So far, our discussion has been about financial health, but it’s equally important to be physically healthy.

Let’s hope you have good health insurance and that you don’t get sick.  If you do, there are deductibles and co-pays that will come out of your pocket. Such medical expenses can negatively impact your financial health.

One of the biggest financial risks you will have in retirement is the cost of your health care.  Life happens. Even the most physically fit among us succumb to illnesses over which we have no control.  Luckily, we can practice preventive care by exercising, checking in with our doctors, and forming healthy habits.  Just as there is often too little time to make up for the missed opportunities to have saved during our working careers, reversing a preventable health problem in our older years may be impossible.

Most health professionals recommend that you exercise at least four times a week.  Your exercise regimen doesn’t have to be at a gym or with a trainer.  Walking for 30-45 minutes qualifies as exercise.  Just do something to become active! (If your current state of physical conditioning suggests it, see your doctor first.)

Getting financially fit could prove to be a challenging endeavor. You will be changing the behaviors that contribute to the financial difficulties you are currently facing.  Change will require commitment and determination.  Being in a good frame of mind will be critical—and regular exercise can help improve your mental attitude.

If you can avoid an extraordinary health cost in retirement by initiating a life-long practice of preventive care, the savings you can accumulate while working will last that much longer in retirement.

And let’s not forget you will enjoy life and retirement much more if you are healthy and active!

What gets you out of bed in the morning? Other than your need to keep a roof over your head and food in your belly.  What drives you each and every day?  Your career? Your family? Do you have a passion for the arts, sports, the outdoors?  Do you like to volunteer at your church or in the community? Are you hoping to travel? Looking forward to retirement?

Think a minute and ask yourself, “How many of my goals and dreams involve money?”  We bet, in one way or another, every one of them!

Would being financially fit improve the odds that you will achieve your goals?

To help you stay motivated to rid yourself of debt and become financially healthy, write down your goals.  Post them in a conspicuous place to remind you of why you are making the hard decisions every day to remain true to your budget.

Yes, it’s correctly spelled 401(k).  We just wanted to get a discussion about saving for retirement early on in our alphabet.

People ask us if they should hold off making contributions into a 401(k), and instead, divert that money to reducing debt. If your objective is to retire at a certain age, the amount you will need to fund a comfortable and secure retirement will be the same regardless of when you start saving for retirement.  The longer you delay investing for retirement, the greater the amount you will have to save each year to accumulate the necessary funds to retire.  Let’s repeat that: the longer you delay, the more you will have to save later on.

The challenge of accumulating enough money to retire comfortably is so great, we think it extremely important to make a 401(k) contribution.  Yes, we know it’s one more financial ball you will be juggling. We’re all about you acquiring good financial habits: 401(k) participation is one of them.

If your employer’s 401(k) plan offers a matching contribution, you MUST take advantage of it. (It’s part of your compensation package!) Until you have your debt and discretionary spending under control, you should contribute at least the minimum amount of your compensation that earns you the maximum match (generally somewhere between 3% and 8%).

If that’s too big a percentage, do what you can – even if it’s just $10 or $25 each paycheck. As your financial health improves, and as you learn first-hand about the unique advantages a 401(k) offers, we think you will find the motivation to increase your 401(k) contributions.

In a perfect world, your minimum target for contributions to a retirement plan should be 15% of your compensation from all sources.  Yes, this means counting towards that 15% the contributions your employer makes to the plan. However, the ideal contribution to your 401(k) from your paycheck is the maximum amount the IRS permits.

Saving for retirement is a big topic, one deserving of your attention.  We suggest you watch these videos from the CapitalYOU™ library.

Some people have credit card and installment debt because there was a financial emergency, like a car repair, medical bill, or a home appliance repair.  Without an emergency fund, how else do you cover those costs, other than taking on debt?

You must immediately (and that means today) find ways to cut down on discretionary spending.  Stop charging with your credit card. Pay cash for everything. Cancel the premium cable package. Bring your lunch to work.  Cook at home.  Invite friends to a potluck. Stay home for the weekend and visit a museum, a botanical garden, or explore your city as a tourist might. Make coffee at home and bring it to work in a thermos. Take the bus. Carpool. Consider getting a roommate, a part-time job.  Hold a garage sale. Do what it takes to put away $750 in a savings account that is difficult to access but available for an emergency.

From our experience as investment advisors, most people who cannot save any money are in that position because so much of their income goes to paying off debt.

Your budget needs to focus on paying off your consumer installment debt as quickly as possible (think debt with very high interest rates, like credit cards). Paying off other debt, like a home mortgage, can wait for later.

When building your budget, gather the following information about your consumer debt: current balance, minimum payment, and interest rate. Then order your debts by the amount of current balance, lowest to highest.

Let’s assume your lowest current account balance is a credit card debt of $1,000 with interest 19.9%.  Let’s further assume the minimum payment is $36.50—which has you paying off the balance in 36 months at a cost of $314.30 in interest. And one last assumption:  The dollar amount in your budget you have designated for “additional debt payments” is $150.

Pay the minimum payment on all of your debt except the one with the lowest current balance.  Pay the $36.50 plus the $150. Within 6 months, your $186.50 payments will have this $1,000 credit card balance paid in full!  And your interest payments will only total about $56.

Then, what is the installment debt with the lowest credit balance? Let’s say its minimum payment is $62.  Add to this $62 the $186.50 you previously had budgeted to pay off the other debt.  The resulting increased monthly payments of $248.50 will pay off this debt much quicker.  When it’s paid off, add $248.50 to the minimum payment of the third debt on your original debt and pay that off more quickly.  Continue this strategy until you have paid off all your consumer debt.

Once your consumer debt is all paid off, how much extra money do you think you will have in your budget each month? A lot!

Oh, and don’t take on any more installment debt!