/ Personal Finance

How to make financial New Year’s resolutions that stick

Americans don’t particularly excel at setting and keeping New Year’s resolutions. Only around 40 percent participate in the tradition at all[1], and 80 percent of those who do abandon their resolutions by February[2].

Worse still, Americans aren’t likely to set financial goals at all. Only 36% made New Year’s resolutions relating to money in 2017[3] — and (spoiler alert) it’s not because we’re already doing so well with our personal finances. As of this year, one in three Americans has no retirement savings[4], and one in five American households has zero or negative wealth[5].

So what’s the key to making the right financial resolutions (the ones that actually stick)?

Actionable Goals

Make goals actionable and measurable.

Trying to build wealth without a plan is like embarking on a road trip with no map. It’s difficult to be successful if you don’t know exactly what you’re working toward and how to get there. For that reason alone, setting measurable goals with some sort of timeline or end date is the most important ingredient for a successful resolution.

Rather than merely vowing to save for retirement in 2018, choose a more concrete goal based on your current financial situation and long-term objectives. Something like, “Put $1,250 toward retirement each month” is much easier to stick to and tacks on a layer of accountability that more ambiguous resolutions lack.

Legwork

Do the legwork upfront.

We often view a new year as a blank slate — an exciting, fresh opportunity to start over and accomplish new things. Take advantage of that momentum by making moves to achieve your goals early. After all, the more work you do now, the easier it will be to maintain your progress through the year, even when life seems to get in the way.

To that point, whether you’re a seasoned investor or just beginning, now is the time to choose or reassess your investing platform. You’ll want to spend time researching and carefully selecting the best tool for reaching your goals, not just for 2018 but long into the future. Look for an easy-to-use solution that charges little to no fees, supports recurring funding, and is built for building wealth for the long-term.

Legwork

Pay yourself first.

Personal savings should be an integral part of your budget. Rather than squirreling away whatever money you happen to have left at the end of each month, treat saving, funding your investment portfolio, and contributing to retirement accounts like a bill that must be paid each month. Steadily and consistently socking away money is first-rate, reliable method for growing wealth.

The best way to do this? Use recurring funding. Setting up automated, recurring funding makes following up on your financial New Year’s resolutions a breeze, because it requires almost no ongoing effort. Simply schedule how much and how often you want to contribute based on your goal. By automatically siphoning off a set portion of your earnings each month, you’ll be less tempted (and able) to skimp in favor of last minute concert tickets or your crippling Starbucks addiction.

Legwork

Set it, and don’t forget it.

While automated funding leaves little room for error, you’ll still need to check back on your resolution every now and then. Ideally, you’ll be able to increase your investments or retirement contributions over time. But setbacks such as job loss or illness can cause shifts in your budget that may need to be reflected in your goals, as well. Even if your budget remains consistent over time, taking a minute to appreciate the sum of your hard work is pretty satisfying.

Put quarterly reminders on your calendar now to assess progress and reevaluate your financial goals. Recognize missteps and devise plans to prevent them in the future. Celebrate milestones. Share successes. Keep thinking bigger.


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  1. Forbes ↩︎

  2. US News ↩︎

  3. Fidelity Investments ↩︎

  4. Time ↩︎

  5. Marketwatch ↩︎