“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, ‘I’m possible!’” — Audrey Hepburn
Question: Every year, I make New Year’s Resolutions and never follow through. What suggestions can you make so I’ll do things differently this year, especially with my finances?
Answer: Only 5 percent of those Americans who make New Year’s Resolutions actually keep them for the entire year. Florida is the top state for making resolutions, with 65 percent of us committing to some sort of change or improvement in our lives. Of this group, 54 percent are women and 39 percent are men.
One reason so few succeed with their resolutions is that events rarely unfold the way we expect them to. Circumstances change, life happens, and we find ourselves abandoning those good intentions. You can increase your odds for success if you have a plan, regularly monitor it, and have the willingness to make adjustments in response to your ever-changing reality.
If you need help formulating a realistic Financial New Year’s Resolution here are a few thought provoking questions. Fire up that new laptop or tablet you received for Christmas, or just take out a notepad and devote a few lines to addressing these queries.
- What are your dreams, expectations and hopes for the future?
- What specific financial goals are most important to you and your family?
- Are you confident enough to make decisions that will affect your financial future?
- What short- and long-term financial issues are on your mind right now?
- *Have you thought about when you’d like to retire, how much you’ll need to set aside, what your life expectancy is, and how you’ll fund your retirement?
- If married, do you understand your spouse’s pension, post-retirement benefits and health care coverage?
- Do you have a will and estate plan in place?
- How are your investments and cash flow needs organized?
- What would happen to your assets, real estate holdings and credit if you were to face a divorce or the death of your spouse?
- Have you discussed your long-term health care directives with family or friends?
*Bonus points for choosing No. 5 as your 2015 Resolution.
If any of these issues resonates with you, that’s the place to start. Overwhelming yourself with too many resolutions is self-defeating. Pick one and break it down into smaller, manageable portions. For instance, if you’d like to organize investments and cash flow, gather your statements, identify income sources and characterize ongoing expenses. When consolidated, these facts provide an overview providing a better understanding of how your investments work (or don’t work) together to meet your needs.
Beware of the top three reasons resolutions fail:
- Goals are vague and unclear. “I plan on saving for my future” isn’t as strong as “I’ll save $5,000 by June 1 by saving $250 each week.” Hoping that you’ll accumulate $5,000 by June 1 won’t happen if you don’t make changes and modify current saving and spending behavior.
- Failure to gauge progress. It is better to monitor improvement regularly and make any necessary adjustments quickly. Track the goals on a regular basis.
- Lack of self-control. Anticipate temptation and have an action in place to challenges arise overcome challenges.
In contrast, here are three suggestions to provide focus for the entire year — although obvious and intuitive, they’re powerful when implemented:
- Be Positive, Practical and Proactive. In a recent interview, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame spoke with Eli Langer of CNBC about his success. Zuckerberg attributes his accomplishments to being proactive every day. Commit to taking a proactive role in creating your desired financial future each day. Visit the plan for your future on a regular basis and examine where you are, where you’re going, and if you’re on track to reach those goals on a regular basis.
- Keep it real. I want to be a multi-zillionaire is overwhelming and likely unobtainable. Setting practical goals and frequently tracking your progress will help you reach the larger objectives. Also, find someone to share aspirations with and discuss your concerns. You’ll receive encouragement and become more accountable.
- Progress, not perfection. Measure yourself against your own benchmarks. Success isn’t measured by an index; it’s achieved when your individual goals are met. Chances are that you won’t tackle everything perfectly or as quickly as you’d like. If you do stumble or get off track, don’t quit! As my granddaughter’s favorite singer Taylor Swift says, “Shake it off!” Focus on your progress.
Ring in the New Year with a healthy, optimistic and confident attitude. To do so, your first resolution can be to avoid the lobster and chicken if you’re attending New Year’s parties. Tradition states that as edibles, they bring bad luck because lobsters move backwards and chickens scratch in reverse. Therefore, it’s thought that eating these on New Year’s may cause a financial reversal.
I wish you and yours a prosperous and healthy New Year. Stay focused and invest accordingly.
Views expressed are the current opinion of the author, but not necessarily those of Raymond James & Associates. The author’s opinions are subject to change without notice. Information contained in this report was received from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy is not guaranteed. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Investing always involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss. No investment strategy can guarantee success.
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This article provided by Darcie Guerin, CFP®, Associate Vice President, Investments & Branch Manager of Raymond James & Associates, Inc. Member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC 606 Bald Eagle Dr. Suite 401, Marco Island, FL 34145. She may be reached at 239-389-1041, email email@example.com Website: www.raymondjames.com/InvestmentInsights