What can runners teach you about managing your money?
A lot, say researchers—and if you’re the type who hates to break a sweat, the good news is you can master their financial secrets without ever leaving the comfort of your own couch.
According to a study from Boise State University, ultra-marathoners, the types who log a hundred or more miles in one race, are not only good at getting fit, they’re also better than the average human at managing their finances. In fact, researchers deemed these individuals very “financially conscious.”
Of course, you might reason: If I spent all day racing, I wouldn’t have time to spend money either! But that’s not actually what’s going on. In fact, it’s the runners’ mental toughness that makes them mean money managers.
After all, they work hard, and they’re goal-oriented, both qualities a super-saver needs too.
Like we said, you needn’t lace up your sneakers to get these results. Instead, we pulled out seven traits of ultra-marathoners that you can master on your own. Once you adopt these habits, you’ll see your money management improve radically, no 30-mile training run necessary.
1. Runners Keep Their Promises
Every time a runner signs up for a marathon or even a 5K, they’re making a promise to themselves that they will train for that event. When runners take donations from friends and family for a marathon fundraiser, they’re making a promise to everyone else that they will finish the race—and not crossing that finish line will have consequences. Likewise, making a financial promise has been shown to motivate spouses to make good on their goals.
How to Do It
Whether you want to start a 401(k) or donate a certain amount of money to charity this year, we have a way that you can make that promise to yourself–and a whole community of like-minded LearnVesters–today: just take the LV Pledge. By putting your promise in writing, you’ll be much more motivated to make it to your own financial finish line.
2. Runners Stress Less
Studies have proven that runners tend to be less stressed, less likely to be depressed and have higher self-esteem. When it comes to finances, happiness is correlated with better savings, lower debt and more control over spending decisions, and optimistic people are more likely to make good financial decisions. Optimism is even good for the economy!
How to Do It
According to the 2011 Stress in America Survey, the number one thing woman are stressed about is money, which is why taking control of your finances is a must. Just knowing what’s going on will make you feel more confident, not to mention calmer. Start by using these expert tips to de-stress. If you want a crash course—think couch to half-marathon in less than two weeks—our Take Control Bootcamp will whip you into shape in no time.
3. Runners Seek Out Information
Ultra-marathon runners are information hounds. They devour the latest studies on diet and training techniques, because everything they learn gets them closer to their goals. Likewise with money! This study found that investors who don’t take the time to consider all the information are more likely to make poor decisions. The good news is that women are more likely to ask questions when they don’t have the answers, which leads to better returns on their investments.
How to Do It
You’re halfway there–just reading this article means you’re already seeking out information. Your next steps? Getting into the habit of slowing down before you make financial decisions. Our purchase appraisal calculator will help you get very familiar with your buying habits: Find out whether those new spring shoes are a good buy or not. If you have a particular goal, like having a baby, or starting to invest, take advantage of LearnVest’s bootcamps and courses. And don’t be afraid to seek out the advice of a professional (consider them a financial coach) if you need personal advice.
4. Runners Consider Training Mandatory
Ultra-marathoners don’t wake up and consider whether they feel like running. Rain or shine, they lace up the sneakers and hit the pavement. Good savers are the same. If times are tight, the financially fit keep putting money into their retirement account and cutting back elsewhere.
How to Do It
Make your savings automatic instead of optional. (Here’s how that helped one LV reader save $30,000 in three years.) Contribute as much as you can automatically to your IRA or 401(k) retirement account, and set up an automatic transfer to a special savings account for your goals. So even if you have a rainy day (financially speaking), you’ll never even miss the money.
All About Balance
Runners make a point of balancing their training and their lives. How do you balance all of the demands on your time? SHARE
5. Runners Are Conscientious
The traits of conscientiousness are self-discipline, organization and a need for achievement—all traits of the runners. And this study shows that people who are conscientious also have higher lifetime earnings and save more for retirement. “Conscientious people are reliable, meet deadlines and pay their bills on time,” said Angela Lee Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist who co-authored the study. What they don’t do is procrastinate.
How to Do It
Say it with us: You can make yourself a more thorough and organized person. Use these tips to organize all your financial paperwork. Set alarms on your phone or calendar so that you never forget to pay a bill on time. And think of paying off your credit card debt as a goal akin to finishing a race. And it’s OK to reward yourself with a little splurge when you “finish.”
6. Runners Don’t Forget to Calculate
Pop quiz: if you run a 2.5 mile loop twice in 45 minutes, what’s your average minutes per mile? That’s the kind of calculation runners do every day. Which is not to say you have to be a math whiz to reach your financial goals–IQ doesn’t correlate with wealth. What is important is that you educate yourself so you know how to manage your money. This study shows that spouses who were able to answer three basic math questions correctly had an average family wealth of $1.7 million, while those who answered all three questions wrong had an average of $200,000. Another study found that those who could answer questions involving financial terms tend to be the best prepared for retirement.
How to Do It
First, brush up on some basics, like how compound interest works, which is one key to growing your money. And see what inflation does to your bottom line. Even if you weren’t a calc major, you can be financially smart: The My Money Center will tell you exactly how much you’re spending, and on what. Other LearnVest calculators show you how your money will grow over time. (Oh, and the answer, in case you’re wondering, is nine minutes per mile.)
7. Runners Delay Gratification
Nothing says “delayed gratification” like sweating and hurting to cross a finish line 45 miles down the road. Financially, one study shows that impulsive behavior is also linked to poor saving skills, while the famous marshmallow experiment showed that those who could wait for a larger reward experienced more success later in life.
How to Do It
Saving for retirement and other big goals is all about delaying gratification. For a great illustration of what, say, cutting out buying coffee every day could save you toward your dream vacation, check out our “This or That” calculator. Strengthen your delayed gratification muscles by starting with the little things, like saying no to the vending machine or putting the money you don’t spend on M&Ms toward a nice dinner instead. Then move on to the big stuff, like cutting back on shopping so you can funnel money toward your retirement. (If you need more incentive, try this trick.)
More From LearnVest
Get inspired to be more financially savvy with our beautiful quotes about all things money.
Learn the secrets of TLC’s ‘Extreme Cheapstakes’ with our interview.
Saving for retirement is more of a challenge for women. Read our tips to get there.