If you’re like many Americans, you celebrated the Fourth of July with fireworks and an ample serving of food and drink. According to the National Retail Federation, our fellow patriots and we spent about $6.7 billion on hot dogs, hamburgers, and other picnic treats over the holiday weekend, and the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council reported that Americans ate more than 150 million hot dogs on Thursday alone! Between the money spent (including roughly $1.6 billion on beer and wine, according to a report by WalletHub) and the calories consumed, I expect quite a few people may be regretting their holiday indulgences about now.
Thankfully, I was in control over the holiday weekend. I had recently returned from a splurge-filled vacation that not only put me in ‘debt’ from a diet perspective but also gave me the final push to get back on Weight Watchers after a long absence. Why? Because it works! The process of daily tracking of food and activity, a weekly weigh-in, and a focus on long-term goals has helped millions of people achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Is it flashy? No. (Though having celebrity members like Oprah Winfrey and Kate Hudson has certainly upped its Hollywood profile!) And much like building a long-term financial plan, it is the lack of flash that makes it so effective. Here are the ways that Weight Watchers and comprehensive financial planning are similar that make them both work so well:
- Both begin with a realistic goal.
In Weight Watchers, members track daily points and weekly points for food and activity. When starting, your “coach” (in my case the WW digital app) assigns a specific amount of daily points based on your height, age, gender, and long-term weight-loss goals. No foods are off limits (even a hot dog and a beer!), but staying within your ‘budget’ of daily and weekly points is the key to reaching your goal.
In financial planning, your goal is based on your age, years to retirement, and personal financial goals. Once you set a goal, you need a way to track your money. As I often say, you can spend (or eat) anything you want, but not everything! If you want to retire earlier or have less money saved at the start, your budget is going to be stricter than if you’ve already been diligent about saving and investing or have many years to work toward your goals.
- Both focus on the end game—not the daily fluctuations.
One of the keys to success with Weight Watchers is weekly or even monthly weigh-ins. Dieters who check their weight every day can get frustrated by daily fluctuations. A vacation or celebratory meal may take you off track, but at least you have a track to get back on. Health is a long game.
With finances, the same holds true. As long as you earn and save according to your plan, you will invariably move towards your goal. When the markets soar, you may leap forward. When the markets tank, your investments will decline. Here too, it’s important not to get distracted by daily or even quarterly fluctuations. Your portfolio will ‘weigh’ more some days, and less on others, but like health, wealth is a long game, and you must keep playing to achieve the goal.
- Both provide support and accountability.
The Weight Watchers community spans 30 countries and boasts more than 4.6 billion members. Neighborhood ‘studios’ offer personal coaches and member support groups, and I’m using the great phone app that makes it easy to track points and activities. I avoid the scale because I want to focus on the small steps and right behaviors.
As a financial advisor, I love acting as each client’s coach and support system. I watch the market every day, so my clients don’t have to. When someone splurges, doesn’t track spending, or isn’t giving themselves an A+ on all they want to accomplish, I help them re-set, realign, and stay the course. When setbacks occur, it’s my job to help you forgive yourself for your lapses, recommit to your long-term goals, and get back on track.
On my vacation in June, I splurged. I ate ice cream with my grandkids (it was a cruise vacation, after all!), I reveled in the delicious fish tacos and fries at Deckhand Dave’s in Juneau (they were well worth the uphill walk!), and I found myself going back for seconds at the buffet more than I should have. But I balanced those proverbial scales with some smart choices: I rarely drank alcohol (I even passed on the beer with those to-die-for tacos!), and I generally chose the fish entrée instead of beef (on Weight Watchers, fish has zero points!). When I got home from the cruise, my weight was up three pounds. Not bad for an eight-day adventure full of endless temptations! It’s now been two weeks, and I haven’t been back on the scale yet. Just as I urge you to trust your long-term financial plan rather than the daily fluctuations of the market, I’m choosing to trust my Weight Watchers plan rather than focus on the current number on the scale. What matters is that I’m in control and making wise choices. Weight Watchers is helping me move towards a healthier me.
Whether you are building your ‘freedom fund,’ investing for a long and healthy retirement, or both, following a smart financial ‘program’ is the best way to succeed. Set your goal, create your plan, keep track, and play the long game. And get a great support system to hold you accountable along the way. As always, we’re here to help!