerage: $300/M

Savings (Emergency Fund): $200/M

Vacation Fund: $100

 Because the FitVista views are worth it right? Jump shot!

Because the FitVista views are worth it right? Jump shot!

 

Be consistent

Systematic savings (or debt repayment) is a beautiful thing.

Just like eating healthy once every few weeks won’t yield any positive results long-term, saving is not going to provide any benefits for you unless you do it consistently.

Some months it may be easy, and some months it may require extra effort and discipline. Think about the mornings that you’ve dragged yourself out of bed to get your workout done and apply this same discipline to your personal finances. It’s definitely not always fun, but it pays off in the end.

Once you’ve made your plan, set everything up to come out of your paycheck or checking/savings account automatically. That way, you won’t be tempted to spend it otherwise. Pay yourself first!

Control what you can control

Life is full of variables and surprises (good and bad). We don’t know when we’re going to get a promotion, lose our job or what the stock market is going to do. If we try to plan around these events rather than focus on our own actions, we’ll go insane.

Emergency funds, insurance and planning help us manage these other variables. Furthermore, these uncontrollable events aren’t going to be what defines retirement or our long-term financial health; it’s our daily habits and actions that really make a difference.  

 Happy girl in upstate NY - nature on the reg!

Happy girl in upstate NY - nature on the reg!

 

Seek help and take advantage of resources

Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to personal finance. Read, get educated and seek advice where needed.

Start with your work benefits: do you have long-term disability insurance? Enough life insurance to replace your income? Do you have access to benefits that you don’t know about? Call your benefits departments or sit down with a representative from HR to review.

Focus on yourself and your family

Social media is a wonderful source of inspiration (and distraction). Unfortunately, I have seen it throw people off track when it comes to saving.

Focus on yourself. If your goal is to save 20% of your income annually, then don’t let someone posting a photo of a designer bag or lavish vacation throw you off. The reality is that we know nothing behind most of what we see online. It is perfectly okay (and healthy) to want or indulge in these things. However, plan for them. If it takes you a few extra months to get there, that’s okay. 

Define your goals, execute a plan and stick to it.

Just like training and nutrition, these are lifestyle plans that are not about instant gratification.

The satisfaction of being financially secure will far outdo any fleeting moments of happiness brought by consistent overspending. 

Know your partner

If you’re in a long-term relationship, make sure to have “the talk” as soon as possible. Your partner can be your biggest cheerleader (or deterrent) when it comes to maintaining financial security. It’s not about what they make, it’s about their feelings and philosophy towards money and saving. Make sure that you’re on the same page!  

Long story short, financial security and education provide irreplaceable peace of mind and freedom.  Less time spent worrying about money means more time doing the things that you love!!

xo,

Lauren

 

Curious to know more? Give Lauren a ring at her office 518-373-7363 or email Lauren.Woodcock@axa-advisors.com. She promised to give some time and insight to all interested FitVista Readers - thank you Lauren! 

FREE GIFT: Do you feel a bit stressed after reading this? That's OK. That's normal. A plan helps. Why don't you go for a walk and calm down? Here's my free gift to you, a guide to why long walks are the best and my 5 Favorite Podcasts. Download it for FREE here

PS: Want more inspiration, health + fitness tips, and pretty pictures of mountains and veggies? Seek more and let's make sure we're Instagram connected here at @michellefitvista

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