By Luke Erickson
It’s 2024! We’re here. We made it. Whew!
The year 2023 was quite a year for many of us. It was a year of growth, of introspection, of hard decisions, and what is with all this dang traffic, yo?!
Our own personal finances are something we all dealt with last year: The inflation of everything except our paychecks, high interest rates, and lack of affordable housing for starters.
But that was the past; 2023 is behind us and fading in the rear-view mirror. This is 2024, baby! It’s a blank slate, a fresh hill of powder, a brand-new start, so full of promise. This is the year that we finally get those finances under control. Never mind all those sayers of nay who claim that 90% of all new year resolutions will fail within the first month or two. That might apply to others, but not you. Definitely not you, because you are resolved.
You’ve got your spreadsheets, your budgeting app, your completely outdated financial calculator, and the determined look of someone who is about to walk a tightrope while juggling 8 flaming juggling pins. Nothing will stand in your way.
Except for me.
“Wait, what? Hey! Get off my tightrope, buddy!”
All in due time. But first, what if I told you that your financial success this year is actually a little less to do with tackling numbers and a lot more to do with balancing your health?
Okay, I see that skeptical look in your eye. Picture this: You, your paycheck, and a few of your new 2024 goals, like better finances and better eating, all stroll into a trendy new grocery store together, one where you don’t usually shop. But this is your goal. Your cart slowly becomes a kaleidoscope of organic fruits, gluten-free grains, and a mysterious vegetable called “kohlrabi” that you’re not entirely sure how to pronounce, let alone cook.
You waltz up to the checkout stand with confidence for your newfound dedication to balanced healthy living. Your shopping cart is a canvas of nutrition and superiority painted in the hues of acai bowls and chia seeds. Then the cashier gives you your total. Stunned, you reach for an overpriced organic candy bar with 5% less sugar than the leading brands, for a little stress eating on the way home.
You’re still in a little shock and munching your stress away as you obliviously drive right by the gym where you signed up on January 1. Your resolutions are getting expensive.
But how could you not sign up for the gym? It’s the holy grail of healthy living. You signed up on the first day of the year with enthusiasm, convinced that this time, you’ll be the fitness champ you were always destined to be. You have visions of Dwayne the Rock Johnson shaking your hand at the end of 2024 because he’s honored to finally meet the person who has finally out-lifted him.
But you missed the ‘gym sesh’ today, sped by, I mean who has the time? Fast forward a month and your gym visits are as rare as a unicorn sighting. And Dwayne the Rock is nowhere to be found either. Your financial dedication to a monthly membership clashes hilariously with your newfound expertise in the art of avoiding eye contact with the gym every time you drive by.
But here’s the thing, work got unexpectedly busy, there were opportunities for overtime and you felt like you had to take them to help pay for your gym membership, your new nutrition plan, and other goals of balanced healthy living that you set.
See, it’s not really your fault. Balanced, healthy living is like walking a tightrope while juggling 8 flaming pins, one of which is your finances. Take your eye off of it for one second, even with good intentions to tend to the other flying pins, and you just may lose control of it, or even drop it for a while. And once you lose control of one pin, it’s so easy to feel deflated and start letting some of the others go too.
Now pay attention, because I’m not giving you an out. You’re not a victim, and you’re not inferior to anyone else. All people struggle at times trying to balance the many areas of healthy living. There’s always a give and take of your time, energy, and yes, even your money. Place your attention on one thing and by definition that means there’s less of it to go around for the other things. This is hard, so give yourself a little credit. To truly be well, our lives will be a continuous balancing act of shifting priorities.
But fear not, for in the pursuit of holistic health and financial alignment, there are victories to be celebrated. The glorious moment when you realize that homemade salads are not only cheaper but also taste better than the overpriced premade kale salad from the trendy health food joint down the street. Or the sheer ecstasy of finding an effective, budget-friendly workout routine that doesn’t require expensive equipment or a personal trainer who insists on calling you “champ.”
You will fail at times. You will experience setbacks. You will drop a holistic health juggling pin once in a while. Things like your spirituality, your relational attunement, your work productivity, or your emotional stability will sometimes take a back seat while you tend to other areas of life. But each time you go back to pick up a pin and try again is a key opportunity to reflect on what made it drop in the first place, and how to make things a little easier to manage moving forward.
Growth from mistakes is the key.
So remember, in the spectacle of attempting balance and juggle all areas of holistic health, the misadventures are just as important as the successes. The desperate attempts to justify that $7 green juice as an essential part of your vitamin regimen or the elaborate dance you perform to avoid acknowledging the mountain of credit card debt you’ve amassed in the pursuit of that elusive six-pack are key opportunities to learn and grow.
So, my fellow financial acrobats, as you navigate the precarious tightrope of holistic health including your personal finances, remember to keep a sense of humor handy. After all, life’s a circus. Embrace the chaos, laugh in the face of setbacks, and savor the weird unexpected chunks in the smoothies of life – because in the end, persistence in striving for a well-balanced life is the true measure of wealth.
Luke Erickson, Ph.D., AFC®, is an associate professor of personal finance for the University of Idaho. He works and lives in the Treasure Valley. @drlukeerickson (Instagram), firstname.lastname@example.org