This is your year. After all, 2019 is the year to accomplish the goals of 2018, which you should have done in 2017, because you planned them in 2016. Sound familiar?! Irresolution is the opposite of a new year’s resolution; it is a lack of decision-making or purpose, and many of us procrastinate or get derailed from the object of our desires because we are not focused on the big picture. As we step into a new year of resolutions and discuss with family, friends and co-workers how to forge new beginnings, it is time to truly reflect on how to make this year’s goals a reality.
Some of the most common new year’s resolutions include weight loss, career aspirations, and creating more time for family and travel. We resolve to change behavior in hopes of a better future, while missing the mark altogether. The link to accomplishing new year’s resolutions and overall goals is directly tied to a mission I rarely hear – financial health.
Financial Fitness Factors
February is almost here, and I am willing to bet most new year’s resolutions are already derailed. The motivation to go to the gym is rapidly diminishing. Binge eating and late-night snacking has started to creep its way back into our “diet.” Why? Because financial fitness is just as important to overall health and well-being as physical fitness. What happens when we’re stressed? We gravitate toward indulgences such as greasy, unhealthy food, overeating, alcohol, and the list could go on. Typically, these vices result in lethargic behavior and lack of motivation, which results in the abandonment of other resolutions. Poor financial fitness has a snowball effect on our lives, and regardless of if you are at the beginning stages of saving or uber-wealthy, statistics show that the number one cause of marital and individual stress is finances. It’s true. As an investment professional and planner, I evaluate clients’ financial health to provide the ability to hit reset and metaphorically cleanse and sober up their lives. We live in a society of instant gratification, where access to credit cards, online shopping and just about everything is a swipe or click away. Living paycheck to paycheck sucks. We live oblivious to the fact that most of our stress is directly related to bad spending habits and mismanagement of money. We cannot accomplish new year’s resolutions without first examining and making a plan to tackle financial obligations. Some factors I use in evaluating my personal finances and clients’ needs are:
- Budget – Evaluate your spending habits from the last few months. What assets do you have and how much do you owe? How much are you bringing in monthly and what’s going out? Where are you spending most of your money and can you scale back on things like dining out?
Moderation is key, and we all have vices. It may be unrealistic for a foodie that dines out four times a week to quit cold turkey in an effort to save, but scaling back is key. I love to use a Starbucks example with clients, because early in my career I would grab a Starbucks drink every morning before work, and sometimes in the afternoon. I glanced at my Starbucks reward statement one year and to my disbelief, had spent $2300 on coffee in a year. Imagine if I had invested that $2,300 every year over the last five years, and earned a modest return of 5%. Rather than spending $11,500 over those five years ($2,300 x 5), I would have $12,700
- Goals – Identify your goals. What changes can be made to ensure goals are reached?
Writing down goals typically results in a higher success rate, whether it’s a dream or reality, but the first step in accomplishing goals is to make the necessary steps. Creating a vision board can be instrumental in dreaming, while taking those necessary smaller steps to break that dream into something attainable in the short-term. That will lead you to your final destination. Perhaps you are 35 and want to retire by age 55. What are you doing to save for retirement? Are you maximizing the opportunity an employee sponsored retirement plan offers, such as an employer match? Employer match is essentially free money you can sock away to grow and fund your retirement. Are you utilizing a Traditional or Roth IRA? Do you have an automatic saving and investment plan set up? If not, these are little tips to get started on saving.
- Cash Reserves – Maintain some cash reserves for the unexpected event. We’ve all fallen victim to that large unplanned expense like car trouble or an Emergency Room visit. You never know what life has in store, so being prepared for that rainy day is vital.
- Control Your Debt – Ask yourself, “What can I do to reduce my debt and pay it off?” What is your debt to income ratio and do you have credit card debt? Credit cards provide a great means to satisfy the urge for instant gratification, and with interest rates greater than 20%, do not fall victim to credit card debt by only paying monthly minimums. Debt can be, and usually is, the number one cause of stress related to financial hardship. Debt is a vicious cycle and rather than paying debts off, many continue to spend, and keep telling themselves they’ll deal with it tomorrow. Trust me when I say STOP! Try to get debt under control. It is critical to build a habit of spending less than you make.
New Year New Reality
The promise of a fresh start in 2019 is exciting and my hope is that everyone achieves their goals. Start doing the little things now to set yourself up for future success. Creating an environment for financial freedom and success is intimidating, because many don’t know where to start. I urge you to work with an advisor to build a plan. Find someone and/or an institution you trust. Finances are a very personal and intimate matter, but it is good to have someone guide you down the right path. People looking to lose weight hire a personal trainer. Think of a financial advisor in the same capacity – their job is to get you financially fit, so you can achieve the results for the new year, the new you and your future. Good luck!
Chief Investment Officer