Thinking about making New Year’s resolutions in the fall? Sure, it may sound a bit crazy, but it’s never too late to revamp your financial habits and stop delaying your financial goals. They may be small things such as saving for a vacation or finally building your emergency fund. Or they can be large goals like paying for graduate school or knowing you have enough for retirement.
Did you know that one in five people who are near retirement age have zero money saved? That’s the startling statistic reported by the Federal Reserve Board, and the findings are eye opening. Overall, 31 percent of people reported that they have no money saved for retirement. And 19 percent of people between the ages of 55 and 64, or those closest to retirement age say they have nothing saved.
Clearly, if you want to achieve specific financial goals — such as retirement — you have to take quick action and automate your savings. Here are some personal finance tips to help you stop procrastinating so you can start building up your funds.
1. Outline your personal finance goals
Start with immediate savings goals and work outward to prioritize. You can’t tackle a lifetime of financial objectives all at once. So if you’re 25 years old, allocating a smaller percentage toward retirement versus paying off your college student loan would make the most sense.
2. Live under your means
Yes, it’s time to bring up the dreaded word, “budget.” How will you know much to save and allocate toward your goals if you don’t have a budget? If you want to spontaneously buy a new pair of shoes or go on an unplanned ski trip, that’s hundreds of dollars that could have gone toward savings objectives.
If you budgeted extras such as new shoes or a vacation over time, you could be sure you’re not depriving yourself of some fun, while also funding your longer-term financial future. Again, there are many personal finance tips available online to help you create a budget that works for you.
3. Ditch the need to keep up with the Joneses
Perhaps your friends, family and neighbors are into expensive remodeling, new cars every two years or wearing the latest clothes off the runway. They may be able to afford it, but what is your financial situation? And more importantly, what are your values?
Consider this: A new car immediately depreciates nine percent the minute you drive it off the lot; and an additional 19 percent within a year. Edumunds.com reports that for an average cost vehicle with a true market value of $29,873, within one minute off the lot, the value is $27, 314; one year later, the car is worth $24,186; and over five years, the car has lost 60 percent of its original value.
The moral of the story? Having the latest and greatest isn’t always the best route, nor will it be the most beneficial. Think about what’s important to you and how you can get financially ahead without feeling like you always need to “keep up.”
4. Change your money mindset
Personal finance tips and money gurus always preach about what you “should” do with your funds. There is no should. Only you know your aspirations and what you need to achieve them. These objectives are also extremely flexible. A marriage, a new baby, an illness or a job loss will require you to adjust your plan, but luckily, there are so many formulas and frameworks to help you achieve your goals.
Being mentally prepared to make adjustments and staying flexible when life happens is more important than you think.
5. Create quick wins
While having long-term goals is a must, it’s also important to not deprive yourself either. Creating reachable, shorter goals can be a way to help motivate you. So maybe the quick win is a monthly fund to cover dinner and a movie each week, or a new outfit. Being able to reward yourself while sticking with your overall goals will help keep you motivated.
6. Automate, automate, automate
It’s been said that if you don’t see it, you won’t miss it. So take advantage of automatic deductions from your paycheck. The first step, pay yourself. Based on your budget (remember that), have a certain percentage allocated to your savings each pay period. This can go toward building an emergency savings of three to six months of expenses; the overflow can be put in a money market fund. Then sign on to your employer’s 401(k) program and ask to have a percentage put into the account. If your employer offers a matching benefit, even better!
Nearly everyone feels that they should be doing more or being better about managing their money. Now is the time to stop feeling guilty and start taking action. By implementing just these personal finance tips, you can be well on your way to achieving your financial goals.