Dusting off your new year's money resolutions
Remember all those financial goals you set for yourself right around New Year's Day? How's that going?
This would be the year, you said, that you would get serious about saving for retirement and fattening up your emergency fund. You vowed to write a will, buy more life insurance or save for a house.
If you didn't stick to your resolutions, you're not alone. According to a Fidelity Investments survey released at the beginning of this year, out of 2,014 respondents, 31 percent said they made financial resolutions. And according to data gathered at StatisticBrain.com, only 8 percent of people are successful at achieving their resolutions.
The good news is that you still have plenty of time to get back on track. Here's how:
Do a goal autopsy. So you stopped trying to achieve your goals back in March, or even the second week of January. Maybe you simply didn't commit yourself to those goals. There could also be other problems blocking you from achieving them, according to John Slupski, a certified financial planner and senior managing director at East Coast Asset Management in Essex, Massachusetts.
"Are they realistic?" Slupski asks. "Unrealistic goals lead to frustration and inertia."
Or maybe you weren't realistic about your goals because they conflict with what he calls "hidden goals."
"For example," Slupski says, "if the goal is to retire at 65 but you also like to take vacations twice a year, both goals need to be prioritized and addressed."
If the math works out so you can't do both, he adds, "It may be better to take a vacation once a year and retire at 67 to balance preparing for the future with enjoying the ride along the way."
Remind yourself why your goal is important. It's easy to get distracted by daily life and forget why you set a goal in the first place. Yes, you want to earn more money or save more money. But why?
Amy Morin, a psychotherapist in Bangor, Maine, and the author of "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," suggests creating a list of all the reasons you should keep working toward your goal.
Then, "when you're tempted to give up, read the list," she suggests.
Find someone to help keep you accountable. Maybe you gave up a long time ago because you didn't have much of a support system or a way to keep yourself on track.
You could harness the power of technology and hold yourself accountable to almost everyone you know. You could, for instance, share your financial goals and progress by keeping a blog or posting your latest goings-on on Facebook or Twitter. But in this information-sharing age, that may feel like too much, considering you may be connected to everyone from your grandmother to your boss.
Which is why you might want to use a website like Linkagoal.com, a free social networking platform for people who want to set goals. Basically, you look for other users who have similar goals, connect to them, and you can track each other's progress and cheer each other on.
Be willing to adjust your plan for achieving your goals. Of course, your problem may be that you didn't really have a plan. You may have just declared your goals, written them down and never thought about how to achieve them. If that's the case, here are several courses of action.
Break up your goals into smaller goals. "Rather than tell yourself you need to lose 100 pounds or save a million dollars for retirement, create short-term objectives and action steps. Look at what you can accomplish today, this week or this month," Morin says.
Ronald Kaufman, a life coach in Los Angeles, agrees. "Set up a realistic, step-by-step action plan, making each step as small as possible," he advises.
Why small? So they're easy to achieve, and you can start to see some progress.
Assume rough patches are ahead. It's inevitable, Morin says. "Whether the holidays are likely to make it difficult to stick to your diet, or an upcoming vacation could serve as a good excuse to blow your budget, plan ahead and anticipate times where you're likely to give up," she says, adding that you'll need to not only be aware that these tough times are coming, but you should try to keep the rough patches from causing your financial goals to implode.
Track your progress. You forgot about your goals somewhere between Jan. 1 and now. Don't let it happen again.
Eliza Cross, a Denver financial blogger who writes for her site HappySimpleLiving.com, says she didn't really get her finances in order until she began calculating her net worth at the end of every month.
"I made a simple Excel spreadsheet to track assets and debts, and set a goal to increase the bottom line every month," she says. "Seeing the actual numbers in black and white meant I could no longer lie to myself about how little I was saving and how much I was really charging on credit cards."
She adds that soon she began to challenge herself to top the previous month's numbers.
Stay positive. It's basic advice, but it's important when it comes to setting goals and achieving them, Kaufman says, adding that you need to "eliminate any negative self-talk like, 'I'm so stupid,' or 'I knew I'd screw that up.'"
But the power of negative thinking can help you in one way.
"What negative feelings might you experience if you don't achieve a goal? ... What will you lose if you don't achieve [it]?" Kaufman asks.
Otherwise, he says, keep your thoughts concerning your financial goals positive and confident.
Kaufman quips: "Paraphrasing Henry Ford, 'If you believe you can or believe you can't, you're right.'"
Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report
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