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Better than a resolution: Set financial goals
NEW YORK (1/8/13)--Do you want to whip your finances into shape in 2013? Skip the vague, overwhelming New Year's resolution and set realistic short-term goals instead.

The top seven financial resolutions include starting an emergency fund, ditching expensive bank fees, saving for retirement, paying off debt, developing a budget, fixing credit, and talking with family about money ( Jan. 1). However, University of Scranton research suggests that only 8% of consumers actually achieve their New Year's resolutions (Forbes Jan. 1). 

Resolutions are easily abandoned--one misstep and your resolve is shot. But setting simple, specific annual goals, and keeping them front and center throughout the year, may be the ticket to success.

These actions can help you stay on track:

  • Avoid vague. Saving for an emergency fund is admirable, but put some numbers behind it. How much do you need? By when? How will you find the money? Set up an automatic transfer to savings from each paycheck, stick to it and raid it only for legitimate emergencies.
  • Think simple. Keep your list short. Instead of setting one overwhelming goal that results in frustration, set small attainable goals throughout 2013. You're more likely to change your lifestyle--and improve your finances--if you take one step at a time.
  • Post it, share it, chart it. Some people share their goals as an incentive to reach them. This builds accountability, and you can use social media as a motivator. Post your goals online--or on the refrigerator--and publicly cross off your accomplishments. If you're trying to convert from shopaholic to spendthrift, enlist the support of friends via blogs or Facebook.
  • Handle the financial chores. This is about protecting what you have. For example, take steps to keep your computer safe from cyber security threats. Update your beneficiaries and review your insurance coverage. Consider consolidating retirement accounts, particularly from old jobs, and moving them into self-directed accounts. Pay attention to your credit score and list the steps you'll take to improve it ( Dec. 28).
Bottom line: Don't attempt an extreme makeover in a short time. Set small, attainable goals throughout the year. Come December, instead of failed resolutions you'll see tangible results.

For more information, read "Credit counselors say resolutions not right for everyone" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

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