Let's face it, change is hard. And the older we get the more difficult it is to change. But as Americans, we have an innate drive to make improvements, to move forward and to create a better life for ourselves, our families and our communities. So for many of us the beginning of a new year is a time to take stock, set goals, change paths and to move forward. About a third of Americans make New Year's resolutions. Yours may be to save more, pay down debt, lose weight or complete a long overdue personal project.
We are a little over a week into 2017, so how are you doing? Have you started on your project? Have you created a plan? Has the strong commitment that you made a week ago started to fade? What follows are some tips to help you to stay on track in achieving goals whether you set them on New Years Day or in the heat of summer.
For goals to be realized they must be specific, attainable for us personally, believable and measurable. As an extreme example , I may set a goal to win the Sumo Wrestling Tournament In Tokyo next fall. Well the goal certainly is specific, it is time bound, its measurable, but let's face, it is neither believable nor attainable. A more realistic goal for me might be to complete The Rockport Half-Marathon in August of 2017 in under ninety minutes.
One thing is for sure if I'm going to achieve that goal I'm going to need to make some improvements to my training schedule. Now I might start out thinking that I'm going to run seven miles three times a week and ten on one weekend day. Trouble is, I've never run over a 5k in my life so, I'm pretty sure that some time in the first week of training my feet are going swell, my back is going to ache and my commitment is going to start to fade. The trick of course, is to break those goals down into smaller and more achievable increments. Many people on their way to good health started by motivating themselves just to walk to their mailbox and back, and then moving incrementally down the street, one telephone pole at a time, until they were walking, then running a mile or more.
So what does all this have to do with financial goals? First, we may not have specific enough goals. Do you want to "save more"? First set an amount. If you are not a saver, I suggest that you make that amount modest. Many experts feel that you must save ten to fifteen percent of your income. If you are saving three percent now , fifteen percent may be a stretch. Maybe you should try increasing your savings to five percent for the next three or four months and set a goal of increasing that amount by the end of March.
Can you do it? I"ll bet you can. If you have a fifty thousand dollar household income, two percent more is an additional one thousand dollars per year. That breaks down to just under ninety dollars monthly. I'll bet you spend more than that on premium cable channels you rarely watch. And if you put that extra savings in a company sponsored retirement plan, you may even get a tax deduction, a company match, and tax deferred compounding of your investments. A thousand dollars a year may not seem like much, but over time it can help you to strengthen your savings habit and set you on a path to financial freedom. So why not start with your own personal "walk to the mailbox"?