We come into January energized and refreshed to conquer the world. We set ambitious resolutions so we can better ourselves and achieve our goals. And then, almost as quickly as we made the resolutions, our resolve falters and we give up on our New Year’s Resolutions. But, WHY do we have a hard time sticking to our resolutions? HOW can we set ourselves up to accomplish our resolutions? And WHAT are some attainable personal finance goals that we can strive for this year? That, and more, in this episode!
IN THIS WEEK’S EPISODE
- The problem with most New Year’s Resolutions
- SMART goal setting
- 15 personal finance resolutions you can hit this year
Personal finance resolutions for the new year
It’s the beginning of a new year, and if you’re like me, you probably set some resolutions that you’d like to accomplish this year.
Now, we’re only a few days into the new year, so my hope is that some of your resolutions are still intact. It’s amazing how quickly our resolutions fall apart.
But let’s unpack that. WHY do our resolutions fail? Why do we give up so quickly on our goals? After all, they were important enough for us to realize that we needed to resolve to address them, so we KNOW they’re important.
The problem with most New Year’s Resolutions
In preparation for this episode on personal finance resolutions, I was curious what the most popular resolutions are, and I think I found a reason why many resolutions fail.
When surveyed, 38 percent resolved to “exercise more.” One third set out to “lose weight.” Thirty-two percent wanted to “eat healthier.” Fifteen percent aimed to “Take a more active approach to their health,” whatever that means. And 15 percent wanted to “learn a new skill or hobby.”
Note a pattern? How many times have you heard someone say “Gosh, this year I’m going to exercise more!” Do they stick with their resolution? Probably not. Why? It’s an empty resolution. There’s no meat in there. What I mean is that they don’t have a plan to reach their goal.
A better version of that resolution is “I’m going to go to they gym five days a week.” Do they keep that resolution? Maybe, maybe not. See, what we don’t know is are they already going to the gym three days per week? Or are they going to the gym zero days a week and trying to radically change their habits?
Most of us use the new year to try to conquer the world. We set our sights so high because THIS is the year that you make up for all the other years in which you failed to get to the gym. Boy, I have been there.
The problem is, most of us aren’t wired that way. We can’t go from zero to 60 in 7 days flat. Instead, I think we could all benefit from a dose of reality to know that we’ll have much greater success setting smaller, more realistic goals.
So, if we’ve gotten out of the habit of going to the gym, and we’re starting at square one, instead of resolving to “exercise more,” or even more specifically, “going to the gym five days per week,” why don’t we resolve to make it to the gym twice per week? Then, pair that resolution with a detailed plan for how we aim to accomplish that particular resolution, like setting out your gym clothes the night before and figuring out the specifics of how you’re going to fit the gym into your normal routine.
Two takeaways here:
- Start small. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
- Be specific. Your New Year’s Resolutions should be treated the same as any other goals you create for work. It was back in Episode 10 that we talked about setting SMART goals, or goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
Resolving to improve our personal finances
Alright, now that we’ve go the psychology out of the way, let’s talk about some New Year’s Resolutions focused on personal finances. Maybe you’ve got some of these on your list that you’re already working toward this year and maybe there are some new resolutions on this list that you’d like to add to your list this year.
- Create a money binder – MM015
- Track your spending for your budget – MM002
- Buy LESS coffee to save more money – MM013
- Automate your savings and investments
- Figure out YOUR financial freedom number – MM003 and MM004
- Make a debt attack plan and prioritize
- Figure out how you want to organize your finances
- Up your savings by $100/month
- Open and contribute to an IRA – MM006 and MM008
- Do a “passion check” – MM016
- Subscribe (and listen) to 5 relevant personal finance podcasts
- Pay off 20% of your credit card debt
- Add one month to your emergency fund
- Cut the cord – MM017
- Rollover old 401(k)s
Your mileage may vary with this list, and many of them could benefit from getting more specific, but I wanted to paint a broader brush so you could fill in the blanks with what makes sense for your situation.
Try to find three or four personal finance resolutions that you’d like to prioritize this year and work like mad to stick with them. That’s the key here. The Number One, single-most important resolution you can make this year is the one you can STICK TO!
While some resolutions, like “finding time to read more novels” might be okay to not follow through with, you should always prioritize personal finance resolutions, because when it comes to money, time is either your enemy or your friend.
The faster you can accomplish your personal finance goals, the faster that you can put your family’s money to work for you. If you keep putting it off, you’re missing out on incredibly valuable time that you money isn’t able to do more productive things. Your personal finances WANT to work hard for you. Don’t let your money be used to only pay minimum monthly payments and keep your head above water.
I’ve got one more BONUS RESOLUTION as we close: START! The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Resolve to do SOMETHING sometime in the next 7 days. If you’re just getting started in your personal finance journey, carve out a few minutes this weekend to take one or two baby steps toward better understanding your personal finances.