New Year’s resolution for 2010: Lose 50 pounds, build a six-month emergency fund and run a marathon.
Ready, set…lots of people will go. But they won’t keep the pace, with only about 46 percent of people fulfilling their resolutions beyond six months after Jan. 1, studies show.
This year caused so much financial upheaval, though, that prognosticators are expecting more people to make — and keep — their resolutions about money this time around.
“It is hard, and I think people have tendencies, so it will be easier for some than others,” said Joe Ruhland, assistant professor of finance at Georgia Southern University. “But, with the right amount of discipline and the right attitude going into it, you can get where you want to be.”
That’s what Jack and Katherine Reynolds of Smoke Rise did. The couple married in 2007 and brought different financial portfolios to the table. Jack, retired from the military and now a high school teacher, was divorced with one child in college and two adult children. He also had credit card debt and few financial goals beyond paying bills on time and keeping a good credit score. Katherine, now 50, is a business process analyst with more tailored money ambitions.
Beginning in late 2008, they began marching toward resolutions. The couple paid off two vehicles, using a cashed-out, whole-life insurance policy that they replaced with a term- life policy. Those former car payments were then used to pay the term-life insurance and to invest in a mutual fund. On a 12-month plan, they paid off the credit card bills and began an emergency savings fund.
Jack, now 61, gave up impulse purchases and Katherine urged them both to pay attention to where all of their money was spent — not just the money that went toward paying bills. They also participated in their bank’s savings program. Now, they’ll help his youngest daughter transition to life after college and keep an eye on their money with a budgeting tool.
“We have much stronger communication as far as money,” Katherine Reynolds said. “It’s not so much asking permission, as it is making sure we talk about it on a fairly regular basis. The biggest thing for us was paying attention to where the money went.”
The Reynolds are proof that specific goal-oriented resolutions, with strategies to pair with them, can be successful. According to a Harris Interactive survey released by Dorthy.com, 58 percent of respondents will resolve to save or invest money in 2010.
There are at least three strategies that will help your plan stick, said Patricia Stallworth, a certified financial planner and chief executive officer of PS Worth in Johns Creek.
1. “Be specific and break big goals into bite-sized pieces that you can handle. For example, instead of resolving to save more money, resolve to save a specific amount such as $200 a month.”
2. Create a plan to support your resolution. “How are you going to do it? Where will your money go? Will you have it deducted from your paycheck? Will it go toward retirement, building a cash reserve, or another goal? Will you need to adjust your budget?”
3. Track your progress and celebrate your victories. “Set benchmarks along the way, such as a three-month savings goal, and then celebrate when you make it with a low-cost activity like visiting friends.”
The Harris Interactive poll revealed that only 8 percent of men always keep their resolution, and only 4 percent of women do so. That might change a bit this year.
“I think we’ve seen, nationwide, saving go up,” Ruhland said. “We are putting money away and spending a lot less. For a lot of us, this is the first time we’ve ever seen something this bad, so we’re feeling our way through it.”
Will you make a New Year’s resolution? What’s your strategy for sticking to it?
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