When it comes to looking ahead to the New Year, many see it as an opportunity to make changes for the better.
In addition to goals about losing weight, many New Year’s resolutions also revolve around personal finance.
According to a survey conducted by WalletHub, nearly 99 million Americans are likely to make financial New Year’s resolutions this year.
Of those people making financial goals, more than a third resolve to save more in the coming year.
While it’s a well-known fact that most resolutions fall to the wayside each year, W. Bret Hensley, a certified financial planner with Creative Financial Solutions in Barboursville and Ironton, said there are several ways to keep your financial goals on track for the long run.
Write down goals
While it may seem like a simple task, Hensley said having actual written goals is an important step.
“A written plan, written goals, helps create accountability,” he said. “The new year is a good time to try and figure out what you can do to improve (your finances) and write it down so that you’re more likely to commit to that goal and follow through.”
While making these goals, Hensley said that it’s important that people are honest with themselves.
“Be realistic with yourself and where you’re good with handling money and where you’re bad with handling money and try to be honest with yourself so you can try and figure out how to handle money a little bit differently,” he said.
Make a budget
A big part of ensuring financial stability is creating and sticking to a budget, Hensley said.
Hensley added that making a budget is not a task that needs to be stressful or time consuming but is instead a way to help people become more cognizant of where the money is going.
“Some people need to do that more carefully than others when making a budget,” Hensley said. “But it’s also not necessarily something that you have to do consistently all the time, but even if people would do that for two or three months it would start making them look at their money and pay attention to it differently.”
Hensley said the first step in making a budget is PYS, pay yourself first. He said PYS means that everyone should be setting aside some money right off the top for long-term goals, such as retirement, as well as short-term goals, such as a new car or vacation.
“Set aside some money at the beginning rather than waiting till after you’ve paid all your bills and you’ve had your fun because there’s never anything left over if you do it that way,” he said.
He added that it’s also important to make fun activities such as eating out and shopping part of the budget.
“You need to make that part of your plan so that you can spend it and enjoy it without guilt,” he said.
Saving for the future
While making and sticking to a budget can sustain a person on a monthly or even yearly basis, planning and saving for the future is just as important.
“The earlier the better,” Hensley said. “The earlier you develop good habits, the easier it is and really the less you have to save along the way because you’re allowing time to do most of the work and things blossom and grow exponentially over time.”
For those already saving for the future, Hensley said the new year is a good time to consider contributing more toward those savings.
“If you’ve been putting in 5 percent in your company retirement plan, then step it up and make it 7 percent ... and if you’re doing nothing, then get started and at least do 2 or 3 percent,” he said. “Part of why I say that is probably over half the people working have some sort of available retirement plan through their work, so it makes it a very easy way to save, and money that you set aside first right off the top you don’t miss.”
He added that employees should also be informed about whether or not their company has any type of match for these contributing so that they’re not leaving “free money” on the table.
Find what works
When it comes to personal finance, there is no universal formula. What works for one person may not work for another.
“The best method is the method you’ll use,” Hensley said. “Find something that you’re comfortable with and try to make it where it’s not laborious and more of an organizational tool.”
Lastly, don’t be too focused on the past, Hensley said.
“If you’ve made financial mistakes in the past, look forward to what can be done to make things better in the future,” he said. “Don’t be paralyzed by the past and don’t be paralyzed by fear of not knowing what do to. Go out and find someone who can help guide you, that will sit down and take the time and help you develop your plan and strategy and the steps that you can do to start improving where you are and where you want to go financially.”