This New Year’s, find your financial resolve
It’s that time again.
Time to make resolutions that in years past you’ve probably broken before Valentine’s Day. In its annual New Year’s resolution survey, Allianz Life Insurance found that exercise or diet, better money management, spending more time with friends or relatives, volunteering and getting rid of bad habits are among the top promises that people make.
But more than a quarter of survey respondents said they wouldn’t make New Year’s resolutions — or keep the ones they do make. Allianz also found that 84 percent of the people surveyed said they would not include financial planning in their resolutions for 2013.
I thought this was odd — that people who said they want to get better at managing their money don’t see the need for overall financial planning. Well, the reason people see the two differently is that they don’t think they earn enough to worry about financial planning.
“There is this fear that people are throwing their hands up about getting their financial future in order,” said Katie Libbe, vice president of consumer insights for Allianz.
It’s worth setting New Year’s resolutions for your financial life. If you’re not happy about how you handle your money, make a change. It’s not enough to focus on just one area, such as getting out of debt or starting an emergency fund. Your financial New Year’s resolution should entail getting your whole financial house in order.
But before you make any promises, you need to decide how best to go about keeping your resolutions. You need to determine whether you’re a do-it-yourself type or whether you need help to guide you to better money management.
Take exercise, for example. For the past year, I’ve made endless promises to get into a exercise. I keep that pledge for about a week or two and then give up. Some people can get home-exercise equipment or videos and work out religiously without any push. That’s not me.
I hate exercising. Knowing that about myself, I hired a personal trainer several years ago. I’m a penny-pincher, but I also believe it’s okay to pay for services you won’t or can’t do yourself. It was worth the money just for the motivation. So in 2013, I’m getting my trainer back.
Think of financial planning as you might think about getting a personal trainer, Libbe says. If the slogan “just do it” doesn’t work for you, let someone push you to help yourself.
And you don’t have to be a high-net-worth individual to seek the assistance of a financial planner. They can do more than invest your money. Good planners will focus on getting your financial house in order. They can help you develop a budget, look at your debts, tax situation, retirement and college savings, estate planning and insurance.
There are plenty of planners who will work with people of all income brackets. One of the best ways to find a financial planner is to ask around and get recommendations. Find someone in your circle who has used a planner. You can also find an adviser through the Financial Planning Association (www.fpanet.org). You can search for a planner by city, state, Zip code or specialty. To find a fee-only planner, check with the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (www.napfa.org), which is the professional association of fee-only financial planners. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (www.cfp.net) also has a search tool for planners. Be sure you ask how your financial planner is paid, which can vary from a commission, hourly fee, annual retainer, or percentage of assets managed.
If you’re a do-it-yourselfer in other parts of your life but have a block when it comes to your finances, maybe what you need is step-by-step help. Fidelity Investments has a useful 2013 month-by-month guide to keep you on track. Go to Fidelity.com and search for “Keep Your Resolutions in 2013.” The investment company of course promotes its services, which I’m not endorsing, but you can click through to see the helpful monthly financial information, tips and tools.
In January, you start by creating a budget. There’s a tool that allows you to develop a savings strategy for top goals, such as paying off credit card debt or boosting your retirement savings. To help start your savings plan, you’ll be asked some questions about your priorities.
Even before you start making your resolutions, complete a net-worth statement. Looking at your assets and liabilities may be the harsh wake-up call you need. You can find a template for a net-worth statement by going to http://wapo.st/TaJkCa. Or Google the title for my third book, “The Power to Prosper.” You will also find some budget templates I created.
Even if you’ve failed to keep your financial resolutions in the past, try again this year. What’s the alternative? Do nothing and get the same results you’ve been getting?
Readers can write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to postbusiness.com.