personal-finance

Make your financial resolutions stick this year

Jan. 14, 2014 at 6:11 PM ET

Many Americans start the new year making promises, but these promises can be difficult to keep as the year progresses. In fact, some researchers have found that less than half of those who've made resolutions have been successful in keeping them after six months. 

Still, we often begin the year with great intentions. Fidelity found that a record 54 percent of consumers made financial resolutions for 2014. More than half vowed to save more. Nearly one in four promised to pay off debt. Almost one in five pledged to spend less. Yet, most likely, few of them have a plan to reach these goals.

"People have these goals, these resolutions, but then they never put a plan in place and therefore they never take action. Therefore they never really reach these goals," said Los Angeles-based financial adviser Brittney Castro, CEO of Financial Wise Women and a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council.

Less than one out of five Americans – only 19 percent – has a comprehensive financial plan that goes beyond a simple household budget to cover things like retirement savings and emergency savings, according to a 2013 survey by the  Consumer Federation of America and Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.

Fewer than two out of five – 38 percent – have a basic plan for one or more specific savings goals, like retirement or a child's education, but they have no overall plan to put it all together.

Here are some tips to help you start a financial plan – which should income some career planning too – to help you reach your financial goals:

Track expenses to determine income needed to reach savings goal 
Whether your goal is to save more, spend less or pay down debt, to create a financial plan you can stick to Castro and other financial planners say you need to know where you stand. 

Focus on expenses and earnings

"First, sit down and start tracking your expenses. Get clear about how much money you need in every month to support your current lifestyle, and also save for your financial goals. Then you can go out and make sure that you make that amount in income," Castro says.

Increase your income and secure your most valuable asset – your career – by making your work indispensable
Your income is likely your greatest financial asset. Like other assets, you want it to appreciate over time. The key to increasing your salary, say career experts, is to make yourself indispensable at work.

"Your company has to need you. Your industry has to need you. Your customers have to need you," says career expert Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of Six Figure Start, based in New York. "So you have to be that person where if restructuring happens, if cuts need to be made, if they need to select something for something high profile, they're going to say 'We need to have you on that team'." 

Ceniza-Levine suggests taking these steps to help secure your most valuable asset – your career. 

  1. Get noticed. Volunteer to lead a project or speak at an event. 
  2. Keep your expertise up-to-date. Read industry blogs and trade journals.
  3. Strengthen your network. Meet with a new colleague or reconnect with an old one at least once a month

Schedule weekly "money date" to review budget, expenses and goals
To keep other financial goals on track, Castro suggests scheduling a "money date" every week. Spend an hour updating your budget, reviewing expenses, and talking about financial goals with your significant other and your kids. Keeping the conversation going will help you stay committed to the plan you put in place.

- By Sharon Epperson. You can follow Sharon on Twitter: @sharon_epperson. Send her your comments and questions: #getaplan 




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