With Christmas done and dusted, chances are you’re gearing up for New Year celebrations and the inevitable round of resolutions. No matter whether you’re planning to shift a few unwanted kilos, save money or trim personal debt, positive change is a good thing, and when it comes to financial goals there are plenty of tools available to get you over the line.
A US study found only 8% of Americans achieve their New Year resolutions, and I expect the figure is equally low in Australia. It’s a fairly dismal success rate but that doesn’t mean there’s no value in setting resolutions.
For a starters, it helps us identify key issues in our lives, and using the New Year as a starting point makes it easier to see what progress has been made over a 12-month period.
However some common stumbling blocks prevent many of us from achieving our resolutions. First, we often set the bar way too high with unrealistic goals. We also tend to go for vague rather than measurable targets, and most importantly, we don’t develop a plan of action to achieve resolutions. So this year, try taking a different tack.
If your goal for 2017 is to grow savings, pitch for a target you can comfortably achieve. Setting a goal like “I will deposit $50 each week into a savings account” is more measurable than just aiming to “save more”. Then make those savings happen by setting up a regular transfer of funds that automatically shifts cash from your everyday bank account into a savings account.
Take the same approach to goals that involve getting ahead with debt. Just paying a bit extra each month will make big inroads to clearing the balance sooner.
If your goal is to save more for retirement, talk to the boss about using salary sacrifice to grow your nest egg. Or get in touch with your super fund about different options to boost your super. Most funds provide general advice regarding superannuation at no charge though it won’t take your personal circumstances into account.
If you feel you could use some professional advice to achieve your money goals for 2017, check out the new online toolkit developed by our money watchdog ASIC.
The Financial Advice Toolkit, available on the MoneySmart website, helps you identify financial goals and advice needs, and offers tips on choosing an adviser.
You can use the toolkit to create a customised money “to do” list for yourself, and for those areas where professional help is needed links are provided to ASIC’s Financial Advisers Register where you can check a financial adviser’s credentials, experience and qualifications.
With so much help at hand, 2017 could be the year you forge ahead financially. Here’s to a happy and prosperous New Year!