Every New Year, I vow to do better.
I promise myself to lose that extra 10 pounds that has stubbornly clung to my hips and thighs since the birth of my third child. I promise to get more sleep. I say I won't watch so much television. I promise to spend more time with family and friends.
And, like many people, I declare that I will become a better steward of my money.
However, financial resolutions may be less common this New Year, according to a survey by the Million Dollar Round Table, an association of financial professionals.
The group surveyed 1,000 people and found that 44 percent are resolved to improve their financial situation, compared with 63 percent last year.
"I think we've seen a slight decline in financial-related resolutions because of the tough economic year many people endured in 2002," said John Putnam, the association's personal-business planning specialist. "Some people are feeling pretty helpless right now. It's obvious that many people are continuing to battle for a firmer financial footing as we look toward 2003."
Experts say people don't follow their financial resolutions because they fail to plan properly or their goals are unrealistic. I think we often fail because we aren't inspired to succeed.
Don't let that happen to you in 2003. I have an idea that might encourage you to stick to your financial resolutions.
I've developed a habit of collecting quotes about money. Whenever I feel that I'm moving away from my financial goals, I turn to this list. I read through it. I come away rejuvenated.
So this year, instead of my recommending a list of resolutions you should make, I decided to pass along words of wisdom that I hope will motivate you. If you are resolved to get out of debt, here are some quotations to remind you why that's a worthy goal:
* "You must pay at last your own debt. If you are wise, you will dread a prosperity, which only loads you with more." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson.
* "Live within your means, never be in debt, and by husbanding your money you can always lay it out well. But when you get in debt you become a slave. Therefore I say to you never involve yourself in debt, and become no man's surety." -- Andrew Jackson.
* "The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender." -- Proverbs 22:7.
If you are addicted to credit, heed these words:
* "Our business is to have great credit and to use it little." -- Thomas Jefferson.
* "When you live on cash, you understand the limits of the world around which you navigate each day. Credit leads into a desert with invisible boundaries." -- Anton Chekhov.
* "Life was a lot simpler when what we honored was father and mother rather than all major credit cards." -- Robert Orben.
Words to the wise about living within your means:
* "There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means." -- Calvin Coolidge.
* "We live in the richest country in world history, yet only 5 percent of the population ever achieves financial independence. The problem is not the high cost of living. It's the cost of living high." -- Michael LeBoeuf.
* "If you make a good income each year and spend it all, you are not getting wealthier. You are just living high. Wealth is what you accumulate, not what you spend." -- Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.
Here is some guidance on teaching your kids good money management:
* "The best time to start giving your children money is when they will no longer eat it. Basically, when they don't put it in their mouths, they can start putting it in their bank." -- Barbara Coloroso.
* "Given the choice, children who don't want for anything will not save. . . . We have an obligation as parents to give our children what they need. What they want we can give them as a special gift, or they can save their money for it." -- Barbara Coloroso.
Finally, let me leave you with this thought from Henry Ward Beecher: "He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has."
While Michelle Singletary welcomes comments and column ideas, she cannot offer specific personal financial advice. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers can write to her c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071.