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Building good habits in health & wealth so you succeed

Fed up of articles about New Year's Resolutions? Alex Caswell is a Chartered Financial Planner at Unividual and has a passion for wellbeing and the intrinsic links between health, wealth and building good habits. In this article he uncovers the secret sauce to hitting goals which is sticking to sustainable habits over time.

Who is London Financial Adviser Alex Caswell?

How to build lifetime habits not just new years resolutions

It was nearing the end of 2021 and I finally made the decision to start taking my health seriously. That meant making it my priority in life. I started using a personal trainer and online coach, and one year on, I can honestly say that it’s been life changing. Don’t worry this isn’t a typical article pumping the importance of going to the gym. The lessons I learned with my personal trainer Sam Gyasi got me thinking about the close and direct link between health and wealth and the commonality between what success feels and looks like. In this article we look at the important role that habits play on sustained success, how to maintain a healthy relationship with our negative emotions along the way, and the role a qualified professional can play in helping you not feel alone so you can achieve your ever-changing goals.

The secret sauce to hitting goals: sticking to sustainable habits over time

When it comes to getting fit, people start out with thoughts like “I want to get into the best shape of my life” and “I should be able to do it by the end of the month”. Whether it is to “get ripped quick” or “get rich quick,” as a society we want results with minimum effort and we want them now. I even remember starting out with this mindset myself, asking my Personal Trainer on the very first day “how long until I see serious results?” It is the same when people are looking at investments, they want to know how quickly it is going to make them “rich”.

Research shows that a focus on speedy outcomes leads to an over focus on a massive action in the here and now. This is unsustainable when we all have jobs, families to support, hobbies to maintain, and temptation to battle. The person who wants to “get ripped quick” can’t sustain their overly strict diet that they hate eating and the person who wants to “get rich quick” ends up investing into something too high risk for them. When they experience serious stock market volatility, they panic, dis-invest and lose money. This short-termism causes people to fail, and they become even more de-motivated than they were before they started.

So, what habit hacks can we instil to create success?

What I’ve realised over the years is that the people who are successful in reaching their goals, whether that is in health, wealth, or both are:

  1. Not in a rush to achieve things right here and now.
  2. They set smaller, manageable long-term sustainable habits asking themselves “what can I do now, that in theory, I could keep doing for the rest of my life, no matter what happens?” For example, going for a walk every day or the gym 2 times a week. Or setting up an affordable, monthly contribution into a stocks and shares ISA, that you can continue even on those tough months, when financial issues crop up.
  3. They prioritise discipline over motivation so that when life inevitably gets in the way and motivation fades, these people still have the discipline to continue with their habits, knowing the long term benefit it will have.

If we get long-term processes in place we will have the comfort in knowing that one day, we will eventually reach our goals. One day, we can be proud of our health and be proud of the element of financial freedom that we have achieved. Success becomes a matter of when, not if.

Emotions get in the way: how do we manage them?

We all experience the same negative emotions as we journey through life. Best-selling author Mark Manson says that those who actually achieve their goals just have a different relationship with their negative emotions. They know that these negative emotions are a normal part of the journey. They choose not to care about them, and they prioritise their goals, which are more important.

The people who are best at exercising still feel the pain of having to get up early before work, when it’s cold and dark, the difference is they choose not to care about this pain. The people who are best at investing have improved their relationship with money. They still experience the anxiety of watching their account value temporarily go down during uncertain times. They choose to embrace that anxiety and accept that negative emotions are a normal part of the human experience. By changing the relationship that we have with these negative emotions, we can stick to our habits and achieve our goals, despite experiencing them.

Check out our article on: “how to stress less about money”

Paying for a professional’s expertise can save us time and costly mistakes

When it comes to improving your health or wealth, you can choose to do it yourself (DIY), or seek professional financial advice. Whilst I am a firm believer that the best way of learning is by going through experiences yourself and learning from them, there can be some real downsides to the “DIY” approach, particularly with the most important areas of our lives. You don’t know what you don’t know. And in both health and wealth, we can very easily go down the wrong route in life and make some seriously costly mistakes. The wrong diet routine, or the wrong investment choice, could have a huge impact on you for the rest of your life. To help you decide whether to DIY or get help ask yourself:

  1. Do I want to learn for myself in this situation?
  2. Do I have the time to do a good job for myself?
  3. Can I afford to make mistakes if I get anything wrong?

In my own health and fitness journey, I spent years of my life and lots of money doing the wrong things. When I finally decided to hire a personal trainer and online coach, his professional knowledge and experience was a real game-changer for me. He taught me how to lift certain weights with proper form. Weights that I had been lifting incorrectly for years, with no results to show for it. He also taught me how to create a healthy and sustainable relationship with food, and to break through many fitness misconceptions that I had built up over years. Misconceptions like “the only way to lose weight is to do heavy cardio and cut out all carbs.”

Common misconceptions about financial advice

Misconceptions are also a big problem when it comes to financial planning too. People think they “aren’t rich enough” to need a financial adviser or that they are “too young,” that it is a boring low-risk way to manage their money. People don’t want to be told what to do and feel patronised. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, they fear looking “silly” because of how little they know. I am here to reassure you now that:

  • Some of our youngest clients are 18.
  • We don’t just work with the rich and famous
  • We have so many different clients from musicians, through to lorry drivers, business owners, people who work in theatre, scientists, hoteliers, sports people, gardeners, or people who work in retail.
  • Our clients vary from families, to young professionals, people nearing retirement or those living their best lives in retirement.

DIY or not…financial advice can save you money, time, and worry

Financial advice also isn’t as costly as what you might assume. And any charges you do pay can be made back when a professional planner puts you in a better financial position long-term. Professional financial advice means you are now making full use of tax-efficient allowances that you were previously completely missing out on, saving you hundreds or thousands of pounds in tax. You can now be invested in something understandable that matches your goals, your attitude to risk and your capacity for loss, so you benefit from sustainable long-term growth. You now have financial protection in place, meaning that, if the worst should ever happen to your health, you are protected from the additional worry of money at a horrible time.

Start your financial advice journey today or tomorrow

Whatever your goals are, if you’re ready to start working with a professional to help you achieve what you want in life, feel free to get in touch with me for a free first meeting. Together we can start building those good money-habits.

Author: Alex Caswell, Chartered Financial Planner in London
Editor: Cherie-Anne Baxter
Article date written: 9th January 2023

The details and content of this article are accurate on the date it was written.

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