YOUR MONEY: Resolve to build resolve, financially speaking, in 2010
You know what you should do: Save more, spend less, buy enough insurance. That might sound like the same old blah, blah, blah. But do you actually do what you know you should, when it comes to managing your money? If your New Year's resolution is...
You know what you should do: Save more, spend less, buy enough insurance.
That might sound like the same old blah, blah, blah. But do you actually do what you know you should, when it comes to managing your money?
If your New Year's resolution is to get your financial life in order, let's chat about some hurdles to sound money management, and what you can do to overcome them.
The first thing to remember: This isn't complicated.
"I don't think more information will change destructive financial behaviors," said Brad Klontz, a clinical psychologist in Hawaii who has studied "financial disorders" and whose book "Mind over Money" was published recently.
"Our worst problems in behavioral finance are people who don't save and people who spend more than they make," he said. "I have yet to find somebody who can say they didn't know (they shouldn't do) that."
Secondly: Doing the right things with your money probably won't feel normal or comfortable.
Making changes for the better may require you to break a habit or do something you're not used to doing -- like salting away a certain amount from each paycheck or using cash instead of credit.
Everyone thinks they can't keep a resolution "because it's too big and unrealistic," says Patricia Cole, associate professor of family therapy and family business at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "When we make resolutions about money, they really don't match our belief systems, our philosophy and who we are."
Third: If you want to get things on the right track, be fully committed.
"What I've found over time is that resolutions are really not taken seriously," said Judith Barr, a Brookfield, Conn., psychotherapist and author. "They have a connotation of, 'If it's a New Year's resolution, it means you're going to fail. It's a big joke.' "
The experts I consulted offer these ideas for helping you to keep your money resolutions in 2010.
--Be realistic. That's actually a tactic that could deal with the problem Cole points out: If it's a resolution, it's probably at odds with what we've been doing or believing up until now. If you believe adding to your credit card debt won't hurt you, then it's going to be difficult to stop adding to it. Instead of saying you'll never put anything else on your credit card, resolve to take steps toward that goal -- by not putting any more summer vacations or gifts on your card, for example. "Don't make your resolution too unrealistic," Cole said. "And don't beat yourself up if you slip up."
--Deal with yourself first. If making decisions about money makes you uncomfortable, you need to try to figure out the reason. Otherwise, Barr says you probably won't follow through on your resolution until you've wrestled with your emotions. "At a time of recession, it's an amazing time for each one of us really to explore our relationship with money," she said. "It's something very, very primal."
--Face up to the two biggest obstacles to change: Klontz says those are shame and ambivalence. Shame is associated with not handling finances well, while ambivalence comes about from the notion that to do better with money, you'll have to deprive yourself of something.
To move past those two negative feelings, "It's helpful to come up with a vision of how you want to spend the money. It's like flipping the script from what you can't have to what you really want," he said.
How do you move forward?
Klontz suggests you check yourself against these three steps needed to make a change in behavior:
Your goal must be important, you must be confident you can reach it, and you must be ready.
Cole suggests writing your resolutions down and setting up some kind of timetable in which you'll check out how well you're doing.
--Ask for help if you need it. Buy a book, hire a financial planner, enlist a friend to go through this with you.
--Finally, don't get tripped up by the notion that you'll have to be doing without something in order to save money or spend less. Because consumers have been reducing their spending, it should be easier than ever to keep those resolutions.
"A lot of people can't charge any more on their credit cards or borrow more money," Cole said. "You're not trying to keep up with the Joneses, because the Joneses can't buy anything that you want to keep up with."