5 tips to increase your chances for financial success.
Story: Pamela Yellen
Can making New Year’s resolutions help you get your financial house in order? There’s strong evidence the answer is yes.
While the percentage of Americans making financial resolutions has dropped to an all-time low, 58 percent of those who made them reported they were in better financial shape, according to the Ninth Annual Fidelity Investments New Year Financial Resolutions Study. And two-thirds of those who report improved finances attribute it, at least in part, to being able to increase their savings.
Saving more, paying down debt, and spending less remain the top financial resolutions, according to the study. Yet Americans continue to save less and spend more.
When the personal savings rate drops, it usually reflects a false sense of security based on rising stock prices and/or home values. And that can be really bad news when markets inevitably crater.
Some sobering facts:
The current bull market is the longest in modern history.
A bull market has never made it to its 10th birthday.
Historically, the longer a bull market lasts, the harder and deeper it crashes.
This is no time to give up making and keeping financial resolutions. Instead, we should redouble our efforts to build true long-term financial security.
Studies show that people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than people who don’t. Here are five tips to help you keep your money resolutions:
1. Understand that real, permanent change always comes from within. Our internal thought processes either enable or prevent us from achieving life-enhancing changes, psychologists James O. Prochaska, John C. Norcross, and Carlo C. DiClemente note in their book “Changing for Good.” We all have it within us to set a life-changing goal, meet it, and keep ourselves from relapsing. We just have to acknowledge that we can.
2. Enlist allies to help you stay on track. For most people, having an accountability partner, along with motivation and persistence, can make the difference when it comes to achieving goals. A coach—whether a professional for hire, a friend, or a religious leader—can help people reinforce their commitments, says M. Kathryn Seifert, a Maryland psychologist who works with people struggling with financial crises.
3. Set incentives and consequences for sticking to or breaking your commitments. Websites such as stickk.com allow you to give yourself incentives for sticking to your commitments and set up penalties for breaking them. When you make your commitment binding, you increase your chances of success. Plus, it’s fun to reward yourself when you reach a goal.
4. Skip the pity party when you fall short. Many of today’s most successful investors, entrepreneurs, and executives failed multiple times before coming out on top in the end, notes Steve Siebold, author of “How Rich People Think.” Those who can set aside emotions and plot a logical path forward rebound the fastest and most successfully. So when you fall short, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, learn from your mistakes, and go right back to working toward your goal.
5. Don’t set yourself up for failure with an all-or-nothing attitude. This is one of the main reasons people fail at keeping New Year’s resolutions or achieving other goals. Don’t fall victim to the voice in your head that says, “You blew it; now give up.” Instead, remind yourself of your goals to keep your focus on where you are going.
Sometimes all it takes to stay on track is to pause and consider whether what you’re about to buy is more important than your goal. One of my favorite ways to do this is to wrap my charge cards in a picture or a few words describing my goals. Every time I take out a credit card, I’m reminded of why I am saving.
If you really want to keep your financial New Year’s resolutions, get in the habit of evaluating all your spending decisions, large and small, throughout the year. Staying on track requires you to take responsibility, be persistent, and have fortitude when things don’t go as you had planned. Just keep reminding yourself of the rewards you will reap when you exchange short-term pleasure for long-term financial security.
About the writer :
Pamela Yellen is a financial investigator and the author of two New York Times best-selling books, including her latest, “The Bank on Yourself Revolution: Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street, and Take Control of Your Own Financial Future.” Visit bankonyourself.com.