11 Personal Finance Tips For Personal Trainers That Are Self-Employed

By: Eric Leider, CFP Ⓡ, RLP Ⓡ, BFA ™️

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By: Eric Leider, CFP Ⓡ, RLP Ⓡ, BFA ™️

March 14, 2023

11 Personal Finance Tips For Personal Trainers That Are Self-Employed


By learning the most valuable personal finance tips for personal trainers that we’ve outlined below, you will be putting yourself in a strong position for success as a self-employed personal trainer.

The sad reality is that personal finance is not something that is taught in schools. In most cases, our parents don’t spend enough time diving into how to manage our money in the real world. We are left to fend for ourselves!

Specifically for self-employed personal trainers, having a strong and confident handle on your personal financial situation can truly reap long-term benefits personally and professionally.

Key Takeaways:

  • There are several considerations to take in as it relates to our 11 personal finance tips for personal trainers. However, the main point is to understand your unique, personal financial needs.
  • While it may seem that the list is daunting, the key is to start small. Next, consistently make progress towards strengthening your personal financial picture.
  • As a self-employed personal trainer, handling your personal finances will allow you to gain more clarity around your business needs.
  • There are certain tax benefits associated with being a self-employed personal trainer. Make sure to mind the details and take advantage of them.

1. Cash Flow Management (i.e. Budgeting) Is King

When it comes to your personal finances, managing the inflows and outflows of money is critical. While most people do not love the term “budget”, you need to master your cash flows.

Instead of budgeting, maybe think of it in a different way. As a self-employed personal trainer, you are going to earn your income. Take control of your finances and find a home for each hard-earned dollar that you make. You are going to feel that much more empowered when it comes to any money decision.

Budgeting Preferences; There Is No Wrong Way

There are so many different options when it comes to budgeting, depending on your preferences:

  • Envelope System for those that like to take it old school
  • Pen & paper for those that have to write things down
  • Spreadsheet for those that love crunching numbers
  • App or software for the tech-savvy, such as Mint, YNAB, Tiller Money, Copilot, Zeta, and many more
  • Credit card rewards for those that have the discipline to pay off the balance in full from month to month

No matter which option you choose, the key is to find something that you like and can stick with. There is no right or wrong answer, as personal finance is “personal”. Find what works for you.

Static, Control, & Dynamic Budgeting

We are also big fans of thinking about your budget in terms of “buckets”. Without going into too much detail, this method is more focused on providing you with a flexible framework to think about your spending. The key premise is that most people seem to “bucket” their money into three main categories: past commitments, present choices, and future needs and wants. Knowing what goes into each bucket and how to make related financial decisions can be life-changing. The three buckets are named “static”, “control”, and “dynamic”, and you can learn more here & here.

For more on budgeting. check out another article that we wrote, titled Budgeting as a Personal Trainer: How to Manage Your Finances Like a Pro.

2. Build Up Your Emergency Fund

The rule of thumb that you will see for an emergency fund is to save 3 – 6 months of living expenses. This is a great place to start, but we need to get more specific for self-employed personal trainers.

Because you are self-employed, there are more risks and levels of unpredictability involved with your income. With that being said, you may want to build an additional buffer over and above the 6-month timeframe noted above.

What Is The Goal Of An Emergency Fund?

First off, it is important to understand the goal of an emergency fund. Primarily, it is to be used in a real emergency situation. In the case of a self-employed personal trainer, this could be losing a client, having the primary private gym that you train out of close down, your car completely breaks down out of nowhere, large unexpected expenses, massive medical bill, etc.

You can quickly see why an emergency fund is so important. By planning ahead and having some cash on hand for an emergency, you will find peace. You will know that you have those funds available if something unexpected comes your way.

12-Months Of Core Living Expenses Is The Target

Finally, given that you are self-employed, you may want to target having 12-months of core living expenses saved up. Because of the nature of your business, this would be the prudent approach to take. When you think about core living expenses, think about all of the bills that you have to pay and expenses that you need in order to live.

If you have not yet started saving to build up your emergency fund, it is never too late to start. Start saving what you can month-to-month. Next, you continually grow to reach the goal of having 12-months of core living expenses saved up. For more details on where to save cash to be earmarked for your emergency fund, read this helpful article, “Where To Put Money For Short-Term Savings“.

3. Where You Bank Matters!

Although it isn’t a sexy topic, the institutions that you choose for your checking and savings accounts matter. On this topic, we are specifically talking about who you use for your primary checking, debit card, ATM, and general “savings” account.

You have a lot of options, especially these days. Below are most of the options that you could look into:

  • Primary checking and savings account with the large institutions like Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, etc.
  • Newer, more tech-forward checking & debit card options like Chime, Zeta, Betterment, Varo, Current, etc.
  • For Higher-Yield Online Savings, options like Marcus, Ally, Chime, etc.

We won’t dive into the specifics, but at the end of the day, you want to bank with a company you like. You want to be excited about engaging with them and you want them to help with your needs.

For some, they like the convenience of having an ATM at every corner.

For others, the tech-forward options may be more appealing because of the sleek digital interface on the phone and ease of use.

Lastly and depending on your financial goals, you may get preferential treatment with regards to other “banking products”. For example, if you are a Bank of America customer, you may get better interest rates on your mortgage. This shouldn’t be a deal-maker by any means, but you always want to think about the big picture and what perks matter to you.

Bonus – Business Banking

We can write a lot more about where to bank as a self-employed business owner, but for today, we will keep it brief.

First, you always want to make sure that you keep your business income and expenses separate from your personal banking, savings, and investment accounts. Keeping things clean and organized will reap long-term benefits as it relates to filing your taxes and staying on top of your business growth.

If you haven’t created a business bank account for your self-employed personal training business, there are some new companies that are truly making life easier. A few that come to mind are Novo, BlueVine, Lili, and Rho.

4. Manage Your Debt & Liabilities

All debt is not created equal.

There are so many different types of debt (or liabilities) that one can have. The following are the more common types:

  • Credit Card Debt
  • Student Loan Debt
  • Home Mortgage Debt
  • Other Real Estate Property Mortgage Debt
  • Auto Loan Debt
  • Personal Loan Debt
  • Buy now pay later debt, from the likes of Afterpay, Klarna, etc.

No matter what type of debt you have or are considering, you want to make sure that you understand the cost of your debt. The cost is always going to be related to the interest rate that you are paying on your balance. Essentially, you are paying interest to have something immediately that you technically can’t afford.

Going back to our point earlier, it is 100% true that all debt is not created equal. For example, when you buy a home, it makes sense to have a mortgage. This is what some may call “good debt”. You still want to find the best mortgage with the lowest possible interest rate, and you certainly want to make sure that you can afford the monthly payments.

However, credit card debt is the type of debt that you really want to avoid when it comes to maintaining a balance. With credit cards, the interest rates are usually very, very high, so by not paying the monthly balance in full, you are paying extra money to the credit card company for whatever items you purchased using the credit card.

Ultimately, you want to manage your debt and liabilities in a smart and intentional manner. For more on how best to tackle your debt, read a helpful article on the topic of tackling debt.

5. Control Your Credit Score

One metric to track as it relates to your ability to manage your debt is your credit score. This is done automatically by the powers that may be (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax).

It is very important to control your credit score. You want to make sure your score is in the “great to best” category. The main reason for that is because you will be rewarded with the ability to have lower interest rates on future liabilities that you may need (such as a home mortgage or auto loan). In addition, having a strong credit score reflects more positively with employment, background checks, renting a place to live, or even leasing a space for your personal training business.

For a deep dive into all about your credit score, check out this full piece on “What Makes Up Your Credit Score?

6. Be Smart With Your Short-Term Liquidity Needs

Another very important notion that falls into the category of personal finance tips for personal trainers has to do with managing your cash and short-term liquidity needs.

We already hit on the importance of an Emergency Fund earlier in this article. However, you also want to think about other short-term goals. In these cases, cash may be needed sooner rather than later.

First, you obviously want to save up for whatever that short-term cash need is. For example, it could be a down payment on a new home in 1-year or it could possibly be purchasing several expensive pieces of gym equipment for your training facility in 6-months. By planning ahead, the goal would be to have the cash ready for that specific timeline.

The second part would be related to where you keep the cash. You may not want to invest it because you run the risk of not having all of the money by the time you actually need it. You have to be somewhat conservative with short-term goals and play it safe. However, the best place may actually be an online bank that provides somewhat of a higher yield on their savings accounts.

7. Create A Real Financial Life Plan (One Of The Most Critical Personal Finance Tips For Personal Trainers)

As a self-employed personal trainer, you should really understand the idea behind creating a plan and sticking with it. If you think about any client that you’ve worked with to achieve any fitness, health, or wellness goal, you were able to guide them by creating a plan for them, holding them accountable in sticking with the plan, and helping course-correct along the way.

Well, the same mindset must also be taken when it comes to achieving any financial or life goal. If you want to own your own physical gym or training facility, you have to create a S.M.A.R.T. goal of what that may look like. In addition, you would want to build out the steps to help achieve that goal.

By taking a step back and really understanding your values, priorities, and ultimately understanding what is truly important to you, only then are you able to start thinking about your financial life plan. Once you get more clarity and inspiration on all of this, you can start to figure out what financial strategies, tools, or expertise you will need to help guide you towards reaching all of your financial and life goals. When it comes to the value of financial life planning for self-employed personal trainers, we’ve written extensively on this topic here, here, and here. Take a deep dive to see how it aligns so nicely with the ethos of movement, health, and healing professionals.

In practice, a real financial life plan should cover the areas of the inspiration needed to achieve the life that you want, as well as the core areas of traditional financial planning that apply to you – such as cash flow management, retirement planning, investing, tax planning, estate planning, risk management & insurance, etc.

Listen to one of our podcast episodes that go into detail in this area – Life Planning For Personal Trainers – Financial Coaching & Life Planning Goals For Personal Trainers.

8. Invest With Purpose, For The Long-Run, & Always Keep It Simple

Wherever you look or whoever you talk to, it seems like everyone wants to make investing this complex, hard-to-understand topic.

However, the reality is that investing should be and can be simple. Once you get past all of the noise and stray away from chasing returns, you open up the possibility of truly having your money work for you.

Investing with purpose means to first take a step back and really get a sense of (1) your values and (2) your goals. When you do this, you can start to build a framework for the why behind investing for your unique financial & life goals. As noted just above, you always want to start with your financial life plan in mind.

Investing for the long run means not getting carried away with the short-term ups and downs of the stock market. For example, if you are in your 30’s today and are saving for retirement in your SEP IRA as a self-employed personal trainer, you have a very long time horizon to let the account grow. You don’t need the money now and it is already earmarked for the long-term goal of retirement.

Keeping it simple means finding something that works for you and is low maintenance. You should be focusing most of your time on your clients. The goal is to build your business as a self-employed personal trainer. You don’t want to get stuck day-trading on your smartphone. In addition, keeping it simple also means understanding what you are investing in. Avoid the allure of complex, sexy, and expensive investment options, vehicles, and funds. Most people are better off simply buying a diversified basket of ETFs and holding for the long run. Finally, keeping it simple also means making sure that you’re not paying high fees.

9. It Is Never Too Late (Or Early) To Think About Retirement Planning

Everyone is going to have a different thought about what “retirement” actually means. Here’s how different it can look:

  • Saving as much as possible, as fast as possible and retiring early before normal retirement age
  • Slow and steady savings with modest retirement living expenses, and fully retiring at normal retirement age
  • Finding your true passion and doing that until you die (i.e. never “retiring”)
  • Enjoying life today as fully as possible and not waiting until you are too old to experience life
  • Being so active and healthy that your life expectancy is much longer than normal, resulting in having to work longer
  • Owning your own business and tapering down your hours, stress levels, etc. while you are “retired”
  • Not planning ahead or saving much, and living your later years in a tough situation (mentally and financially)

For a self-employed personal trainer, a lot of the retirement savings burden is going to be on your shoulders. Because you don’t have an employer providing the benefit employer-sponsored plans, you have to do most of the heavy lifting. The good thing is that there are several different retirement plan options that can really help with saving towards retirement for self-employed personal trainers.

The earlier that you start saving, the better. However, if you haven’t done much in this regard yet, don’t sweat it. Start taking small steps towards your retirement savings goals and consistently improve your habits.

10. Be Proactive In All Things Related To Tax Planning

As a self-employed business owner, there are certain tax deductions that you must take advantage of. For regular W-2 employees, this is not the case.

Therefore, when it comes to filing your taxes, you really want to also think about the big picture of your tax situation. What are the things that you can do throughout the year and before the year ends (and before the tax filing deadline) that will help you pay less in taxes?

Tax Benefits For Self-Employed Personal Trainers

Read this article on the “Tax Benefits For Self-Employed Personal Trainers”, but in summary, here are the key items to consider:

  • Do as much as you can to stay organized throughout the year
  • Make sure that you fully understand the ins-and-outs of Form Schedule C on your tax return
  • Take advantage of the main expenses or deductions related to your business as a self-employed personal trainer, such as:
    • Where you train your clients (i.e. renting space at a training facility or private gym)
    • Traveling to and from client training sessions
    • Gym equipment, training tools, and gear
    • Expenses related to running your business (computer-related expenses, internet use, scheduling tools or apps, etc.)
    • Home office expense (if applicable)
    • Costs related to training, conferences, workshops, and continuing education
    • Contributions into retirement plan accounts like a SEP IRA, Owner-only 401(k), SIMPLE IRA, or Traditional IRA (side note: you can contribute to a Roth IRA if you are within the income limits, but you do not get a deduction)
    • Premiums paid for health insurance, disability insurance, etc.
  • Stay on top of your quarterly estimated tax payments (if applicable)
  • Be diligent about proactive tax planning and do everything that you need to do before 12/31

Taxes can get complicated, but they don’t always have to be. As a self-employed personal trainer, you want to keep as much money in your pocket as possible. Be smart, stay organized, live proactively, and never be afraid to educate yourself or seek professional advice.

In thinking about personal finance tips for personal trainers, being proactive with your tax planning is definitely one of the most important to consider.

11. As A Self-Employed Personal Trainer, Managing Risk Is Critically Important

One often neglected area that falls into the category of personal finance tips for personal trainers has to do with managing your risk as a business owner.

First, it is important to talk about the risk management areas that you should consider on a personal level.

Risk Management & Estate Planning For Personal Needs

In this article, our goal is not to go into the nitty-gritty of insurance and estate planning. However, on a high level, you should know that they are very important pieces of your overall financial life plan. Some of the types of considerations could be as follows on a personal level:

  • Private health insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Term life insurance
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Umbrella liability insurance
  • Professional and generally liability insurance (for self-employed personal trainers)
  • Proper asset titling, beneficiary designations for retirement accounts (or life insurance policies), and POD/TOD designations (if applicable for taxable accounts)
  • Basic estate planning documents like a will, trust, durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney (or medical directive), guardianship, etc.

All of these items are not necessary for everyone and they may not apply to your situation today. However, depending on your stage in life (single vs. married, children vs. no children, own a home vs. rent, early-career or close to retirement, etc.), the need for each of these is going to be different. Yet, there are some items on this list that are worth considering no matter what.

Risk Management & Estate Planning For Business Needs

The level of business planning within the context of managing risk and thinking through estate planning is only a major factor for those that own businesses beyond themselves. That could mean owning a training facility with multiple locations or even creating a training fitness program that is a mobile app.

By covering the bases on the risk management and estate planning side of things on your personal side, you are going to be in a great spot starting out.

The next step would be to consider the following:

  • Business entity formation (Sole proprietorship, General partnership, Limited partnership (LP), Limited liability company (LLC), C-corporation, and S-corporation)
  • Do you need to draft a buy-sell agreement?
  • Do you have a succession or exit plan?
  • Make appropriate adjustments to your estate plan (if needed)

Bonus Personal Finance Tips For Personal Trainers

The 11 personal finance tips for personal trainers that we discussed above are critically important. However, there are also a few other fun topics that we also wanted to make note of.

Automate Your Finances

Whether you put all of your bills on automatic monthly payments or you establish recurring monthly savings into your retirement accounts, this type of automation is a game changer.

When you automate your finances, you take one thing off of your plate. This allows for less friction in continually taking positive action.

Understand Your Money Personality

There are a lot of different “money personality assessments” that you can take and find online. A few that we like are Zeta’s Money Personality Quiz, Marcus’s Financial Personality Quiz (via Myers-Briggs), and the MoneyMind Assessment.

Personal finance, money, and investing can be emotional. By taking a deeper look at how you think about money, you will make better money decisions.

We recently had fun with this topic on a podcast episode in Life Planning For Personal Trainers – ‘Money Personality Types & The Enneagram‘. Take a listen!

This deeply resonates with the idea of life planning, which we are all about. Learn more about financial coaching & life planning for personal trainers here.

Make Time For Money Dates

This tip only applies to those that are in a relationship, where there is sharing of finances. By being proactive and making time to discuss your finances, you can get ahead of stressful conversations around money.

This doesn’t have to be too serious and you can do it as regularly as you like. The key is to make sure that you are both on the same page about your financial situation and goals. Make managing your money together more of a team effort!

Keep Up With New Technologies, But Don’t Risk It All

With exciting financial products and companies (Robinhood, Bitcoin, NFTs, etc.), it is easy to get caught up in the shiny, new toys.

This is not to say that none of these things will stick and be part of your financial picture. However, the key is to make sure that you understand what you are getting involved with. You just never want to put your long-term goals & vision in jeopardy.

At the end of the day, there are quite a lot of areas that make up Personal Finance.

Our goal with this long article is to provide details on the areas that you should consider. Take it one step at a time and always be intentional.

We hope that you found these personal finance tips for personal trainers helpful.

Additional Reads & Resources

Money Management For Personal Trainers
4 Key Financial Tips To Help Minimize Debt When Starting Up Your Personal Training Business
Financial Planning For Personal Trainers – Income
Financial Planning For A Successful Personal Training Business
35 Ways To Make Money As A Personal Trainer Or Fitness Coach
Year-End Tax Tips For Personal Trainers That Are Self-Employed
The Best Apps For Self-Employed Personal Trainers
8 Financial Mistakes Made By Self-Employed Personal Trainers & How To Avoid Them