(Photo from Flickr used under Creative Commons license from user Dave Dugdale )

How much did you stick to your financial goals this year?

Did you manage to sock away any money like you said you would? Were you diligent about paying your bills on time? What are you going to be better about next year?

If you’ve been slacking, you might want to get it together. People who follow certain tried and true rules when it comes to their money — who don’t carry debt, who spend less than they make and who pay their bills when they’re due — tend to be better off, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Researchers pulled five questions from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances related to key financial habits. People who did these five things — who saved, paid their bills on time, didn’t carry credit-card debt, had assets they could access easily and kept their debt low — tended to also have more wealth.

“It would be too simplistic to say that if you do these five things you will be wealthy,” says William Emmons, an economist with the St. Louis Fed and co-author of the report. “But it increases your odds.”

Related: Consider this for a New Year’s resolution: A financial checkup

Emmons and his co-author Bryan North, a policy analyst with the St. Louis Fed, analyzed responses for the 38,385 families that took the survey between 1992 and 2013. They scored people based on their financial habits, on a scale from zero to five, and compared those scores with other aspects about their lives, such as their net worth, education and age.

The average score was 3. People who scored below that tended to have below-average levels of median net worth. Those who scored above that were likely to have above average wealth.  The findings are summed up in the chart below:


People with high scores tended to have a few things in common. Generally, they were older. The trend held true across all groups of race and ethnicity, which may be a sign that people learn better financial habits over time, Emmons said. It could also point to the fact that younger families may have more competing demands on their money, between buying a home, paying for college and starting a family, he adds.

Read More: There’s a way to dramatically lower student debt payments, but hardly anyone uses it 

The analysis also showed more evidence of a racial wealth gap: Non-Hispanic white and Asian families also had better financial health and wealth than Hispanic and African American families.

Of course, it’s difficult to know which came first: Are people financially healthy because they have more wealth? Or are they wealthy because they’re financially healthy? Either way, chances are that sticking to some of these rules will leave you in a better place financially, Emmons said.

So how does it look? Are you financially healthy?

Related: Get your finances in shape for the New Year

Try your hand with this adaptation of the St. Louis Fed’s financial health scorecard: 

“We have been turned down in the past five years by a particular lender or creditor when I (or my husband/wife/partner) made a request for credit.”
“There was a time in the past five years that we thought of applying for credit at a particular place, but changed our minds because we thought we might be turned down.”
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Your financial health is below average. You may carry more debt than you should and you sometimes fall behind on your payments. These habits were correlated with below average levels of net worth. 

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Your financial health is average. You might be good about some things, like paying your bills on time, but may still carry more debt than you should. 

"},{"resultId":"33f099bc-e2b4-42f3-b44f-07743a05a652","min":4,"max":5,"resultText":"

Congratulations! Your financial health is above average. By paying your bills on time,  earning more than you spend, and keeping your debt low you have financial habits that are associated with higher levels of net worth. 

"},{"resultId":"63292f2a-1029-4df0-abb4-c61b29179607","min":0,"max":0,"resultText":"

Your financial health is pretty weak. People who spend more than they earn, are late with their bill payments and who carry debt from month to month tend to have lower levels of net worth, on average. 

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1

Did you spend more, the same or less than your income in the past year?

Less
Same
More

2

Thinking of all the various loan or mortgage payments you made during the last year, were all the payments made on timeor were some payments made late or missed?

We sometimes got behind or missed payments.
All payments were made on time.

3

 Do any of these statements apply to you?


“We carried over a credit-card balance after we made our last payment.”
“We have been turned down in the past five years by a particular lender or creditor when I (or my husband/wife/partner) made a request for credit.”
“There was a time in the past five years that we thought of applying for credit at a particular place, but changed our minds because we thought we might be turned down.”
Yes, one or more apply.
No, none apply.

4

When you look at all of your assets, including your house, did you have more than 10 percent of the value in safe and liquid assets? (Liquid assets include cash in a checking or saving account, money-market accounts, certificates of deposits and bonds.)

Yes
No

5

Do your monthly debt payments make up 40 percent or less of your monthly income, before taxes? (Include credit cards, student loans, car loans, mortgage payments and other lines of credit.)

Yes
No

Your score: 0 / 5