Is this the Year You Keep Your New Year’s Resolution?

Now that 2018 is officially here, many of us are coming to grips with a familiar, frustrating truth: there’s a big difference between making a new year’s resolution and keeping one. The good news is that we’re not alone. It’s estimated that approximately 40% of Americans make resolutions when the new year rolls around, but only 8% are successful in keeping them. Making a resolution only takes a moment of inspiration, keeping it calls for consistent dedication.

With the abundance of self-help books, podcasts, and seminars at our disposal, it’s easy to get tossed around on the latest and greatest informational waves. Too often, we jump from one fad to the next, spending substantial energy without moving closer to our end goal. It’s tempting to confuse activity with productivity. That makes it even more important to know the difference between the two. If you want to join the 8% of people who successfully stick to their resolution, you have to work smarter – not harder.

Simplify for Success

By limiting the variables in your resolution’s success equation, you can employ principles similar to those that make life hacks so popular. And while mental tricks and efficiency shortcuts aren’t substitutes for perseverance, they can help you avoid overthinking a problem or wasting time on unproductive practices.

As you work toward your 2018 resolutions, focusing on the following three aspects of each goal can help simplify your planning and streamline your pursuit.

1. Psychological

When the American Psychological Association weighs in on new year’s resolutions, it’s a good idea to hear them out. In an article on their website, the APA recommends a sensible approach that involves breaking large goals into smaller, attainable action steps. Following this recommendation increases the opportunities to tally some quick wins, and the psychological benefits of early success are invaluable to long-term achievement.

Example: If you want to build up an emergency fund of $1000, aim for saving $20 a week. It’s not as overwhelming, and over the course of the year, you get 52 chances to celebrate!

2. Physical 

Even if your resolution isn’t physical in nature (i.e. – lose weight, get in shape, run a marathon, etc.), it may be a good idea to incorporate some physical activity anyway. On the Harvard Health Blog, Heidi Goldman shares that exercise can help wire the brain in a way that protects memory and critical thinking skills. Considering the fact that “I forgot” and “I just can’t figure it out” are common excuses for breaking a resolution, improved clarity and brain function sounds pretty helpful.

Example: You resolve that 2018 is the year you finally learn to speak Italian. A 30-minute walk each day offers an excellent opportunity to practice your new vocabulary, and the cardiovascular exercise encourages the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, which can improve your brain’s ability to learn and retain new information.

3. Personal

In a previous post, we discussed the need for accountability. Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Recruiting someone to hold you accountable makes the resolution a little more personal because it involves a risk of social capital. The key is finding someone who knows you well enough to challenge you, but cares for you enough to encourage you as well.

Example: Let’s say you resolve to pay off credit card debt this year and you ask your best friend to hold you accountable. When you pull out a credit card to pay for dinner, your friend can offer a good-natured reminder that putting your meal on credit isn’t helping you reach your goal—the kind of reminder you’d easily brush off if it came from a stranger.

Just because the concept of keeping a new year’s resolution is simple doesn’t mean the process is easy. But if something mattered enough to inspire a resolution in the first place, it’s important enough work towards throughout the year. If you stick with it, you’ll probably find that the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing a goal is often more rewarding than reaching the goal itself.

 

The New Year’s Here: Make Better Resolutions in 2018

From starting a workout plan to saving for retirement, roughly 80% of New Year’s resolution fail within the first month. Of the people who keep their commitments through February and beyond, only 8% ultimately reach their goal. Why is that? If you ask 100 people, you’re likely to get 100 different excuses reasons. Making a resolution is easy. Sticking to it? That’s a different story.

But instead of focusing on the failure, let’s look at some ways to increase your chances of success in 2018. Compiling an exhaustive list of what it takes to accomplish your goals would be…well, exhausting. So, to keep you from getting overwhelmed, we’ve narrowed it down to 5 simple suggestions that should help you start the new year strong.

Ways to Make Your New Year’s Resolution Stick

Be real.

If you want to get in better shape but haven’t exercised in years, walking for 20 minutes a day makes far more sense than running a marathon in March. If you want to have 3-6 months of living expenses in an emergency fund but haven’t saved a penny over the last year, start with setting aside $20 per paycheck. Realistic goals pave the way for quick wins and consistent progress.

Be specific.

When it comes to setting goals, it’s tempting to speak in generalizations. “I want to feel better.” “I want to be smarter with my money.” The danger of statements like these is that they can’t be measured. Being smart with money is tough to quantify. Paying an extra $50 toward credit card debt is much easier to track. Instead of playing it safe with general statements, dig into the details.

Be consistent.

If you’ve ever run a 5K or 10K, you’ve seen THAT person—you know the one. They’re toeing the starting line, psyching themselves up, trembling with anticipation. As soon as the starting gun fires, they launch from the gate at top speed. You probably passed them after a mile or two, right? As you make your resolutions for the new year, don’t be THAT person. Understand that lasting success isn’t a sprint. Identify your goal, break it down into smaller action steps, and take clear, consistent action toward accomplishing those steps every single day.

Be accountable.

If nobody else knows about them, our best intentions can be our worst enemy. It’s easy to say you want to save $100 each month. It’s also easy to rationalize why you missed a month or two. To keep from fooling yourself, ask a trusted friend, family member, or co-worker to check in and keep you accountable. If there’s one thing worse than missing a goal, it’s having to admit it to someone else.

Be cool.

While January 1st seems like a logical time to make a fresh start, let’s not forget that technically it’s just another day. In reality, every day offers the chance to correct mistakes and build on successes. When making your resolutions, allow for some flexibility. Overly restrictive deadlines and constraints can lead to crippling discouragement. The end goal is improvement, not perfection. So yes, set your goals. But don’t forget to leave yourself some room to enjoy the process of achieving them.

Happy 2018!

7 Money Questions to Ask Yourself in the New Year

 

personal-finance

Will you make financial resolutions for 2016? If so, you’re not alone. According to a study done by Fidelity Investments, financial resolutions are the most popular kind of new year self-improvement. Not only that, but they’re also the most successful, with 29% of people surveyed reaching their financial goals and 74% getting halfway there. Compared to the 12% success rate for resolutions concerning health and fitness, planning to get your finances in order seems like the way to go this year!

You don’t want to just make resolutions, though — you want to be part of the 29% that stick with them all the way through the year. To set yourself up for financial success in 2016, you first need to understand your relationship with your finances.

1. What are your financial goals for the year?
A new year often means new goals and milestones in your life, and your financial plan needs to change to keep up with those. Maybe last year you were saving for a trip abroad, but this year you are saving for a down payment on a house. Or maybe you’re edging closer to retirement and need to start saving more aggressively.

Don’t be vague when identifying these goals. A concrete milestone, such as “I want to add $6,000 to my emergency fund” is going to keep you motivated a lot longer than a vague one like, “I want to save money.” Once you know what your financial goals are, you’ll be able to come up with a spending and budgeting plan for how to reach them.

2. What are your personal priorities for 2016?
Factors other than financial goals should influence your budget, too. Is it important to you to spend time with friends on a weekly basis? Add a “fun” line in your budget for activities like eating out, movies, and weekend activities. Do you want to support the arts in your community? Set aside money for a seasonal subscription to a local theatre or orchestra. Do you have specific causes that you care about? Budget a monthly allowance for donations or charity.

When it comes to finances, it’s easy to fall into the trap of letting your financial goals determine your spending. But life is more than just retirement and mortgages. Give yourself permission to let your personal priorities influence your spending decisions, too. You’ll be happier, more satisfied with your financial life, and better able to stick to the budget you set.

3. Where did you slip last year?
The new year is an excellent time to take stock of what did and didn’t work in the past year — that includes where you didn’t quite follow your budget. Did you eat out more than you should have in 2015? Not save as much for retirement as you wanted? Impulse shop too frequently?

You can’t improve in 2016 until you know where you went wrong the year before. Take some time to look at your spending from the last twelve months and identify the area where you slipped up. The make a plan for how to avoid those mistakes this year. You may need to automate the money that goes into your savings and retirement accounts. You may need to exercise a little more restraint in your spending. Whatever the solution, it will be easier to put into practice once you know what the problems are.

4. What are your mandatory expenses?
Once you know your goals, priorities, and weak spots, it’s time to begin setting up your budget. Start by identifying the living expenses that you must pay every month. These will include your rent or mortgage, insurance bills, utilities, and any debt payments. Budget for these expenses first, subtracting their total from your monthly income after taxes. Whatever is leftover is what you have available for variable expenses.

5. How much can you save each month?
Once you’ve determined how much to set aside for mandatory expenses, it’s time to look at savings. Savings can include long-term goals, like retirement, or short term goals, like a vacation. Identify everything that you want to save for this year, then order them in terms of urgency.

Some goals, like retirement, you should save for every month. Other things, like travel or large expenses, can be saved for one at a time. Once you’ve met one savings goal, you can move on to the next one. When you decide what you’d like to contribute to each goal, the best way to stay on track is to make saving non-optional. Set up an automatic transfer, either from your paycheck or your checking account, to put the money directly into savings as soon as it lands in your bank account. You won’t risk spending it accidentally, and you will ensure that you make monthly contributions towards your savings.

6. What are your spending triggers?
A lot of financial management is about cutting spending — reducing your insurance bill, avoiding credit card interest, eating out less. But all the small cuts in the world won’t help if you don’t know your spending triggers.

Spending triggers are those moments or circumstances that make you pull out your credit card and break the rules of your budget, even when you have the best of intentions. If you want to cut your spending, take some time to identify these triggers and come up with a plan to eliminate them.

If you can’t resist a coupon code when it shows up in your inbox, then you should unsubscribe from promotional emails. If you always want to eat out when you’re stressed, create a new, free routine for unwinding after a hard day at the office. Do you always spend more when you go shopping with a certain friend? Come up with other activities the two of you can do together and leave your credit card at home when you go out. Once you’ve identified your spending triggers and come up with ways to avoid them, you’ll have a much easier time sticking to your budget.

7. Where does your budget have wiggle room?
Managing your finances is awesome, and cutting down your spending to save more is a great goal. But if you are on a strict budget all the time, with no room for any lapses or fun purchases, you risk getting “budget burnout” and slipping back into old, bad habits.

To avoid that, identify the places where you can cut yourself some slack. Maybe you’re giving up eating out but can still treat yourself to a latte once or twice a week. Maybe you’re giving up cable, but you and your roommate can split a Netflix subscription. Allow yourself a few inexpensive extras and sticking to your larger financial goals will feel much less stifling.

Finally, wiggle room also means planning for the unexpected. It may seem smart to put every extra penny into savings and retirement, but what happens when your car breaks down and you don’t have any money for the repair? Leave a little wiggle room for surprise expenses, and you won’t just start a budget, you’ll stick with it.

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to get your finances in order. Be honest and realistic with yourself as you put together your plan for 2016, and you’ll find yourself on your way to sustainable financial success!

*Original article source courtesy of the Huffington Post.