7 Prudent Ways Personal Trainers Can Better Manage Their Money


As personal trainers, we talk about money (and how to make more of it) all the time.

We discuss ways to find more clients, how to get those clients to send us more clients, how to increase our prices, the easiest ways to take payment, and, of course, how to make that elusive six-figure income.

Interestingly, while we frequently talk about how to make more money—or ways that facilitate us making more money—we seldom talk about how to manage the money we do make.

I’m talking about money on a granular level—figuring out how to handle the money that goes into our account.

Before we get to that, pause and think about this for a second. Nearly 50 percent of the personal trainers who enter the industry leave within two years. Why do you think that is?

I believe there are two primary reasons:

  1. They’re new to the industry and aren’t educated enough on how to market and sell their services to build a thriving and sustainable client base.

  2. They suck at handling money.

Don’t worry, once upon a time, I sucked with money too. A few years ago, I found myself in a financial hole that I knew I needed to climb out of. I read everything I could get my hands on about financial mindset and how to handle my personal finances more prudently.

Here are 7 of the most important lessons I learnt along my journey:

Work out where you are right now

If your goal is to improve your finances, the first thing you should do is put a spotlight on your current financial position. You need to know exactly where you are right now—a financial baseline, if you will—in order to start making improvements.

Take a few minutes and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How much do you earn? (if your income varies, calculate your average over the last few months)

  2. What are your regular, recurring expenses? (rent, food, fuel, etc.)

  3. What are your debts? (list them from smallest to largest)

  4. What are your financial goals? Where do you see yourself in 3, 5, and 10 years, and how will money help you achieve your goals?

Create a budget

Most people cringe when they hear the word ‘budget’ because they think following one will mean the end of their lifestyle as they know it; that activities like dining out and online shopping will become a thing of the past.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. I like to think of a budget as a spending plan, not as a set of restrictions.

Rather than spending money haphazardly, you now tell your money where to go. You don’t necessarily need to cut back all of your spending, but to make use of a budget effectively, you need to look at the different areas in which you spend money and allocate a certain amount of money to each (i.e., dining out, entertainment, and professional development).

Think of a budget—or your spending plan—as a guide, so you know exactly how much money you should spend on certain areas. This effectively gives you a sense of freedom, as you’re in control of your money rather than your money being in control of you.

Avoid debt at all costs

I personally believe that debt is to your finances like smoking is to your body: a disaster.

If you want to improve the way you handle money, I would implore you to stop using debt to finance purchases from this point forward, and to eliminate all existing consumer debt from your life.

When was the last time you ran yourself through a self-audit to work out how much debt you have? This exercise can serve up a harsh dose of reality, but it’s important to understand your debt position.

The balance owing on your credit card? That’s debt.

The personal loan you took out to fund a holiday? That’s debt.

The car loan you took out at the dealership to buy a brand new set of wheels? That’s debt.

The student loan that’s been hanging around like a bad smell for years? You guessed it: debt.

Any type of debt, (except a home mortgage, if you’re lucky enough to have one) will slowly erode your ability to build wealth over time. When you carry debt, you end up being forced to divert your income towards paying for purchases you’ve made in the past, instead of having the freedom to be able to save, invest, or make purchases outright.

Build an emergency fund

Sometimes life bites you on the backside. Maybe you have to make an urgent repair to your car, or you fall ill or become injured and aren’t able to work for a few weeks.

The importance of having an emergency fund put aside that you can tap into when life’s emergencies pop up cannot be overstated.

Financial guru Dave Ramsey recommends starting with a $1000 emergency fund, then progressively building it to the point where it contains 3-6 months’ worth of expenses.

This way, when life does kick you in the teeth—and let’s face it, whether it’s a big kick or small, we all get kicked in the teeth at some point, right?—you won’t need to go into debt to get yourself out of a hole.

Live below your means

Living below your means translates to the simple philosophy whereby you spend less money than you make. This is a philosophy I personally subscribe to, and it allows me to set aside money every week towards my savings goals and any purchases I have on the horizon.

To live below your means, you first need to follow the above steps of creating a budget which details your average income and subtracts the expenses you have on a regular basis.

After subtracting your recurring expenses from your income, what’s left is your surplus income. This surplus income can be used for savings, investments, purchases, or to pay down debt.

Put money away for retirement

Putting money aside for retirement isn’t sexy by any stretch of the imagination, but have you ever stopped for a moment to consider where your income will come from once you retire?

If you’re an employee, you won’t necessarily have to worry about this, as your employer will withhold a percentage of your salary and invest it on your behalf into a superannuation/retirement investment account.

However, if you’re like most personal trainers and operate your own business, or you’re employed as a sub-contractor, putting money aside for your retirement becomes your responsibility.

Don’t forget about taxes

If there’s one financial gaff that’s put more personal trainers out of the industry than any other, it’s this. Make sure you put money away every paycheck to cover your tax obligations.

Similar to retirement, if you’re an employee you don’t need to worry about this, as a percentage of your salary will be deducted and put aside to meet your tax obligations. However, if you’re a business owner or independent personal trainer, it’s your responsibility to put aside money to meet these obligations.

A good rule of thumb is to put aside 30% of your paycheck each and every time you get paid into a separate, high-interest savings account. When you routinely put aside 30% of every paycheck, once your tax bill arrives you should have more than enough money saved in that account to cover your tax obligations.

Final thoughts

No matter what your financial position is, it’s never too late to improve the way you handle money. Just like health and fitness, personal finance is very much a lifelong journey that requires consistent focus and attention.

But think—just for a second—what it would be like if you actually did some of the above? Do you think you would be better off? Do you think your life… and business would be better off because of it?

I invite you to take an honest look at your finances and the way you view money and ask yourself whether it’s time for a bit of a touch-up.

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James McDonald

James is the founder of PT Blogger. He helps personal trainers grow their client-bases, earn more money and thrive in the industry.
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