Happy New Year! Last year certainly brought us a ton of intrigue on political and financial fronts. As resolutions are set for 2018, we encourage you to use the year to focus on your Finances, Fitness and having Fun.

Finances:
Start 2018 with a budget (yes, the dreaded “B” word), and track it monthly. A budget is simply a roadmap for spending money wisely in an effort to ensure you have enough money for the things you need and for those things which are important to you. A 2013 Gallop poll revealed approximately 2/3 of Americans DO NOT budget. This is an alarming statistic! Budgets, by design assist with lowering financial stress levels as they:
• Help you track where your money is really going and allow you to examine if it is for the right cause or not.
• Help identify areas where spending can be cut back, thus assisting in saving more money for the future.
• Help you track debt payments and game plan to accelerate the payoff of debts.
• Help lower financial stress/tension.
• Help you identify and save for financial goals (future purchases) such as a home down payment, car purchase, college expenses, illness, repairs, etc.
• Help reduce financial conflicts with your partner.
• Help you not spend money you do not have (this is a BIG ONE)!

As you budget, map out your goals. Keep referring to those goals throughout the year by tracking your progress. While “The B” word is not well received by 2/3 of Americans, we encourage you to be part of the 1/3 who embrace it. Do not stay up at night worrying about cash flow, instead budget and continually track progress towards your financial goals. It is much better than “counting sheep” after all!

Fitness:
Ah, that oh so common New Year’s resolution, better fitness! So often people look at fitness in the short term, meaning they start a routine and do not immediately see results and then give up. Fitness is a marathon (literally it can be), not a sprint. The benefits of physical fitness are numerous and include better health, greater strength, more flexibility, increased energy, improved appearance, and a more positive attitude and mood. As we age it is specifically important to spend time focusing on heart health and mind health.

To improve, or maintain, heart health the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. An easy way to remember this is 30 minutes at least 5 days a week. However, they state three 10-minute periods of activity are as beneficial to your overall fitness as one 30 minute session. This is doable! Get out and walk, jog, swim, bike, or do whatever it is you enjoy (or can tolerate) to get your heart pumping and your blood flowing! If you need help getting started, budget money and time with a personal trainer to get you on a path.

Include in your daily routine time to exercise your brain. Just as muscle can be lost over time, our brains can atrophy. Specifically, our brain’s cognitive reserve (the brain’s ability to guard against neurological damage caused by aging, environmental, and other factors without demonstrating signs of memory loss or “slowing”) diminishes through the years. Just as physical activity can help us add or retain lean muscle, researchers believe brain exercises can increase our cognitive reserve. Consider starting with the morning newspaper. “Simple games like Sudoku and word games are good, as well as comic strips where you find things that are different from one picture to the next,” says John E. Morley, MD, director of St. Louis University’s Division of Geriatric Medicine and author of The Science of Staying Young. In addition to word games, Dr. Morley recommends the following exercises to sharpen your mental skills:

1. Test your recall: Make a list (of grocery items, things to do, or anything else that comes to mind) and memorize it. An hour or so later, see how many items you can recall. Make items on the list as challenging as possible for the greatest mental stimulation.
2. Let the music play: Learn to play a musical instrument or join a choir. Studies show that learning something new and complex over a longer period of time is ideal for the aging mind.
3. Do math in your head: Figure out problems without the aid of pencil, paper, or computer; you can make this more difficult (and athletic) by walking at the same time.
4. Take a cooking class: Learn how to cook a new cuisine. Cooking uses a number of senses: smell, touch, sight, and taste, which all involve different parts of the brain.
5. Learn a foreign language: The listening and hearing involved in learning a new language stimulates the brain. What’s more, a rich vocabulary has been linked to a reduced risk for cognitive decline.
6. Create word pictures: Visualize the spelling of a word in your head, then try and think of any other words that begin (or end) with the same two letters.
7. Draw a map from memory: After returning home from visiting a new place, try to draw a map of the area; repeat this exercise each time you visit a new location.
8. Challenge your taste buds: When eating, try to identify individual ingredients in your meal, including subtle herbs and spices.
9. Refine your hand-eye abilities: Take up a new hobby that involves fine-motor skills, such as knitting, drawing, painting, assembling a puzzle, etc.
10. Learn a new sport: Start doing an athletic exercise that utilizes both mind and body, such as yoga, golf, or tennis.

Fun:
This is the fun part, pun intended! Prolonged stress can cause numerous health problems, such as anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory/concentration impairment. Outside of lowering financial stress levels through budgeting and lowering physical and mental stress levels through exercising your mind and body, simply having fun can lower levels of stress.
MedBroadcast provides the following tips for having fun:
Schedule (think of this as time budgeting)
While it is wonderful when spontaneous, fun events occur, it also helps to plan. Make sure there is time in your day that is put aside for your own enjoyment.
Be realistic
Be honest and practical when you consider those activities that you think you would enjoy. They need not require inordinate amounts of time, money, or extra equipment. Do those things you want to do, not what you “should” do.
Play with others
Do things with friends, family, or colleagues whose company you enjoy. This will not only help maintain your connections but will provide ongoing motivation to have fun. Of course, it is quite alright to make time to play alone if your day is already full of social obligations.

Focusing on your Finances, Fitness, and having Fun should not be a New Year’s resolution. Instead it should be a New Life resolution! Please take time to budget, set and track financial goals, exercise your body and brain, and simply have FUN. You might be amazed how each of the “Three F’s” end up overlapping and intertwining. Time is ticking, so please get started on the “New You” today.

Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Merit Financial Group, LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. Merit Financial Group, LLC and Botsford Financial Group are separate entities from LPL Financial.

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