It’s harder to maintain fitness as you get older and if you do miss a week or two of exercise, getting started again can be difficult.

The secret is consistency. There’s plenty of medical evidence proving the physical and mental benefits of regular exercise. And if you get into the habit of exercising three or more times a week, your run, ride or gym session will be easier than if you only do it occasionally.

The same is true of your financial fitness. Getting into good habits such as consistently paying your bills and trying to save or invest some money each month will improve your financial well-being. It’ll also be much less daunting than if you let the bills stack up before you do anything.

Marlies Kappers, chief marketing officer at DirectAxis Financial Services, spoke to some of her colleagues about financial fitness and here are some of the lessons they’ve learnt about getting started:

1.     Get going

It’s too hot. It’s too cold. I’ll go later or tomorrow. Procrastinating is always easier than putting on your takkies and doing something physical. Once you’ve got over the mental hurdle and have done some exercise, you feel better about yourself and the next time it’s a bit easier.

How do you start to feel better about your financial wellness? Put some time in your diary to look at your finances. Use your bank statement to help draw up a budget. Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper, list all your income for a month on one side and all your expenses on the other. You can then see where you might be able to cut some spending or how much you may be able to save or invest each month.

“It’s amazing how this simple exercise, which probably won’t take more than an hour, can be so empowering and insightful,” says Marlies.

2.     Get an assessment

Unlike a true fitness assessment, assessing your financial fitness is probably easier than you think. Your credit rating is essentially a financial fitness report. It tells you how you compare to everybody else when it comes to managing your finances. By law you are entitled to one free credit report annually, but it’s much better to check your credit rating more regularly. You can register to get free credit ratings from sites such as Pulse where you can check your credit rating anytime you want.

Pulse will also list all your monthly credit commitments, provide a detailed breakdown of each commitment including balances, instalment and any overdue amounts. It also allows you to check changes to your rating on a monthly basis and provides a breakdown of some of the transactions that affect your rating and includes information on how you can improve it.

3.     Set realistic goals

If you’ve never cycled more than 50km it’s unrealistic to think you’ll place in the next Cycle Tour. By setting realistic goals for your fitness level, age and ability you’re more likely to stick to your exercise programme and stay motivated as you achieve each of your milestones.

Do the same financially. If you’re struggling to make ends meet each month, start off by seeing if you can save a few hundred rand by cutting out some non-essential expenses.

You may then decide to reduce or pay off some short-term debt, before aiming to start saving or investing some money each month.

4.     Get help if you need it

There are plenty of training programmes, lots of nutritional advice and information on different exercises available online. If your goal is to finish a half marathon, complete the Cape Town Cycle tour or just improve the time for your Saturday morning trail run you can pick and choose what works best for you.

The same is true of all the financial advice available on sites such as

 “Everyone I spoke to agreed that getting financially fit isn’t always easy, but taking that first step, no matter how hard, is always better than not doing anything,” says Marlies.

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