Finances are regularly in the top 3 New Year resolutions, and after the rollercoaster of 2020, it’s likely this year is no different.
The top goals we usually see include; I want to:
– Get in control & stop worrying about money
– Get mortgage-free faster
– Be confident I’m on track to have enough in retirement
– Help my kids onto the property ladder
– Be in a better place in 12 months
Whatever your specific target, making financial progress is always a worthy goal. The fishhook is that the research shows 80% of New Year resolutions fail! What it boils down to is that a goal without a plan (& someone to be accountable to) amounts to little more than a wish. So, if you don’t want to start the year simply wishing for better, here are a few tips to help get your resolutions off on the right foot this year.
– What’s possible?
In our experience at enable.me, there’s at least a 30% gap between the financial progress you’re currently making and the pace you could be achieving (with the same resources) – that’s a lot of potential progress! Your goal needs to strike a balance between being realistic, but also ambitious, (if you aim low, there’s a greater chance you’ll hit your target, but why would you bother?!). You don’t want to leave progress on the table, but unrealistic goals will leave you disheartened and unmotivated. So, start with some rigorous analysis of what you could achieve this year, based on your commitments, capability and motivation.
– What’s the path to success? (the plan!)
A plan to map your path to the end goal is crucial. It might involve determining what you’re willing to give up, what extra hustling you’re willing to do, or what you could do more efficiently. It may mean setting up a system, so hitting your goal is a given rather than a struggle. It could involve tracking your spending, so you’ll know when you’re going over. It could also be settling up better structures – or all of the above.
– Know why it’s worth pursuing
Once you know what’s required – you need to be honest, are you prepared to do that? It’s one thing to like the idea of the outcome, and another to be willing to engage in the work to get there! That’s why you need a strong ‘why’: what’s your motivation making an effort? Generally, people are prepared to make sacrifices if they know their efforts will translate to something they want, within a timeframe they need (which links back to considering what’s achievable). You could also flip it on its head: what are the ramifications of not doing it? Sometimes fear can be a powerful motivator, too! example, if your goal is preparing for retirement, perhaps wanting to avoid running out of cash might be more of a motivation than the idea of being able to afford to eat at nice restaurants!
– Take it step-by-step
Breaking your goal down into smaller steps is common goal-setting advice – it means you can attack it piece by piece instead of trying to swallow the elephant whole and allows you to track your progress more closely. But you also need to take into account that progress is often not a straight line, and you might not make equal progress month after month. So, consider the timing of money coming in, the timing of money going out, and your own capacity to be stretched, which can fluctuate depending on what else is going on in your life. From a psychological perspective, we find that going hell-for-leather for the first 12 weeks really helps because the gains it creates helps provide motivational fuel for the longer-term goals. Psychology absolutely has a role to play in goal setting, so make sure you celebrate the wins!
– The power of accountability.
Speaking of psychology – there’s huge power in being accountable to someone that you will do the things you said you would (in the timeframe you said you would!) However, picking the wrong person can undermine that power. It needs to be someone that a) you’re willing to take feedback from, and b) doesn’t have conflicting ideas about you doing something else with that money!
– Stay flexible
A financial strategy that’s set and then forgotten is of no use to you – it needs to remain fit for purpose! We review our clients’ strategy quarter to check – are the original assumptions still true? Are we doing better or worse than expected? If life has thrown a curveball, what new approach can we adopt to still hit the target? The more flexible the strategy, the more likely you will be able to stick to it, and ultimately the more you’ll be able to achieve.
– Deprivation is not a winning strategy
Cutting everything you love out of your life is a recipe for hating your plan and ditching your goal as soon as the going gets tough! It’s essential to build in the things that make your life enjoyable, as that will make the process of trying to hit your goals more sustainable – and ultimately, successful.
Hannah McQueen is an Authorised Financial Advisor, Chartered Accountant Fellow, Author, and founder of enable.me – financial strategy &coaching.