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5-minute guide to keeping your financial resolutions


Individuals 12.15.2021 5 MIN

Making New Year’s resolutions is easy—keeping them is harder. Here are some tips to help you prioritize, make progress on and achieve your financial goals in 2022.

Have you ever told yourself, “This is the year I ____,” and by February you’ve given it up as a lost cause? This happens to 80% of people, so don’t worry if this sounds familiar.1

Resolutions can fail for any number of reasons. If your goal is to pay off your student loans but you end up getting into the Master’s program of your dreams, that goal could take a back seat (especially if your loan payments get deferred as a result of your enrollment).

Typically, people fall short of their New Year’s resolutions because they’re:2

  • Not specific enough. Deciding to buy a house is great! But if you don’t put any details (like a timeframe, budget, etc.) around it, you won’t know where to start.
  • Too negative. Making goals that focus on stopping a habit or avoiding something (like eating junk food) don’t give you anything to actively do and can leave you feeling discouraged.
  • Not based on actual wants. If decide your goal will be to train for a half marathon because your sister asked you to run it with her—but running 13.1 miles sounds like a nightmare—it’ll be very difficult to stay motivated

 

Here are some ways to steer clear of these potential pitfalls and make resolutions you can keep.

 

Prioritize—don’t just jump in

If your reaction to spreadsheets and pros vs. cons lists is a chef’s kiss, you’ll love this step (and may have already done it!). Make a list of the things you want to improve or start doing and rank them. You can assign dollar amounts where applicable, but don’t forget to think about the emotional and social implications of your goals.

If you cringe at the thought, try asking yourself a few questions. Once you have your answers, you should have a good idea of what your priorities are.

What keeps you up at night? Is it in your control? If not, is there anything you can do to mitigate?

Obviously, you won’t be able to stop a tornado from hitting your house or control the stock market. But there are things you can do to give yourself some peace of mind if worse comes to worst. Turn your bad weather fears into an emergency fund and your investment worries into a diversified investment strategy.

What have you always dreamed of doing? Are there things you can do to get closer to your ideal life?

Maybe you’ve collected postcards or have a Pinterest board of all the places you want to travel as soon as you can pay off that last student loan or hit your savings goal. Maybe you dream of adopting a child but had to do a double-take at the fees most agencies list.

What is most important to you?

If you had to choose one thing (good or bad) to change about your life, what would it be? Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to change too many things at once. Give yourself one, solid goal that means a lot to you and prioritize that above the rest.

 

Make a plan that works for you

Now that you’ve got your resolution (or general goal—this process can work at any time of the year!) in mind, what do you do about it?

Make yourself a clear plan that you can stick to. If you’ve ever taken a class or watched a webinar on goal-setting, you’ve probably heard of setting SMART goals. This means making sure your goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

 

Be sure to run the numbers on what your goal will cost (if applicable) and set a budget for it that you can comfortably hit.

Don’t pigeon-hole yourself. You are allowed to enjoy yourself and continue progressing toward your other goals while working on your resolution. Putting all your resources and energy into one thing can cause burn-out and actually make you less likely to achieve your goal.

Here are couple examples to help you get started.

 

Worry: My house could be damaged in a storm.
SMART resolution: I will build up an emergency fund of $5,000 over the next two years to ensure I can cover damages, just in case.
Plan:

Action

Deadline

Establish an account specifically as an emergency fund

January 20, 2022

Set up direct deposit of $200/month into my emergency fund

February 1, 2022

Review homeowner’s insurance policy and determine if more coverage is needed

April 4, 2022

Put at least 50% of my annual bonus into my emergency fund

October 15, 2022

Note: For Illustrative Purposes Only

 

Dream: Adopt a child
SMART resolution: I will make a financial plan and establish an adoption timeline I feel confident about by the end of 2022.
Plan:

Action

Deadline

Cut back on spending and put an additional $100 per paycheck into savings

January 10, 2022

Review company-sponsored benefits and begin working with HR team

February 10, 2022

Select agency and determine fees

February 12, 2022

Look into fundraising and get started, if necessary

March 1, 2022

Reassess budget and adjust as needed

October 20, 2022

Note: For Illustrative Purposes Only

 

The hardest part about keeping resolutions is the follow through.

If you’re good at self-motivating, set milestones and celebrate each time you reach them. Breaking your progress into small victories along the way (like getting to $500 in your emergency fund) rather than holding off until you complete your goal (reaching the $5,000) can create excitement around progress and help you keep up the momentum.

If that’s not really your style, reach out to your support system. Find someone who can keep you honest and check in with you regularly on your progress. You can offer to do the same for them and even turn it into a competition if that will make you more likely to stick with it.

And if your company offers Ayco as a benefit, you have a built in support system with our coaches! They’re financial planning professionals who receive training on each company’s specific benefits offerings, so they can help you consider all your options when it comes to making progress on your goals. Register or login to schedule an appointment and get started.