If you’re gearing up to create your list of New Year’s resolutions, consider adding a few goals that are related to your personal finances. According to People Magazine, 73 percent of Americans had at least one money-related New Year’s resolution in 2021. Over the past few years, nearly half of Americans want to save more money, a third wanted to improve their credit score, and another third wanted to create a budget.
Based on this data, the bigger picture is clear: Americans have a burning desire to improve their personal finances. Saving money and creating a budget are great goals, but your financial resolutions don’t have to stop there!
In this guide, we’re revealing 10 financial New Year’s resolutions that are dynamic and sophisticated. There’s a goal for everyone, whether you’re just starting to get a hold of your finances or you’re part of the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) movement.
Make SMARTer 2023 New Year’s Resolutions
Before we get started, we want to help set you up for success. In recent years, only 9 to 12 percent of Americans succeeded at keeping their resolutions through the end of the year.
The main reasons why people lose steam on New Year’s resolutions is that they set unrealistic goals, don’t measure their progress, set too many resolutions, or simply forget about them. (Or a combination of all four.)
Although New Year’s resolutions may seem cliché, and although some people have a hard time achieving them, it doesn’t mean that goal-setting should be thrown out the window completely.
There’s a reason why people create new resolutions time and time again. It’s because the new year symbolizes a fresh start, and it really does feel like a great time to set new goals and shift our behavior. There is simply nothing wrong with that.
However, as Albert Einstein said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
So, how does one set a New Year’s resolution that they can keep through the year? If you haven’t guessed it already, the answer is: by setting SMART goals.
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
By setting goals that satisfy these conditions, we are much more likely to achieve our goals. Coincident or not, these conditions also address each of the reasons why most people fail at their New Year’s resolutions.
When setting up your financial New Year’s resolutions for 2023, we highly recommend setting them up as SMART goals. The University of California provides an excellent how-to guide on setting SMART goals.
Next, we’ll reveal our top 10 financial resolutions. We’ll provide a sample SMART goal for each respective resolution so that you have an example to go off of.
10 financial new year’s resolutions for 2023
Here’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for! Without further delay, here are the 10 recommended financial goals that you can choose from for your 2023 New Year’s resolutions:
We’ll explain each of these resolutions in the following sections, along with their example SMART goals.
Meet with a financial advisor
Meeting with a financial advisor can help you understand your current financial reality, and where you would ideally want to be, based on your current age and financial goals. Not sure what your goals are? They can help you with those as well. Additionally, they can provide great insights on how to structure your finances so that you’re better able to meet your goals.
We’re just under a month before 2023. If you can make it happen, we recommend that you meet with your financial advisor before the new year. That way, you can integrate what you learned in your meeting to set some of your New Year’s goals.
SMART Goal Example: I will meet with a financial advisor by __________. I will integrate what I learned from the meeting and create my financial SMART goals for 2023 by __________. I will set myself a reminder to schedule a 3-month follow-up meeting on ______________.
Build an emergency fund
Should you build up an emergency fund or pay down debt first? You’ll find some contradictory advice online, but for the most part, financial experts recommend building a basic emergency fund first and foremost, before you begin tackling any other financial goals. (Of course, you’ll still want to pay the monthly minimum on any credit cards and loans to avoid going into default.)
Perhaps this will be your one and only financial-related goal in 2023. If so, know that this is enough. Many Americans don’t have an emergency fund, and building one will boost your financial confidence! Further, if you do encounter an emergency expense, such as a car accident or medical bill, you won’t get yourself into further debt. Having an emergency fund is an essential building block that will set you up for success for meeting the rest of your financial goals.
Start off with a smaller goal of saving up 1 months’ worth of living expenses. Once you’ve met that goal, set a second goal of saving up 3 months’ worth. Ultimately, you’ll ideally want to work your way up to 6 months’ worth of savings. If possible, allocate 10 - 15 percent of your monthly income to your savings goals.
The idea of an emergency fund is to keep it liquid. However, once you’ve reached a reasonable amount, it may make sense to move some of your savings into a short-term investment account. That way, your savings will grow at a faster pace.
SMART Goal Example 1: I will build up an emergency fund of $______, or one month’s worth of living costs, by putting $___________ of each paycheck into my savings account. I plan to meet this goal by _____________ 2023.
SMART Goal Example 2: I will build up an emergency fund of $_________, or three month’s worth of living costs, by putting $__________ of each paycheck into my savings account. I will be starting with $_________, so I plan to meet this goal by _______________.
Pay down debt
Do not feel alone if you’re currently struggling with debt. Over 60 percent of Americans have credit cards, and we collectively share $17 billion in debt. You may also have other forms of debt, such as school loans and other personal loans.
Debt tends to present itself as a dark cloud over our heads; it’s something we want to get rid of as soon as possible. However, when we have a large amount of debt, it can easily feel overwhelming.
The first step is ripping the band aid off and figuring out just how much debt you have. Then, you can come up with a strategy on how to pay off your debt.
Credit Karma provides several tried-and-true methods of paying down debt. Our favorite is the debt snowball method, which is where you focus on paying down your account with the lowest balance first, then move onto the next, while paying the minimums for each account.
SMART Goal Example: I’m going to pay off my lowest-balance ______________ credit card by making an extra payment of ______ per month until it’s paid in full. Based on this schedule, it should be paid off by ________ 2023.
Once you’ve built up an emergency fund, and you’re well on your way to paying down debt, it’s time to start investing. Yes, it can feel safer to save your nest egg in a place where you can see it. However, the interest rate on most savings accounts aren’t high enough to compete with inflation. To really put your money to work, investing is the key.
Your investment profile will depend largely on your long-term financial goals, and whether you’re risk-averse or more on the aggressive end of the scale. You can build a portfolio with the assistance of a financial advisor, or you could sign up for a user-friendly investment platform such as Robinhood or Webull for stock trading, and Betterment or Acorns for short-term and retirement investment options.
SMART Goal Example: I will sign up for _________ by _________. Once I’m signed up, I will start investing $_________ per week.
Open a retirement account
Saving for retirement: the sooner you start, the better. According to Fidelity Investments, you’ll want to have saved at least 10 times your salary by the time you reach the age of 67. For most people, this total number can feel daunting. The younger you are when you start saving for retirement, the easier it is to hit your goal.
Your retirement savings goal can look entirely different from someone else’s. It depends on what age you plan to retire, and the type of lifestyle you want to lead. Some people plan to live on less while on retirement, while others want to have a retirement full of travel and adventures. The more costs you plan to have in retirement, the more aggressively you’ll need to save.
If you’re employed, one of the best things you can do for yourself is take advantage of your company-sponsored retirement plan. If you’re lucky, your company will even offer contribution matching, which can double your investing power.
Saving for retirement can provide tax benefits too. In most cases, you can contribute a percentage of your pre-tax income to your retirement account. This means you’re paying yourself first, and you also get to lower your taxable income. Lastly, you may be able to write off some of your retirement contributions.
SMART Goal Example: I will meet with my employer’s HR department by this date: _______________. Based on this conversation, I will either sign up for their sponsored 401(k) or 403(b) plan, or open my own IRA (individual retirement account) plan. Then, I will begin to contribute ____ % of my income on a monthly basis.
Review your budget
Let’s pause and take a moment to check in. So far, we’ve thrown some major financial goals at you, including building up an emergency fund, paying down credit card debt, and saving up for retirement.
It might be easy for financial experts to throw out suggestions such as, “save 20 percent here,” or “tuck away 15 percent there!” When taking all these suggestions into account, you might realize that your entire monthly income has gone toward your financial goals.
The key to success is taking on goals that you can realistically achieve. This might look like choosing just one financial goal for the year, before you can comfortably take one or two new goals the following year. Steady, measured, action that is layered year-after-year will bring about financial confidence and success. This is compared to someone who doesn’t take any action because they feel like a deer frozen in the headlights.
Take some time to review your budget. This is an exercise where you can get real about luxury or non-essential expenses that you can cut down on. For instance, did you slip back into your habit of spending large weekly amounts on coffee shops and restaurants? Are you subscribed to 4 or more non-essential services? This is also the perfect time to make sure you’ve canceled any trials that expired, or evaluate if you can get cheaper insurance policies, for example.
It’s easier to trim the fat and start with a clean slate when you set clear financial goals and monthly benchmarks to meet.
Once you’ve come up with your new and realistic budget for 2023, you can then figure out just how much you can comfortably allocate towards your goals. Don’t choose an amount that is so large that you’re straining yourself and not having any room for fun in your budget at all. Although this strategy might work for a few months, you’re more likely to burn out and give up. Instead, pick a number that feels good to you and leaves enough room in your budget so that you can live an enjoyable life. We’re in this for the long haul.
SMART Goal Example: I’m going to meet my monthly savings goal of $_________ by canceling my ______________ subscription and _______________ service. I am also going to call each of my providers and negotiate a lower rate for 2023, or shop around for a new provider who can offer me a discounted rate. Lastly, I’m going to limit eating out to three meals a week.
Refinance your loans
One way to make your debts feel less overwhelming is to refinance them. Although this is not always the best solution for everyone, it’s definitely worth looking into.
For instance, you could refinance all of your student loans into one single loan with a lower interest rate, or an interest rate that’s somewhere in the middle of all your rates.
You could also take out a personal loan to pay off all of your credit cards. Last but not least, you could refinance your mortgage to take advantage of a lower interest rate.
For some people, refinancing your debt is a tactical strategy to take advantage of lower interests and end up owing less money in the long run.
For others, it’s a psychological trick that can help improve their chances of success. Sometimes, making large payments on a single loan feels less overwhelming than juggling several payments on credit cards with different payment rates.
SMART Goal Example: I will take out a personal loan of $________________ with an interest rate of ________ %. I will use this loan to pay off all of my credit cards. I will then make single monthly payments of $_________ and will pay off the loan by ________________. In the meantime, I will keep the balances on my existing credit cards at a zero until all of my debt is paid off.
Boost your income
Over half of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, and 21 percent are struggling to pay their bills. The cost of living continues to rise. Some individuals might find that no matter how much they budget, cut costs, and shop bargains, they just can’t find any room in their finances to put towards their financial goals. This is a reality for many, and it can be tough to get by, let alone try to meet any lofty financial goals.
If you find that you can’t put any money away toward savings or your retirement, or that your budget for it is very thin, consider boosting your income. Thanks to the gig economy, there are several ways to earn some cash without having to find an entirely new job. For instance, you could drive for a ride-share company, or sign up to walk dogs. You could even work remotely as a part-time administrative assistant. Better yet, you could make quite a bit of money as a freelancer if you have a specific craft or skill.
This might feel overwhelming at first, but consider working specifically for the amount you need. Remember, any little bit helps. For example, let’s say that you ideally want to put away $400 per month toward an emergency fund, but you don’t have any extra room in your budget. If you break that down, that’s only an extra $100 that you’d need to generate per week, and only $20 per week day. Now it doesn’t feel overwhelming. (This is the power of setting SMART goals.)
SMART Goal Example: I will generate an extra $ ______ per week through my side hustle as a _________. I will make a total of $___________ per month, which I will put toward savings.
Review your beneficiary designations
If you have a life insurance policy or any other type of account that requires a beneficiary designation, resolve to review and update your information.
This involves contacting the company that manages your insurance policy, or the financial institution that manages your savings accounts or retirement plan, and requesting a cop0y of your beneficiary designation.
If you were to ever pass away, then the benefit would be dispersed automatically to your named beneficiary. That’s why it’s important to periodically review your designations. This is especially true when you’ve had important life events, such as having a baby or adopting, or getting married or divorced. These are “trigger” events that often change your designations.
SMART Goal Example: On ______________ 2023, I will call my life insurance company and retirement savings institution and request copies of my beneficiary designations. If I require any changes, I will contact them again and request the change by ________________ 2023.
Start or uplevel your estate plan
Last but not least, this is an item that should be on everyone’s financial resolutions list in 2023. An estate plan is often mistaken as something that is just for the elderly, or the wealthy.
Contrary to this, an estate plan is a critical tool that should be used by everyone. Anyone can benefit, and estate planning can actually help close the wealth gaps and financial disparities. This is because those who have an estate plan are more empowered to generate and protect wealth, and successfully pass it down to future generations. An estate plan is also the tool you can use to address your medical care and end-of-life wishes, in case you become incapacitated and cannot communicate your desires to loved ones.
If you don’t have an estate plan yet, 2023 is a great time to start. It’s also a great time to consider upleveling your estate plan, such as adding a Trust or Advance Directive if you don’t have one.
Check out our great guide that talks about why everyone needs to make time to create their estate plan here.
SMART Goal Example: I will establish or update my Will by ________________. I will start up my Trust by ____________. I will review all of my plan information on ____________________.
Obtain financial empowerment by setting up a Will or Trust today
Financial empowerment is a great theme for 2023. Through this COVID-19 pandemic, some of us experienced financial hardship, and many of us had our financial goals go off the rails.
It’s time to take some of that power back and get our finances back on the track to success. One of the most important and empowering practices is to establish, review, and uplevel your estate plan. As we grow our finances (and hopefully and ultimately, wealth), an estate plan is the key activity that will help you protect yourself and your loved ones. As we all learned the hard way these past couple of years, anything can happen at a moments’ notice. That’s why it’s critical to take action now so that you can have peace of mind for the future.
If you feel ready to start the process of establishing or upleveling your estate plan, Trust & Will can help! At Trust & Will, we’re here to help keep things simple. You can create a fully customizable, state-specific estate plan from the comfort of your own home in just 20 minutes. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning and settlement options today!
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