6 Steps to Financial Fitness for Women

Are you a financially independent woman? That is -- are you in control of your debt, income, and spending habits? Are you controlling your money...or is it controlling you?

Financial fitness is just as important as emotional, spiritual, and physical fitness for women. Luckily, achieving fitness levels in any aspect of life just requires a little motivation, planning, and discipline...and these tips for financial fitness will help you bulk up your money muscles!

To increase your financial fitness levels, you can...

1. Schedule your "retire rich" or "find financial freedom" time.
Take an hour a month to think about how you can be a financially independent woman . Do you need to learn about basic personal finances, figure out where to invest $100 a month, or learn how to put money towards your retirement or children's education? Block off an hour a month (or an hour a week, if you're really motivated!) to pursue your financial goals.

2. Identify the flaws in your personal finance plan. If you're not financially independent, then figure out where the wheels fell off the bus. Are you charging up your credit card bills and avoiding your student loan or mortgage loan debt? Are you financially supporting a spouse or family member when they should be doing it themselves? If you're not financially independent, it's for specific reasons - and the sooner you uncover those reasons, the further along the road to financial independence you'll be.

3. Attend one personal finance course or investment seminar a month. "You can find these classes at community colleges, extension programs, credit unions, and even online," writes Frankel in Nice Girls. "Many investment firms offer short evening programs designed for the financial novice." If you're going to a seminar at an investment firm, resist their sales pitches…learn as much as you can about investing your money , building your retirement income, and living within your budget. As Ayn Rand said "The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity" - and those opportunities may be right in your back yard!

4. Learn where your money "should" be going. Financial experts say your income or earnings should be divided up in specific ways. For instance, 10% of your income should be going to savings or investments, 25-40% to mortgage or rent, 8-15% to home-related expenses, 10-20% to food, 15-25% to transportation, 8-15% for medical expenses, 3-5% for clothing, 5-10% to personal or miscellaneous, and less than 5% to personal debt such as student or personal loans. If you're spending more than these suggested amounts, then it may be time to consider shifting your expenses.

5. Take care of your credit rating by balancing your checkbook every month. "If you're one of those women who make deposits but don't reconcile their checkbook, then you're more likely to treat money as dispensable - not something that has to be cared for and looked after," says Lois Frankel. She encourages women who want to be financially independent to reconcile their accounts every month (or more often!). Your financial activities directly affect your credit score, which affects your ability to get mortgage or business loans. And if you want to be a female entrepreneur or start your own business one day, you'll need a strong credit rating.

6. Remember that you can control your money - it doesn't have to control you. Ayn Rand said, "Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver." Maybe you were taught to let men manage money when you were growing up, or that money isn't feminine or ladylike. Banish those thoughts! Remember that money is just a tool to help you enjoy life - it's doesn't have to be something to avoid. Use your "financial freedom time" to learn as many money lessons as possible.

If you have any questions or thoughts on financial fitness, I welcome you below...

Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen is a full-time writer and blogger who created and maintains five "Quips and Tips" blogs: