Train like an athlete for peak financial fitness

Achieve financial goals with this 5-part training plan.

World-class athletes don't skate onto the winner's podium on naturally-given talent alone. Success takes years of discipline, challenging workouts and keeping an eye on the prize. Athletes understand the rigor of a training plan and have the relentless pursuit it takes to propel them to the top. To win over your financial goals, consider taking a page from this playbook. Whether you're preparing to purchase a new home, enrolling in a college savings plan, or splurging on an exotic vacation, training like an athlete will help you succeed.

Go for the gold

Get started by declaring a specific goal. When we don't achieve our objectives, it is often because we are too general with what we hope to achieve. As humans, we also crave accountability and will respond better if we need to succeed by a certain date. Athletes achieve goals by following a prescriptive plan that keeps them prepped for competition-using upcoming races, tournaments and other athletic competitions as benchmarks. Follow their lead with a milestone of your own, even if you declare it yourself. Instead of saying "I want to save for Allie to go to college someday," aim for "I want to have savings put away for Allie's first college semester by her 8th birthday, coming up on August 12." Using today's date and your goal date, you can then begin to declare mini-milestones along your way to victory. Your goal may feel mountainous today but tackling the challenge day by day will help you achieve success.

Prepare your training center

Hockey players don't take to the ice without the equipment they need to be successful - their skates, helmet and pads. Don't make this mistake in your financial life. Set yourself up for triumph by ensuring you have the equipment you need in place before jumping into your plan.

  • Need an accountability action plan? Mobile apps like will help you set and track your mini-milestones and healthy financial habits.
  • Reluctant to add another task to your already busy to-do list? Take the guesswork out of your goals with automatic transfers that move funds to your savings account 1-2 times per month.
  • Looking for help staying organized? Another key piece of equipment will be to set up a specific place to stock your savings. Get structured with a targeted savings account to tackle a dedicated goal like paying for your child's education or saving for a big move.

Consult your coach

Whether you're working with a financial advisor, a trusted family member or friend, making your goals public will help hold you accountable to your financial plans. Research from the Dominican University of California found that more than 70% of people who sent weekly progress updates achieved their goals, compared to 35% of people who kept goals private. When your goal and your plan is set in stone, make it known - in writing - to someone that you can count on to support you in your progress, and counsel you through any setbacks. Not only does having someone in your corner help to keep you motivated, but the specific act of maintaining written updates is known to increase your potential for achieving goals.

Strive to set new records

Make savings a sport by testing your limits to get your wallet in optimal shape. Just like an athlete, as you strengthen your financial fitness, you can start to challenge yourself to perform bigger and better tricks, setting new personal records along the way. For example, if you're prepping for a big cross-country move, on day one, you may be confident with cutting $500 from your monthly spending. As you progress in your plan and get more confident in your skills, you may be able to increase your target to $1,000 or beyond.

Celebrate success

Athletes are no strangers to the adrenaline that comes from crushing it on the slopes or setting a new record in a race. Celebrating your personal bests is key to long-term success. When you achieve financial goals, give yourself a pat on the back and find ways to celebrate with friends and family. You know how hard you worked to achieve your ambitions; take time to relish the victory before you set your sights on the next achievement.

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