by Mark Boujikian, CFP®
As 9pm approached on December 31, I glanced across the room at my wife who was dozing off while feeding our 3-month old daughter, Keylin. All the lights were off but for the TV, which was on mute with the New Year’s Eve Times Square festivities playing silently in the background. There was an unspoken acknowledgement between Caitlin and me: we were clearly NOT making it to the ball drop at midnight.
I remember my final thoughts on New Year’s Eve being about explaining New Year’s Resolutions to Keylin when she was able to understand it. As I looked back on my own life, all that came to mind was failure after failure. Like 2014, when I swore to hit the gym 5 days a week to get my “baseball body” back…That lasted until January 20th. Or 2015 when I swore off fast food…the anger set in as I sat in the Taco Bell drive thru on February 10th.
Countless other failed attempts flooded my mind before I was able to pause and think on the message Keylin would hear. I don’t want New Year’s Resolutions to focus on failures and flaws; she is fallible just like the rest of us and there is nothing wrong with that. Our New Year’s Resolutions should be about empowerment and giving our fallible selves a chance to be better for ourselves and those around us.
My musings often turn to my habits surrounding money; after all, how better to expedite changes for the better. I found comfort in how I would help Keylin feel empowered in establishing her money habits so she could pursue realistic resolutions in her own life.
1.) Write down your goals
Yogi Berra, the late New York Yankees catcher said “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else”. The same is true with our money. Purchasing toys, vacations, homes, and cars all cost money. With a little research, you can determine exactly how much you need and exactly when you want to make the purchase. Try this simple fill in the blank:
In _________ (days, months, years) I want to buy a(n) _________ for $___________. So, I need to save $__________ every (day, month, year) to afford it.
Bonus Points: Write your plan directly underneath the goal above to maintain accountability to yourself. Hang that plan on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror to ensure you see it every single day.
2.) Save 1% More
A 1% increase in your contribution percentage for your 401k, 403b, or IRA account will pay huge dividends at retirement. The difference in take home pay is hardly noticed because of the tax-deferred nature (tax deduction now, pay tax upon withdrawal) of the account. Increasing your contribution by 1% each year can mean thousands of extra dollars at retirement.
Bonus Points: Explore a Roth account, now offered as an option by many 401k plans, and tune up that retirement savings even further with tax-free investment growth. Check out RothIRA.com for more great information on Roth IRAs and their benefits.
3.) Commit to no-spend days
Enlist the help of your significant other or good friend to commit to “no-spend days”. Make that a day planned for in advance where no money leaves your hands or bank accounts. How? Eat at home, find free entertainment, and skip shopping to ensure you’re not tempted.
Monthly, we challenge ourselves to see how many such days we can plan. I wonder how many Keylin will be able to log in a month…
Bonus Points: Earmark those same days to “pay yourself first” and deposit the money you would have spent elsewhere into your investment account.
4.) Go healthy, without the gym membership
Fitness gyms and personal trainers LOVE New Year’s Resolutions because of the number of people that commit to a diet and exercise plan and hit the ground hard and fast in the New Year. This usually entails a pricey gym membership and maybe even some one-on-one training sessions.
Aim to reach your weight loss goal without an up-front membership fee, especially if you have a history (like me) of dodging the gym come February. Try free exercise videos online through YouTube.com, work out at the park, or enlist the help of friends and family to get a group together with similar fitness goals.
Bonus Points: Deposit that monthly gym membership equivalent into a Roth IRA and give your tax-free investment growth a top-notch workout.
The most rewarding way to realize the value of money is to give it away. There is no shortage of needy organizations doing wonderful works. Commit to making a positive impact and increase charitable giving by at least 1% this year. Then, commit to a monthly giving plan to your worthy charity.
Bonus Points: The true value of that gift is the ability to take stock of your blessings, and share them with those less fortunate. Giving to a qualified 503(c) charity can result in a tax deduction in the year of your gift.
At 3-months old, I can only hope that Keylin’s New Year’s Resolution for 2017 is to get 8 hours of sleep every night. My wife and I have already committed to using the above tips to augment Keylin’s 529 college savings plan this year.
Who knows, maybe we will actually see the ball drop in 2018 and be inspired with a few more creative ways to explain resolutions to Keylin. After all, at that point she will be all of 15-months old!
Wishing everyone a healthy and prosperous 2017.