The Lean, Mean, Financial Machine: Losing Financial Fat

by Seph Romana

I love my six-pack so much, I protect it with a layer of fat.” – Teenager Post 4699 fromdumpaday.com.

Make no mistake about it; everything that God made, including fat, is good!  A certain level of body fat is important for good health because fat protects our internal organs, helps regulate our body temperature, and produces and regulates certain hormones in our body.  But as with all good things, excess body fat can be detrimental.  For starters, it increases our chances of experiencing heart problems and getting type II diabetes.

Athletic performance can also suffer due to excess body fat.  Consider the results of a study conducted by renowned professor and coach Dr. Todd Miller that was presented in the 2013 Arnold Schwarzenegger Sports Fitness Festival:

1. For a 170-pound athlete, an increase of 3.4 pounds of body fat resulted in a 2-inch vertical jump loss.  Basketball players who dream of stuffing it like Lebron or Blake, take note.

2. For the same athlete, a 0.26 second increase in a 40-yard dash time.  It may seem miniscule for us sedentary citizens but in the National Football League, or NFL, a 0.10 second difference can cost players millions of dollars in their contracts.

What is the ideal or healthy body fat level?  There are different standards for such but on average, experts peg the maximum healthy body fat level between 20% to 25% maximum.  Anything in excess counts as obese.

Financial Fat

Expenses are financial fat because just like body fat, a certain level of it is needed for optimum financial performance.  Certain expenses such as food, clothing and shelter are essential for financial survival just as body fat is essential for physical survival.  Just like body fat, however, excess financial fat can be detrimental.  Taking a mortgage on a second house that will hardly be used when one is barely getting by is excess financial fat.  Buying jewelry on installment from the friendly office hawker whenever he or she comes to us is excess financial fat because we don’t need to and the fact that we buy on installment means our cash flows are tight.  Buying an iPhone every year using credit cards when we can’t even afford to go to the doctor or dentist regularly is excess financial fat.  Whatever non-essentials we take on at the expense of necessities are excess financial fat.

Financial Fat Loss

Shedding excess body fat requires a sound nutritional and exercise program.  We need to eat the right food and exercise our muscles at the right intensity.  Financially speaking, we need to “eat” good financial information and exercise good financial habits, particularly spending in order to shed excess financial fat.  Good financial information is the food that helps power our financial muscles for exercise.  Applying what we learn is how we exercise our financial muscles.

One widely accepted principle in good nutrition for controlling our appetites is eating small and healthy meals frequently, ideally every 3 hours.  Doing so stabilizes our blood sugar, which significantly reduces, if not eliminates, intense food cravings that lead to frequent eating binges.  It also improves our body’s ability to efficiently use the calories we consume as the body can only use a certain amount of calories per eating interval.

Financially speaking, good books (the Bible included), articles, and seminars on personal finance are “healthy meals” that provide us with knowledge on how to handle our finances, which includes spending.  These also help satiate our appetite for needless and expensive things, significantly reducing, if not eliminating, financial binges like shopping and impulsive buying.  Good financial meals include J. Randell Tiongson’s No Nonsense Personal Finance, Vic And Adellyn Garcia’s Kuntento Ka Na Ba Sa Kaperahan Mo and Kakasweldo Pa Lang Ubos Na and the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation’s free downloadable e-book Usapang Pera: Mga Dapat Alamin (available at http://www.pdic.gov.ph/files/book/usapang-pera-new.pdf).  Articles and seminars are made available by renowned financial literacy advocacy groups such as Practical Stewardship(https://www.facebook.com/PracticalStewardship), OFW Usapang Piso(https://www.facebook.com/groups/OFWusapangpiso/), Angat Pilipinas Coalition For Financial Literacy(https://www.facebook.com/groups/angatpilipinas4studentfinancialliteracy/) and Crown Ministries Philippines(https://www.facebook.com/groups/307053039839/).

“Unhealthy meals” are not in and of themselves, bad.  We indulge in them every now and then to break the monotony of regularly eating healthy meals, which makes a healthy eating lifestyle sustainable.  What can become problematic, however, is when we eat more of these than what we should.  Eating deep-fried chicken frequently can lead to health problems such as high cholesterol and hypertension.  In the same way that it is good to occasionally indulge in unhealthy financial meals to enjoy life, it may not be wise to make it part of our regular fare because if we are not careful, it can start and fan in us the flames of discontent that can cause us to spend our money foolishly.  Such financial meals include shows like Rich Kids Of Beverly Hills and infomercials on the Home Shopping Network.  Also included are reading materials like shopping catalogues.  Just like healthy people can eat deep-fried chicken more frequently than those with high blood pressure and cholesterol, people who are financially fit can afford to watch such shows and read such materials more than those who are not.

Studying smaller chunks of good personal finance materials regularly is much better than studying a lot of good personal finance materials in one sitting.  This helps us avoid what is called in Filipino as “umay”, which if left unchecked can lead to information overload and discourage us from learning more.

As I’ve written in one of my previous articles, knowledge may be power but applied knowledge is applied power.  We need to exercise our financial muscles by applying the things we learned to reap its benefits.  And as exercise burns fat, applying sound personal financial management principles learned will help us shed excess financial fat too.

One of best exercises to help shed excess financial fat is avoiding the company of people who tend to influence us to spend more than what we earn or what is needed.  As the saying goes, bad company corrupts morals.  Always hanging out with highly materialistic people can make it hard for us to shed excess financial fat.

Finishing Well

Maintaining a healthy level of financial fat, just like body fat, enables us to not only finish the race of life but to finish it well.  As excess fat impedes physical performance, so can excess financial fat impede our financial performance.  Therefore, it is important to watch what we eat financially and exercise our financial muscles in order to be financially fit.

(published in The Philippine Online Chronicles on 15 April 2014)

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