There are few things many people universally regret in life, and bad money habits are surely at the top of the list. Here’s the problem: Managing your personal cash flow is treated with a one-size-fits-all approach—emergency fund, retirement fund, no debt, etc.…but in reality, we know that maximizing your money just isn’t that simple.
There are many different variables that can impact your finances. People earn vastly different salaries; have varied financial responsibilities and differing amounts of debt. Perhaps the most trying issue to unwrap is our often complex relationships with money itself. Still, at the beginning of the year, folks tend to make repeat resolutions around personal finances. Declarations like, I vow to save more this year and pay off all of my debt, typically is all talk and little result.
The intention is commendable, but there’s a reason U.S. News & World Report found that about 80 percent of Americans don’t keep their top of the year resolutions because they focus on goals and not habits. Change often requires introspection around how you will achieve what you want—not just the end goal.
If you’re ready to make some real money moves in 2020, start following these six cash collecting financial tips in January that will take you all the way to the bank.
Think About Your Relationship with Money
This has to be the first step. Why? You can’t get a handle on your money until you understand the role it serves in your life. Start by thinking about the lessons you learned about making, spending, and keeping money as a youngster and how any of these actions makes you feel. Next, consider the value you place on money today — what are you buying and why? Last, think about whether your present values and behavior around money align with the goals you truly want to attain this year.
Discover What You’re Working With
Whether you’re the epitome of a spendthrift or a super thrifty saver, it’s important to tally all of your monthly and yearly assets, bills, and savings. This can be done on a spreadsheet, smartphone or notebook but the most important thing to add is a column for predictable but inconsistent expenses. You know, like when your cousin Ray Ray periodically asks you for a loan or if your rapper roommate needs you to float the bills this month. Approximate how much money you will need for each column and then you’ll have a better, clearer idea of your cash flow.
Create Habits That Support Goals
Determine at least three financial goals that align with your values and cash flow. Next to each objective, list the habits needed to ensure successful completion. For example, if you value reconnecting with friends and family this year through travel or if your focus is on the financial security a robust retirement fund offers, your goal may be upping your savings. The complementary habit can be anything from committing to an automated savings plan by bringing lunch daily to stash cash for the goal. Let the value-goal-habit trifecta align in a way that keeps you motivated.
Write it Down
Putting pen to paper—or finger to keyboard—helps make things real. It also serves as a consistent reminder of your goals and the whys. Place your goal statement in a space that’s easy for you to access every day so your priorities and reasons are always top of mind in 2020.
Start Talking About Money
At your next Saturday brunch or guys night out, bring up your big picture financial goals with trusted friends — and if they don’t like to discuss funds, find a few folks who do. Why? These conversations are great opportunities to reinforce your priorities and create accountability; they also give your circle a forum to share goals, insight, and information.
Schedule a Check-Up With a Financial Planner
You don’t have to be rich to speak with a financial specialist — and they’re relatively easy to find. The Financial Planning Association offers a location-based directory of certified financial planners. For a one-time fee, your planner can help you adjust allocations to your long-term and short-term goals, including retirement, homeownership and stock investment that will fit your needs. S/he can also help level set on where you should be based on your age and income, which helps you re-evaluate your current values and goals.
Make this year count!
S. Tia Brown is a seasoned lifestyle journalist and licensed therapist. Follow her on Instagram @tiabrowntalks.