The atmosphere at Financial Gym is jubilant—music plays throughout the open plan work space and a prosecco cork pops to the sound of cheering. It seems appropriately celebratory for a place that helps people unburden themselves from debt and make smart steps towards life goals.
Founder and CEO Shannon McLay, who previously managed the wealth of high net-worth individuals at Merrill Lynch, always felt strongly that all people, regardless of how much money they currently had in the bank, deserve access to money advice. The Financial Gym—a membership-based training service for individuals and couples—was her solution.
“After over six years getting clients financially healthy I have seen a common theme of an overall lack of financial knowledge, but most people understand physical fitness topics,” explains McLay. “Even if people are not physically healthy, they understand how they can get there. So we used the knowledge they know for physical health to help them understand their financial health.”
Financial trainers, like fitness trainers, assess your lifestyle and help you identify bad habits as well as ultimate goals. They demand regular check-ins and hold you accountable, ensuring you keep making incremental improvements.
“One of the things that’s really important to us is that you’re putting your money towards what is important to you,” says Caitlin Lyttle, the company’s marketing manager. “We’ll be like ‘hmmmm…it seems that you went shopping a lot [this quarter], but that’s not one of your goals. You goal is to save for travel’, and then they kinda realize that they need to be more mindful with their spending.”
Uber, Seamless (a food delivery app), and Duane Reade pharmacy are where most of Financial Gym’s New York clients are spending large sums of money without even noticing. For many, burying their head in the sand with regards to bad habits and mounting debts are taking a toll on their mental health, and they’re ready for a lifestyle overhaul.
“Usually financial health is the last thing people talk about or focus on,” says Lyttle. “Most of the clients we get are females around 26-35 years old, and they’ve been very career driven. They’re physically healthy—maybe they go to the gym or SoulCycle—but their financial health is kind of the last thing they prioritize. That’s where we step in.”
For those who are ready to make lasting improvements to their financial fitness, the Gym has some quick pointers: save 15 percent of your gross income, make sure you have an emergency fund that includes six months of expenses so “you live a little more freely”, work towards a 750 credit score, never exceed 35 percent of your credit card limit, start a 401K or IRA retirement plan, and strive for a debt to income ratio of 35 percent maximum.
Financial Gym, 134 West 25th Street, 2nd floor, New York, NY, USA, 10001 +1 (646) 609-2225