January 1-31 is traditionally a time of making [and breaking] New Year’s Resolutions. Is it crowded at your gym? Apps and online tools abound. Books and blogs on decluttering, tidying and organizing can easily be found in your inbox. It is said by some that a habit takes at least 6 weeks to create and people such as Gretchen Rubin and Beth Dargis have multi-day programs on offer. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely created a short program in this blog post. To see the results of his research, visit this link from WYNC.
Often the calendar can help create structure for you. Bills get paid after payday; retirement plan contributions occur on paydays, etc. If you can itemize on your taxes, you may have dropped off bags in the last week of December at your local thrift store. In my home town, Macklemore helped us out one year. Parents of college bound students have a date with the revised FAFSA; and by the end of January, you’ll have some thoughts about your 2015 tax return. For a quick set of tax facts and limits from Morningstar, check here.
As mentioned in a previous post, Fidelity and others generate helpful suggestions for our annual resolutions. One study indicates that financial resolutions are easier to keep than those about food or exercise.
So let’s begin with the one geared for success! Financial tasks and affirmative statements. What do you want to improve in 2016?
Where to begin:
Meta Topics: There are meta topics, like what you learned from your family of origin about money, and if money represents the same thing to you and your partner (freedom or security for example).
Nitty-Gritty Topics: There are also the nitty-gritty topics such as how to cut spending on meals out or groceries, am I saving enough for retirement, and the ever popular “am I spending too much on fill-in-the-blank ?”(e.g. coffee, furniture, clothing, wedding stuff, organic food, books).
This will be a series on how make the incremental changes which can be permanent, instead of the ‘cold turkey’, ‘all or nothing’ ‘you should do this’ framing which is [mostly] guaranteed to fail. Think of financial wellness, and small successes. Avoid binary thinking, see your progress on a continuum, and remember that like the stock market, it is time, not timing, which makes the difference. Ready, set…