4 Power Tips for Achieving Your 2018 Financial Goals

Power Tip #1: Harness the Power of Loss Aversion.

Loss aversion is the principle that we humans are often motivated (or discouraged) by the threat of negative outcomes. If positive motivation isn’t working, try negative motivation. Poor financial choices don’t always have an immediate negative impact, but you can create one. For example, you could bet on your ability to follow through with the necessary steps to reach a financial goal. Losing money — especially to something you dislike or someone you rival, can be powerfully motivating.

Power Tip #2: Bring in the Power of Accountability.

Accountability to ourselves isn’t as motivating as accountability to others — whether it’s a friend, sibling or member of a group you belong to. If you don’t have a personal network, use fitness and financial apps to draw on a more public social network. It’s amazing how much motivation can spring from “competing” with strangers trying to achieve the same goals!

Power Tip #3: Take Willpower Out of the Equation.

We often think willpower (or motivation) is integral to achieving financial goals. If we fail, we must not have enough of it. Some willpower is necessary for taking the first step and gaining momentum toward our goals, but its tendency to fluctuate (much like our emotions), means we can’t count on it to drive us to completion.

With other disciplines, such as healthy eating or exercising, willpower is more of a constant battle until new habits are formed. With finances, it’s easier to eliminate willpower because you can draw on the help of technology — through automation.

Automatic savings and payments aren’t exactly set-it-and-forget-it categories, because you should still check in on your finances – but they only require one dose of willpower to get them going. Try it. You’ll be surprised how much more you can achieve by just having an automated schedule.

Power Tip #4: Focus on the Power of One Goal.

Another reason we often fail to achieve our financial goals is that they’re goals (plural), versus a goal (singular). Pick the biggest area of opportunity, the easiest one to achieve, or the one you feel most excited about — whichever strategy works best for you. Having a singular focus for the year is less stressful and daunting while allowing you to dedicate more of your resources and attention to perfecting it, rather than just barely hitting the mark.

There are different kinds of power, and they play into the success or failure of our financial goals in surprising ways.

Need help setting your financial goals? Make an appointment at your nearest branch location, email marketingbd@firstffcu.com, or call 732-312-1500.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for Moneyning.com

 

6 Tips for Making Fiscal Fitness Goals Stick

A sporting equipment - two red dumbbells. Isolated over white.

If you often struggle with setting financial goals and making them stick throughout the year, try these six tips.

1. Use the SMART principle.

The acronym SMART is a good way to remember an effective strategy for setting your fiscal finance goals. Make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-specific. In other words, instead of deluding yourself that you’ll completely overhaul years of poor money management, start to tackle it in bite-size portions. Keeping goals specific also makes them seem more real and tangible than the undefined “improving my financial fitness.”

2. Incorporate the new practice into your routine.

Science shows we are creatures of habit. Once something is part of our routine, even if it’s an unpleasant task, we don’t seem to mind it as much. Getting to that point requires making a deliberate effort to incorporate new financial habits into your routine. To make this step easier, set up reminders on your smartphone calendar for specific times and dates you’ll set aside to address various aspects of your finances, whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly.

3. Keep doing it – repetition leads to habit.

The more frequently you perform a new financial task as part of your routine, the sooner it becomes a habit – something that doesn’t require any willpower. That’s the trick.

4. Don’t judge yourself for failures – expect them.

Half the battle of following through with new goals of any kind is how you handle failure. If we were to ask the people who succeed at sticking to their goals what their secret was, you can almost guarantee it involves expecting and accounting for failure. Instead of hoping you won’t fail, plan to fail. That may seem pessimistic, but it’s more realistic than thinking you’ll be perfect! After all, we’re just human. It’s what you do after you fall that makes the difference between permanent failure at financial goals and long-term success.

5. Give yourself some wiggle room to account for slacking off.

You should create some wiggle room into your fiscal fitness improvement plans. Round up or down, schedule a “slack” day or two, and don’t make plans that are too rigid or that depend too heavily on your own consistency. This will take some of the pressure off and allow you to move forward even if you are taking a step back every once in a while.

6. Hold yourself accountable.

Even as you expect to fail and leave yourself some room to slack off, don’t go to the opposite extreme of approaching your fiscal fitness goals without purposefulness. One of the best ways to hold yourself accountable is to make your intentions public and ask others to support you. There’s power in numbers. Just as it’s easier to commit to a 5 a.m. workout if you have someone by your side, it’s easier to change the numbers that determine your financial fitness when you use the buddy system.

Instead of refusing to make financial goals because you’ll inevitably fail, use the expectation of failure, along with these tips, to move beyond that cycle this year. Gradually and deliberately improve your financial well-being and turn that ship around toward financial success.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for MoneyNing.com

10 Money Questions to Ask Yourself

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The first quarter of the year is a great time for reflection. And your money is no exception: Think about where it’s been, where it’s going, and, most important, where you want it to go. Whether your finances had a stellar year or took a hit, take a minute to check in and see where you want to go next. Here are 10 questions to get you started for a better financial year.

1. How much debt am I taking into 2016?
Tally up what you have left to pay on your student loans, any outstanding credit card balances, and your mortgage (if applicable). Take a long, hard look at this number. It’s better to know it than not know it. Make this number a key part of your action plan for next year.

2. How much did I save last year?
If you automate deposits into your savings account, this should be easy to calculate. (If not, here’s your incentive to do it.) Take a look at your savings account and consider what’s there: Could you have saved more? Did you plan to have more? What stopped you from meeting your goal? And if you don’t have a savings account — or a savings plan — make one.

3. What’s my credit score?
First of all, know what goes into your credit score — and then check your number free online. Check your credit report, too, and make sure any debts you’ve accrued this year are accounted for and that no one has taken out lines of credit in your name. Remember: You get one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus a year: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

4. Am I getting the most out of my credit cards?
Take stock of what your credit cards have given you this year, like great rewards, lower interest rates, or cash back. If your cards haven’t provided you with any of those perks, consider upgrading to a different card. If you have a card that’s dragging you down with high annual fees, think about closing it — provided you know the consequences of doing so. Make sure you know the best way to use your cards and that you aren’t inadvertently hurting your credit.

Transfer your high balance to First Financial’s Visa Platinum Credit Card today!* Enjoy great low rates, no balance transfer fees, no annual fees, and 10 day grace period.** Getting started is easy – click here to apply online, 24/7. 

5. How much money will I make this year? Can I make more?
Whether you’re a full-time employee or a one-lady business, consider whether there are ways you can grow your income. Is there some sort of side gig you can take on? Could you be a consultant? If you work a 9 to 5, would a switch to freelance be more lucrative? On the other hand, is it finally time to shut down professional projects that are draining your resources?

6. What do I want to save for in the next year? How will I accomplish that?
Set financial goals, like saving for a down payment on a home, paying off a certain amount of debt, or putting a specific amount in savings. Figure out what strategies you will put in place to save, such as making lifestyle changes or automating with apps.

7. Did I stick to my budget? If not, why not?
If you blew off your budget this year, take time to troubleshoot. Maybe your goals were unrealistic or you didn’t have a budget at all. Now’s the ideal time to make one, or get started with an app or two.

8. How will I budget this year?
Once you know what has (or hasn’t) been working for you, look ahead toward optimizing. Maybe you’re ready to switch from a simple pen and notebook to an app, or vice versa. Maybe you’ve learned that you perform better on a less stringent budget and or that you actually need more structure. If you’re newly partnered (or married), this may involve merging finances — or simply merging financial goals.

9. How much money is in my emergency fund?
You have no idea what the new year could bring: sudden health crises, unexpected layoffs, or a downturn in business. Make sure your emergency fund (about three to six months of living expenses) is robust enough to take care of you if need be. And if not, make it a priority to establish a healthy fund. If you need some incentive to save, make it fun with these hacks.

10. What are some poor money habits I can squash?
Think about some areas in your daily (or monthly) life where you can save — or stretch your dollar. If you’re living beyond your means, know where to rein it in. Eating out at work? Make lunch. Tempted to go buy new clothes? How about revamping your old ones instead? Know the red flags if you think you’re in financial trouble and decide to make a change.

*APR varies from 11.15% to 18% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card. **No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date.

Original article source courtesy of Koa Beck of Market Watch.

How to Choose What Financial Goals are Worth Setting

save-saving-housing-house-money-cash-e1394569718602Everyone needs financial goals in order to be efficient and successful, but determining which goals to prioritize can be difficult. If you don’t set enough goals, you may not save enough money. However, if you set too many goals it can be difficult to achieve all of them, and repeated failure can get you off track.

It’s best to prioritize how important different goals are in terms of the immediate future, as well as your long-term hopes and dreams. Once you know what is the most important to you, you can figure out which goals you should focus on. Survival should be your first priority; you need to pay for your basic needs first. After that, you can focus on longer-term goals. Consider these five questions as you set your next financial goals.

1. Do I need it to survive?

Obviously, you need food and shelter to survive. Your necessities have to come first. This means that you will need to have enough money to pay your rent and utilities, purchase groceries, and receive medical care when you need it. There are other things that may be necessary depending on your personal circumstances. You will probably require a job, and you might need a car to get there. You also will need clothing, so your first goal should be to afford basic necessities. If you can’t do that yet, then your other financial goals need to wait.

2. Is the goal too big or too small?

Setting goals that you can’t possibly achieve will only bring failure, and can potentially make you depressed or frustrated. If you can barely afford rent for your current one-bedroom apartment, you probably shouldn’t make a goal to purchase a four-bedroom home this year. But you can make long-term goals that include purchases you couldn’t possibly make now. Your income should increase as you become more experienced in your job field, and you can certainly make long-term goals that factor in your anticipated income.

You also shouldn’t spend too much time on goals that are really small. While setting some small goals may build your confidence (such as saving for a new dress or suit), setting too many small goals will pull your priority away from bigger goals.

3. How can I achieve my goal?

You can increase your chances of achieving your goal by taking extra steps to make it happen (outside of just making the goal itself). If you want to purchase a house, but you need to save for a down payment, start small. It’s good to start off by setting up a savings plan, finding out if you qualify for assistance, and cutting back on expenses. You don’t have to purchase a home (or a new car, or whatever else your big goal entails) right now. Make a plan for just how you can obtain your goal.

This is also true of other financial goals, such as moving up at work and making more money. If you want to move up, focus on the ways that you can improve your work performance and set yourself up for a promotion. Consider educational classes if necessary. You also might consider relocating if it will help you advance in your career. Taking proactive steps to achieve your dream will help you get there, and also may make you feel more accomplished and on-task.

4. Am I thinking about the future?

Vacations and fancy clothes can be wonderful, but you need to think about your future, too. Besides basic necessities, you should also prioritize your retirement savings. According to the United States Department of Labor, knowing your retirement needs, contributing to your employer’s retirement savings plan, learning about investment principles, considering using an IRA, and knowing about your social security benefits, can all help you plan for retirement.

Complete the necessary research in order to determine how much you might need to retire, and also to determine where you might want to live, which will affect how much money you need. You also need to consider your future health, and how it might impact your finances.

To get more information on planning for your retirement and schedule your complimentary appointment, contact First Financial’s Investment & Retirement Center at 732.312.1564 or email samantha.schertz@cunamutual.com.

5. How much time do I need?

This question factors into many of the other questions on this list. One of the best ways to achieve your goals is to set realistic ones, and to figure out when and how you will achieve them. Determine how many years you think it will take you to save enough for the type of home you want, or how much you need to save each year (and for how many years) to be comfortable in retirement. If you want to save for a vacation, consider how you will have to alter your current spending, and for how many months you will have to do so.

Short-term goals often take less planning, but it will still help you to determine how much time you need to achieve those goals. It’s easy to tell yourself that you can save enough for a trip in a few months, but actually sitting down and determining how much you need to save each month, and for how long, will help prevent overspending.

Here at First Financial, our first priority is helping you achieve your financial dreams by defining your dream goals and lifestyle, empowering you through financial education, building your wealth, planning your retirement, and managing your risk. Establishing financial goals is an important part of saving enough money, and being ready for the future and we are here for you! Stop into any one of our branches and sit with a representative to have an annual financial check-up for a review of your finances and portfolio. 

Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Nondeposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article source courtesy of Sienna Beard of Cheatsheet.com.