It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
There are many reasons why this statement is so true in different aspects. In my opinion, one of those reasons is that the end of the year is a great opportunity, a time to reflect and recharge for the new year.
Growing up, New Year’s Eve was an important day in our household. My brothers and I did not go out after a certain time because we had a family tradition. At around 11 o’clock, my parents would shut everything down – TV, music, telephone line, it was all off. It was time to have a family meeting. My dad would take the lead and would reflect on the ending year. Nothing got left behind. If mom and dad were disappointed for something that happened that year, we discussed it. More importantly, we were also praised for our successes and our good behavior. Then expectations for the new year were set. The night ended with a prayer and by then, midnight had come, and we were officially in the new year.
That tradition stayed with me and I strongly believe it could be a very beneficial one. It doesn’t have to be the night of New Year’s Eve, but it is very important to reflect and prepare for a new year. It is estimated that 45% of Americans set new year’s resolutions. That’s more than 140 million people. Are you one of them?
It is easy to get motivated in December because we are about to get a new start, a chance to begin with a clean slate. Whether it is fitness, relationship, jobs, or financial goals, we should all be identifying them before January 1st hits. The difficult task is to stay motivated for the entire year. Having a successful 2020 financially does not happen by accident or by chance. Even if it happens, wouldn’t you want to have some control over it? Over the past few years, Heather and I have set aside time in December to ‘prepare’ for the new year. It is amazing how much we’ve accomplished so far in the years that we’ve been married, and I would argue that it is due in big part to the practice you are to read about.
Bill Copeland said: ‘The trouble with not setting a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score’. What is your current invisible? Do you know what you’re trying to accomplish this upcoming year? Have you written it down?
Evaluate your accomplishments and failures of 2019
Did you set goals for 2019? What were your resolutions? If you were one of the 140 million people who set new year’s resolutions last year, it is time to evaluate your journey. Maybe you wanted to save an extra $5000 but came $1000 short. Or you wanted to give more to a certain charity or organization; you started out the year doing so consistently but later dropped the habit. Maybe, your goal was to get a new job and increase your salary by at least $10,000 and you did exactly that. Congratulations! Did you want to stop eating so much out and save your money? How did it go? Make a list of all your 2019 goals and rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 meaning that you accomplished the goal. Be honest and reflect on what went well and/or south and why.
Once you have evaluated yourself and your goals in 2019, your analysis will serve as the foundation and a guide for your 2020 money goals. For example, if your goal was to increase your salary by $10,000 and you only did by $2,000, it may be too much of a stretch to set a $10,000 salary increase goal again.
Set some categories and be specific
I am a big fan of setting specific goals. Saying that next year, you will save more in vague. How much do you want to save in 2020? By how much do you want to decrease your credit card debt?
Start out by categorizing your goals. Here are a few examples of categories and specific goals.
- Income: ‘In 2020, I will increase my salary to $80,000’. This could mean that you may have to look for another job. The salary increase may not happen immediately in January, but it is your goal for the year. We live in a society that is accustomed to immediate gratification and instant reward but truly, life does not work that way. Be patient and more important, do the things that will get you to your goals.
- Savings: Set a monthly savings goal. It is important to be realistic here. If you currently struggle to save $200 per month for example, start there and slowly increase it. You can modify your goal anytime during the year.
- Debt: Determine how much you want to decrease your debt by in 2020. Credit card debt, loans, bills, include it all. If you have three or four credit cards, let’s start by paying one or two off this year.
- Personal development and Education: What do this have to do with your financial goal? Here is my thought process and my experience. If you are going to change your financial situation, your habits must change first. What are your challenges now? Maybe you’ve struggled with financial discipline in the past. Whatever it is, it is time to find ways to overcome your challenge. Visit your local library or bookstore (or Amazon.com) and find literature that will educate you on money management. There are several non-profit organizations that offer seminars on financial management. Find what works for you and begin your personal financial development and education. I once heard that ‘wealth is not an amount of money, but the way you think’. I believe that is true. If Elon Musk was completely deprived of his wealth today, don’t you think he would still manage to be a millionaire in the next five years? Build your self and your ‘financial wisdom’ and the money will follow.
*Make sure you check the book recommendation below for a great resource that has made a tremendous impact for me.
Define your strategy
Your goals are not going to get accomplished by chance. Once you have set them, it is crucial to establish a strategy to achieve them. ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish’, Antoine de Saint-Exupery did say. Your strategy is simply your action plan.
If your goal is to increase your salary (or income), how is it going to get done? Increasing your salary with a job is not entirely in your control because you may not receive the promotion or raise that you desire or deserve. However, by writing it down, you are more likely to perform better at your job or look for other opportunities because now, you KNOW what you want, and the goal will motivate you.
When it comes to savings or debt, start by ‘reverse engineering’. Let’s assume that your goal is to pay off your Bank of America credit card by June 2020. The balance on that card is currently $2,000. First, you must resolve not to use the card. In fact, it may be necessary to shred it. Without considering the interest, you will need to make a minimum payment of $333 starting in January. Your strategy may be to allocate a minimum of $350 (to cover the interest) each month for the next six to that card. In the meantime, keep making payments on your other credit cards. Once your BOA card is paid off, you will then move to another card (I recommend the one with the lowest balance) and add the extra $200 to the payment you were making.
Live by a budget
Vice-President Joe Biden said: “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” If you value your financial stability in 2020, establishing a budget is the first step to take. Your strategy is strengthened by following a budget. In fact, I believe it would not be sustained if you do not start with a budget.
I wish you a successful 2020. Financial stability takes planning and discipline and I believe anyone can do it. Start where you are and be consistent. I wish you a ‘money-smart’ 2020!
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