In what may be the very most cliché way to start a new year, my wife and I have started working with a virtual nutrition & fitness trainer the last few weeks in the hopes of shedding a few unwanted pounds.
This isn’t a diet, per se. We’re not cutting carbs, eating strictly low-fat, or swearing off sugar. Instead, we’re monitoring the simple equation of X calories in and Y calories out. If X<Y, weight loss will occur. From there, the goal is to be “good” 80% of the time we want to be losing weight and 70% of the time once we’re in maintenance.
At first, we were skeptical. We’re already doing that right? We try to be good during the week. There might be a treat or two over the weekend or on special occasions. That kind of thing. The trainer pushed back. How did we define weekend? Friday night and Saturday? Sunday, too? How many special occasions were there? What about a random dinner out with friends? Lots of probing questions that started to make us uncomfortable.
Being on plan 80% of the time means 292 days/year. Monday through Thursday gets you 208 days. That doesn’t include any special occasions.
This is simple, but it is not easy. It means acknowledging that we truly had no idea how many calories we were consuming prior to starting this program. We weren’t being total gluttons, but from just a few days of tracking it became clear that what we thought was a good plan just didn’t add up. We weren’t being intentional enough with what we were putting in our bodies.
It turns out, like with most new things, there’s a learning curve. Being intentional and learning to make these observations a habit is much more difficult at the start than we hope it to be down the road. We know what kind of calorie intake we should have to run at a deficit and that keeping a reasonably high amount of protein in our diet will help us from feeling hungry. After that, we’re free to eat as we want. We’re counting each calorie, weighing our food, that kind of thing. We need to learn what’s going in so that we can behave intentionally going forward.
Give every calorie a job. Plan out the days when you’re going to break from the plan, leave room for spontaneity. It sounds structured, but it allows you to navigate without undue stress.
We talk a lot at TAAG about giving every dollar a job. When prospective clients first join us, one of the biggest stressors they often have is just not knowing if what they’re doing is enough. Are they spending too much? Saving too little? Putting too much in the college fund, but not enough in the retirement account? What is the tax bill going to look like?
While we don’t encourage most clients to do a granular “latte by latte” accounting of all spending, we do want to have a general idea of what’s coming in and where it is going. More importantly, once we have a plan in place, we should know what’s coming in, how much goes to taxes and how much should be saved in various places to meet our goals. From there, we can spend our remaining “financial calories” with the knowledge that all of the jobs we need our money to do for us have already been accomplished.
From there, it’s a matter of monitoring changes to those categories – spending, taxes, saving, intermediate/long-term goals, etc. – and making adjustments as needed.
Simple. Not easy.
If you’re already a client and have any concerns about these kind of nagging doubts, let your advisor know it’s time for a cash flow tune up. If you’re not already a client or have a friend or family member who might be suffering from these same kinds of doubt, we’d be happy to help.
Have a great week and, for those of us who follow these kinds of things . . . WHO DEY!!!