Focus on your spending, not others

Instead of listening to what others choose to do with their finances, concentrate on your personal savings goals and spending decisions.

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The CrossFit Park City gym is right across the parking lot from my office. I used to love going there early in the morning to get my daily dose of intensity and to spend time with other people dedicated to the same thing. But a few years ago, I made a mistake. Instead of staying focused on my goals, I got a little too focused on beating other people, and I injured my shoulder.

After a few years of wandering in the wilderness of unstructured exercise, I wondered if it was time to go back to CrossFit. My shoulder felt fine, and I knew that if I paid for my exercise, I'd most certainly go. Also, because of the built-in community, I would get a text the night before a 5:30 a.m. workout to make sure I planned to come. What I needed was the healthy accountability minus the stupid competition.

Wondering if such a thing was possible, I called Chris Spealler. In addition to running CrossFit Park City, Chris is a superstar in the CrossFit community. He competed in the first six CrossFit Games and is often thought of as one of CrossFit's leading ambassadors. He's also an amazing guy.

Chris reminded me that the coaches at CrossFit were committed to helping me reach my goals. But they couldn't help me avoid reinjuring my shoulder if I didn't tell them about it. Once they understood my limitations, the workouts could be adapted to my abilities.

My first time back, another coach told me that Chris had called to let her know I was coming. Acting on Chris' advice, I told her I had a problem with knowing the difference between working hard and working stupid. With a knowing nod, she told me, "I'll keep an eye on you."

This small tweak in my perspective completely changed my experience for the better. I get the healthy accountability I need, but I've stopped my not-so-healthy behavior of competing against other people's goals. Because I've gotten clear about my purpose, I'm once again doing something I love without hurting myself in the process.

I've thought about this lesson a lot over the last few weeks. So many money conversations circle around the often unspoken reality that we're locked in unhealthy competition with other people. We can't seem to help ourselves, even though our neighbor's business isn't our business. So we end up using a measuring stick we think matters but that actually has nothing to do with our goals.

I believe we should take full advantage of healthy accountability, but we need to learn to recognize when it crosses the line. For instance, tracking your monthly expenses is a great way to create accountability. But the goal is to focus on your own spending, not that your friend just bought a new car. How other people spend has nothing to do with your financial health.

Maybe you do need to save for a big purchase like a house or a car. If so, don't get sidetracked by someone telling you about a low down payment offer at the bank or dealership. You know what numbers work for you. Sticking with your savings plan will prevent you from experiencing the financial version of tearing your shoulder. And trust me, you don't ever want that to happen.

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  • Saving and Spending
  • Saving and Spending
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This article was written by Carl Richards from The New York Times and was licensed as an article reprint. Article copyright 8/17/2015 by The New York Times.
The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Fidelity Investments cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any statements or data.
This reprint is supplied by Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC.
The third party provider of the reprint permission and Fidelity Investments are independent entities and not legally affiliated.
The images, graphs, tools, and videos are for illustrative purposes only.
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