The turning of the calendar from one year to the next causes a lot of people to reflect on their lives. That often means examining what you don't like about yourself or areas where you need improvement.

That makes it no surprise that 55% of 1,000 American adults surveyed by Quicken made resolutions about their health or fitness, making that the top category. Financial resolutions, however, came in second, and millions of Americans are starting the New Year with pledges related to debt, savings, and their general financial well-being.

A piggy bank sits on a calculator.

Saving is a top resolution for many Americans. Image source: Getty Images.

What are the top financial resolutions?

Over a third (38%) of those surveyed said they have resolved to pay down debt in 2019. That beats out "save money," which was cited by 37% of those surveyed. Men were more likely than women to make resolutions that involve money, with 52% of those surveyed making them compared to 45% of women.

Millennials (ages 23-28) are the generation most likely to make financial resolutions (24%) with Generation X (9%) being the least likely. Overall, more than half of those who make financial resolutions (51%) said they will spend over $500 keeping them, while 27% reported they will devote between $1,000 and $3,000 "on goals like spending less, saving money toward a specific goal, or investing," according to the study.

"The majority of people making resolutions are spending money on them," according to the Quicken press release. "The good news? People who invest money in resolutions are 25% more likely to report keeping them for a year or more."

What can you do?

Resolutions work when they're realistic and well planned. Resolving to "be healthier" in 2019 is vague and hard to track. Resolving to go to the gym at least three times a week and promising to eat fast food only once a week is clearer and easier to track.

With finances, it's important to have a plan. Doing that requires the person making the resolution to fully understand their financial position. That means knowing how much money you have coming in and how much is going out. It also involves making a budget and getting a strong sense of your financial health.

You may, for example, want to increase your saving, but if you have credit card debt it may be smarter to pay that off first. Really examining your finances may show that your priorities are off. Maybe you're saving enough for retirement but don't have an emergency fund, or perhaps the reverse is true.

Be realistic

When people make aggressive resolutions, they generally fail to keep them. You're probably not going to run five miles a day and eat a vegan diet in 2019 if you didn't run at all and considered ketchup your main vegetable in 2018.

The same applies to finances. Look at how you can make manageable improvements and make a plan to get where you want to go. Your goal could be as small as saving a little bit more money each week or increasing payments on your debt.

If you keep things reasonable, you will slowly make progress. That should encourage you to do more and increase your efforts. Success has a way of leading to more success, and if you can chip away at your financial problems, you will eventually find yourself where you hope to be.

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