As we roll headlong into 2018, it’s that time of year once again when we stop to reflect a bit about the things we’re grateful for, and also on the things we might need to work on in the year ahead. So in the spirit of new year’s resolution season, we present our top five New Year’s (financial) resolutions.
We started by researching some of the most popular resolutions people tend to make year after year, and then applying a financial twist to each.
1. Get In Shape
It’s no secret that the top New Year’s resolutions revolve around being healthier. In fact, the top three new years resolutions each year are all about being healthier, but we’ve rolled them into one, ‘Get In Shape’, or as we like to call it, ‘Financial Fitness’. We’ve prepared hundreds of financial plans for people through the years, and do you know what the number one most important driver of success is for a client’s ability to maintain their lifestyle throughout retirement is? Spend less than you earn. It sounds simple, but so few people actually do it. If you can add a little discipline, trim some fat and lay off of a few of those extra expenditures, getting your balance sheet in order is the #1 (financial) resolution you can make for a better chance at a long and secure retirement.
2. Lower Stress
Stress kills as they say, and it’s extremely hard to avoid. Been freaked out about the next recession? Kicking yourself for not buying Bitcoin two years ago? Well the truth is that no one knows when the next recession is going to come and anything could happen with Bitcoin, so you’re better off not worrying about any of that. The best way we know of to achieve long-term financial success in investing is to have a plan, and stick to it no matter what crisis or fad comes along. And they will always come along. Tune out the noise, trust the process, and you’ll be much happier and less stressed out along the way.
3. Learn a new skill
It’s one thing to tune out media hype in good markets and in bad, but it’s another thing entirely to have no idea about the financial matters that affect you and your family. We see lots of clients who come in and have literally no idea what they’re invested in, how much they’re paying, or how they’ve performed. With the kind of technology that’s available to advisors and clients these days, and the push for greater transparency throughout the industry, there’s no reason clients shouldn’t have access to all of this information. You don’t need to follow every 50-point move of the Dow Jones, but you should know what you’re invested in, and how much you’re paying at the very least. Plus, there are some great books out there if you’d like to get a bit more educated about the financial matters that matter to you. For investors, Nick Murray’s ‘Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth’ is one of our personal favorites.
4. Spend More Time With Family
Spending more time with family is always a good idea, and not just for a New Year’s resolution, but one of the things we like is how it also seems to tie in with some of the others on our list to positive effect. Getting out of the office and spending more time with family, likely helps to lower stress (at least we hope so!), and learning new skills together can be great bonding time. In that vein, we love the idea of helping kids start to understand about money, and how to start to manage it. Sit down and explain about their 529 plan and how it works, or open a savings account with them so they can start saving on their own. Financial literacy is an important, and often overlooked, skill for young people to grasp before they actually have to handle their finances for real, and spending time together as a family, while helping them learn it, is doubly rewarding.
It’s hard not to notice that so many people are really struggling out there these days. Just drive through any city and witness the homeless camps that look more like shanties in some third-world country than downtown anywhere USA. Add to that the direction we seem to be going as a society, where the chasm between rich and poor keeps getting wider, and you can understand why there’s no shortage of people who need help. Many of us don’t have a lot of extra time on our hands, so maybe we just donate what we can, which is great, but there’s no substitute for getting out there and doing something good for your community. And, since we’re talking about a little belt-tightening anyways, volunteering doesn’t cost anything, so no problem with the financial fitness resolution. It sends a great message to your kids, and is something you can do together. It will most likely lower your stress levels as you feel good about the positive thing you’re doing, and you’ll almost certainly learn something new while doing it. In all, a great resolution to round out our list.
As we say farewell to 2017 and look forward to another year of highs and lows, gains and losses, and triumphs and struggles, here’s hoping we all find a little more financial, and general, well-being in the year to come.