It’s February — time for four out of five of us to ditch our New Year’s resolutions, according to a study on Forbes.com. Already have? You’re not alone. In fact, studies show that one-third of resolutions don’t even make it this far.
We’ve all been there. We have let gym memberships lapse, didn’t clean out our closets, said “sayonara” to learning Japanese. But if you have resolved to do something about your personal finances, it is critical to stick with it — for yourself, your family and your future. Here are some tips for putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to resolutions:
• Set specific goals. “Save more” is a good start, but how will you know when you get there? Identify a realistic, attainable goal that will offer you a sense of accomplishment. Maybe you would sleep better knowing you have three months’ worth of expenses stashed away. Perhaps a trip to Italy is on your “bucket list.” Whatever your goal, put a number on it.
• Make a plan, and keep it simple. Even the most motivated can stray off course. Find ways to make your plan simple to stick with — such as automating monthly transfers to savings accounts. Pick up easy-to-use, inexpensive personal budgeting software that will help you track your spending. And put a modern spin on coins in a “travel jar” by creating a savings account devoted to a specific goal. Look for accounts with no minimum balance and no fees, like Fifth Third Bank’s Goal Setter Savings Account, which pays you a cash bonus when you reach your stated goal.
• Be informed. Read at least one basic finance book this year, such as “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey. Take the time to meet with a local banker. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — it’s your future.
• Research opportunities. Could you save hundreds every month by refinancing your mortgage? Should you pay off that high-interest debt with money currently in low-interest savings? The Web is full of free calculators and personal finance information that can help you set savings goals, evaluate and compare strategies, and more. Look for online calculators and other planning tools from reputable sources like The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Bankrate.com, CNN Money and most major financial institutions.
Yes, 73 percent of us infrequently or never keep our resolutions, according to one study, but establishing a secure financial future can’t wait until next year! If you set measurable goals, follow a simple plan and set aside time to do your research, your efforts will pay off.
Reagan Rick is the president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank (Central and North Florida). For easy-to-use personal finance calculators and additional information about strategies to get your personal finances in shape, visit www.53.com or visit a local Fifth Third Banking Center.