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How to Achieve Financial Fitness: First Steps, Tips & Tricks

By Allison Bonner | February 19, 2015 | Life at Blue Cross NC

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We know that financial stress has a big impact on our lives, and it even posts a risk to our health. We’ve partnered with the financial wellness program My Secure Advantage to educate our employees and our readers about the ins and outs of how to achieve financial fitness. You can read the first part of our interview here.

We sat down with Mike Hackett, SVP of Education and Coach Development at My Secure Advantage, and asked him to share his best money coaching tips and tricks to help all of us tackle fiscal fitness. 

BCBSNC: It can be daunting to get started tackling your finances. What is the first step people should take to improve their financial health?

MH: For anyone needing to take that first stab at managing their finances, try this plan:

  • Step 1: Track your spending for 30 days.
  • Step 2: Set aside an hour every 30 days, and use that time to analyze your spending and savings. Take a look at how you’re doing, and then assess your personal and financial goals.
  • Step 3: Adopt budgeting software (ask your bank to help get you set up) so you can pay bills on-line and consolidate your transactions into a single view. This will make it easier to keep track of everything in one place.
  • Step 4: Contribute to your retirement program at work and try to get 100 percent of your employer’s match.
  • Step 5: Develop and prioritize personal and financial goals.  When you control your spending impulses today, you increase the odds of making your future dreams a reality.

BCBSNC: You say, “Your credit score is far more important than you may realize”.  Why is your credit score so important and what’s your best tip to maintain a good credit score?

MH: Credit scores can make or break your chances of securing a loan, getting a good interest rate, and even acquiring certain job positions.  Why does one number hold such power?

Well, a credit score is the easiest way for a lender or creditor to assess whether you pay your bills on time and have been responsible with any loans or credit you have been given in the past.

The best tips for keeping a good credit score are:

  1. Pay your bills on time
  2. Don’t use more than 30 percent of the credit you have been given
  3. Review your credit reports at least annually to make sure all records are accurate, and be sure to follow directions for cleaning up any inaccuracies.

BCBSNC: Any other important tip or trick people should know that we’ve left out?

MH: Financial health is like physical health.  You need to develop habits that you practice every day.  The journey is a marathon, not a sprint.  Establish goals that you can sustain, and forgive yourself if you suffer a setback.  Also, habits can become repetitive and boring, so mix it up! Find a mentor, join an investment club, or find another forum where you can ask questions, share experiences, and learn. Hopefully this advice will help you get started on the journey to financial well-being.