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Fitness Showdown: Financial v. Physical

It seems like every time I turn on the TV or open a magazine, there’s some new fitness miracle, whether it’s equipment, classes, cleanses or clothing. And, of course, they all come with a price, usually not within the typical young adult budget. While fitness is important for people in all age groups, it seems to be taking on a whole new import with Generations X and Y. Gym memberships or fitness classes are now a staple in the standard budget, and eating organic seems like a no-brainer trade-off for the higher cost. All of this is well and good from a health standpoint, and in the long run will ideally lead to fewer health care costs down the road, but there’s something big missing from the average American’s budget: saving.
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I’ve been saving since before I knew what the term saving meant; I had some wonderful relatives who knew how much I would appreciate savings bonds down the road. When I started working at the age of 16, the saving continued, with me socking away every paycheck apart from the money I needed for gas. Even when I started my first job out of college, I still found saving easy, and didn’t understand why people just didn’t “get it.”

When I moved from Michigan to NYC, out of the budget friendly house I shared with six other girls, it finally hit me: being an “adult” is expensive! My expenses skyrocketed and my desire to explore my new city—usually through food—ate up every paycheck. I found myself reaching for my credit card more and putting money into my savings account less. I also started to witness the effects the newfound foodie side of me was having on my health. With my pants getting tighter and no room in my budget for new ones, I decided maybe there was a reason so many New Yorkers hold gym memberships. I started limiting my foodie explorations and decided to try out fitness classes that my friends swore by, thinking this would ultimately lessen my overall spending. I soon realized just how much the exercise was costing—in one instance a 10-pack of classes cost almost double what it would cost me to buy my own machine to do the same exercises at home!

I never imagined that balancing financial and physical fitness could be so difficult. Turns out, 65% of Americans say keeping financially fit is as tough as or tougher than keeping physically fit, according to a recent Harris Interactive survey conducted on behalf of the AICPA, outlined in their recent infographic. While I may still be working out the balance between my fitness and finances, I now go for daily walks instead of paying monthly gym fees, and have begun trying out new recipes instead of new restaurants. And you know what? It feels great!

How do you help your family and clients strike a balance in their budget when it comes to fitness and saving? How do you explain the importance of both?

Claudia L. Cieslak, AICPA Staff

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