Financial New Year’s Resolution for 2012

It’s that time of year again, the time when so many people make so many promises to themselves.

-- I’m going to lose weight, finally.

-- I’m going to get organized.

-- I’m going to quit smoking.

-- I’m going to get out of debt or get better at handling my money.

Those are all good resolutions and all obtainable. But without a plan they are just promises. Kelly Campbell, a certified financial planner, believes every resolution or goal should be “SMAC certified.” Campbell writes in a blog for U.S. News & World Report that SMAC is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable and Compatible.

So, for example, if you want to get out of debt, it’s going to take more than just writing that goal down on paper. You have to be purposeful about it. Come up with a plan for how you’ll find the money to pay off the debts. Which debt will you tackle first? (I always suggest that you start with the debt with the lowest balance. Paying that off quickly will give you an emotional burst).

“Every time you set goals, think of them with the idea of ‘SMAC certification,’” Campbell writes. “This simple idea will get you from goal setting to goal accomplishing.”

What are your financial New Year’s Resolutions for 2012? Tell me how you plan to apply the SMAC certification to your resolutions. Send your responses to this week’s Color of Money question to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name city and state. Put “Financial New Year’s Resolution for 2012” in the subject line.

Chat Today

Join me online at 11:45 a.m. for my live video chat and then at noon ET for my text chat. These are my last chats of 2011, so be sure to send your money questions in early for the text chat or read the archives later.

Layaway Angels

Around the country, some people have really gotten into the spirit of the holiday by anonymously paying off the balance of other people’s layaway purchases.

Many of the layaway angels have visited Kmart stores, donating more than $412,000 to more than 1,000 layaway accounts, says Shannelle Armstrong, a spokeswoman for Sears Holdings Corp., which owns Kmart’s 1,300 stores.

Strangers at a Kmart in Lafayette, Ind., have paid for more than 15 layaway accounts, totaling almost $4,000. “It’s pretty awesome,” Vic Sutherland, a store manager at that Kmart, told the Tucson Citizen. “With the economy the way it is, you wouldn’t expect it.”

In California, a man paid off 63 Kmart layaway accounts totaling $9,800, and an Alabama man donated $11,000 to pay the accounts of 75 families, reports the Tucson Citizen.

A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart said donors have also been paying off layaways at some of its stores.

The Northwest Florida Daily News reported that a donor paid off the balances for 20 people at a Wal-Mart in Florida. It cost the donor $2,700. Now one grandmother will be able to give her 4-year-old granddaughter the Disney Princess mirror and matching table and chairs she wanted.

These secret Santas are truly angels.

My Holiday Gift to You

As a token of my appreciation to my readers, I will be randomly giving away some of my leftover Color of Money book club selections from 2011.

The quantity is limited, and I can’t take requests. But if you’re selected to receive a book and you don’t want it, just pass it along to someone who could use it. To enter to get a free book, send your name and mailing address to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “2011 Book Giveaway” in the subject line.

To Buy or Not to Buy

“The Revolution,” a new ABC daytime program premiering on Jan. 16, is looking for participants who need someone to help them decide the best time to purchase a new TV, car, home or other big-ticket item.

And that someone will be me.

I’m the new financial contributor for the show, and this is your opportunity to meet me in person and let me help you decide whether you should make a certain purchase. I’ll give you my thumbs up or thumbs down. So, if you want help in resolving a purchasing dilemma, send an e-mail to casting@the-revolution.com. In the subject line put “To Buy or Not To Buy.”

The show is also looking for couples in the New York tri-state area (NY, NJ and CT) who are always arguing about money. For example, do you fight about how much to spend on your child’s birthday party, if you can afford to take a vacation or whether you should buy a new car? If you and your honey are fighting over money, send your story to the casting e-mail address and put “Money Disputes” in the subject line.

If you have any general financial questions about credit cards, your credit score, debt, savings, retirement planning, insurance or other financial issues that I may cover on the show, send an e-mail with your financial question to casting@the-revolution.com.

Responses to “Living Rich”

A Gallup survey found that most Americans would feel rich if they made at least $150,000 a year.

For last week’s Color of Money question I asked, “What would it take for you to feel rich?”

Thomas Druitt of Paducah, Ky., wrote: “I’m not sure that I would ever feel like I was ‘rich’ because I am just not built that way. I worry about covering my financial downside much more than I salivate at the prospect of accumulating more money than I know what to do with. I am in my mid-50’s, do not have much in the way of family obligations like paying for college, etc. ahead of me, and do not have any appreciable amount of debt that needs to be serviced annually.”

Druitt adds, “Bearing those factors in mind, I can tell you that a net worth of $1 million or more would satisfy me that I would not live into my 70’s or 80’s with insufficient financial resources to maintain a modest lifestyle and also cover any unexpected large expenses that might show up.”

“To feel rich I’d need $5 million,” said Cheryl of Elizabeth, N.J. “That would allow me to tithe 10 percent to my church, make me and my family debt free and live comfortably for the rest of my life.”

Well, you can still tithe at any income. And as my grandmother used to say: “It’s not how much money you make that matters. It’s how you make do.”

Here’s hoping you make do with whatever you have so you can enjoy a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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