In less than 24 hours, the ball at Times Square in New York will drop and 2013 will be no more. This also means it's that time of year when millions of Americans will make New Year's resolutions that often revolve around their own health or well-being.
For a moment, let's put aside the fact that a vast majority of those who attempt to change themselves for the better through New Year's resolution will fail within the first couple of weeks, and instead focus on that percentage of the population who will be eating healthier and living better in the new year. That, right there, could be your recipe to riches.
With that in mind, let's use a recent Harris Poll that examined the 10 most common New Year's resolutions to find a few ways that these resolutions could help lead you to a happy retirement... if that's your New Year's resolution, of course.
Here are the 10 most common New Year's resolutions, according to Harris, and some intriguing ways to prosper from them:
1. Lose weight
Year in and year out there's no resolution more popular than losing weight. It makes a lot of sense, given that we're coming out of our four-week food-induced coma known as Thanksgiving and Christmas and now need to return to our normal lives for the other 11 months of the year.
A company I would really suggest keeping your eyes on in this case is Orexigen Therapeutics (NASDAQ:OREX), whose experimental drug, Contrave, for chronic weight management, was resubmitted to the Food and Drug Administration three weeks ago. Although Contrave was rejected in 2011, it comes back to the table now with a bevy of long-term safety data (the Light Study) demonstrating the effectiveness of its weight-loss drug without any adverse events outside of the norm.
2. Improve financial budgeting
Not far behind losing unwanted pounds is the desire by Americans to make better use of their money. Practically every year over the past seven decades, we've witnessed consumer credit debt head higher, meaning more consumers are relying on money they don't have to make their purchases.
Rather than focusing on any particular stock, I believe the best thing you can do here is to maximize your retirement income. If you're considering a budget overhaul in 2014, make sure it includes an individual retirement account, if applicable. A Traditional IRA allows you (based on income limits) to contribute and deduct up to $5,500 annually while deferring your taxes for when you begin making withdrawals at age 59 1/2. A Roth IRA, on the other hand, might be perfect for young adults. Even though it allows for no upfront tax deduction, all capital gains grow completely free of taxation over time.
3. Exercise more
Since weight loss and exercise sort of go hand-in-hand, seeing exercise pop up as the third-most common New Year's resolution isn't surprising.
Rather than focusing on gyms, which often have high turnover rates and little consumer loyalty, I suggest an area where customers do exhibit loyalty, such as with their shoes. Consumer actions sports and footwear juggernaut Nike (NYSE: NKE) is reliant on Americans remaining active and wanting to improve their physical health. This swoosh has amazing brand power and should have no trouble helping those who wants to improve their exercise routine in 2014.
4. Get a new/better job
In addition to managing their money more effectively, a good number of Americans would like to get a new job in 2014 that would make them happier as well as financially better off.
There are two potential ways of going about this. One is obviously to go after a job you'd enjoy with a reputable company – such as The Motley Fool, which was recently named the No. 1 mid-size company to work for in the U.S., according to Glassdoor.com.
Happy, but shameless, plug aside, another consideration here is professional networking site LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD), which reported more than 259 million members on its website as of the third-quarter, a 9% improvement over the sequential quarter. With premium subscription and talent solutions revenue demonstrating rapid growth, LinkedIn is poised to take advantage of consumers' desires for a better job.
5. Eat healthfully
In addition to exercising and losing weight, Americans also need to eat more nutritious foods. Traditionally, January is the month most restaurants loathe because it means reduced business as people choose to cook their food at home.
A grocery chain like Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM), which focuses on delivering organic and locally grown fruits, vegetables, and other products to consumers, might be your answer. Consumers have little to no qualms about paying extra for organic foods as long as there's a perception that they're healthier and/or more nutritious. That ultimately means more money in Whole Foods' pockets.
6. Manage stress more effectively
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, which is why it's not entirely surprising to see stress management as the sixth most-common New Year's resolution.
There are a lot of ways to relieve stress, including taking a walk, playing a sport, or going for a drive, but I doubt many will surpass the gaming sector, which introduced two new gaming systems, the Xbox One from Microsoft and the PlayStation 4 from Sony, in the second-half of 2013. It's been six years since we've seen a major redesign of these gaming consoles and gaming represents the perfect alternate getaway for some consumers. I'd look for sales of these consoles to remain strong throughout 2014.
7. Quit smoking
Few habits are harder to break than cigarette smoking, but quitting will have a more lasting and immediate positive effect on your health than just about anything. And that's why it's the seventh most common New Year's resolution.
Rather than betting on nicotine patch manufacturers, which offer only a short-lived revenue stream and constant turnover, I believe the smart investment here could be electronic cigarette manufacturers. Specifically, Lorillard (NYSE:LO), which makes the Blu brand vapor cigarette, could see sales soar in 2014 and beyond. Through the first nine months of 2013, Blu had garnered 44% of the electronic cigarette market share with that number pushing to 49% in the third-quarter.
8. Improve a relationship
Keeping in touch with friends and family is a common New Year's resolution as we often lose touch with some of the people we care about. Thankfully, smartphones, tablets, and the Internet make it easier than ever to reconnect with those you've lost through the years.
I would consider betting on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) to help refuel those lost connections. It's certainly not the most innovative or mind-blowing selection, but Facebook still has an incredible opportunity to add members in developing countries, as well as focus on mobile personalization within North America and Western Europe. As of the latest quarter Facebook had 1.19 billion monthly active users and this figure could top 2 billion, by my estimates, before 2017 is up.
9. Stop procrastinating
I'm not personally one to make New Year's resolutions, but if there was one that is most applicable to me, it'd be to stop procrastinating.
Not to beat a dead horse, but to emphasize the importance of allowing compounding dividends and share price appreciation to work in your favor, I'd suggest the best way to counteract procrastination is by taking the time to invest in your retirement now. In addition to the Traditional and Roth IRAs, you should also ensure that you are taking advantage of any 401(k) matches your employer offers. An example from Bankrate notes that an individual making $40,000 a year that contributes up to 10% of his or her salary and receives a dollar-for-dollar match up to 6% with an annual investment return of 7% would be leaving $344,000 on the table if they didn't utilize that matching employer contribution!
10. Set aside time for yourself
Last, but certainly not least, is the 10th most common New Year's resolution that states American's desire to get more "me time." Like No. 9 above, I can whole-heartedly agree with this one as "me time" is an important key to relaxation.
Perhaps nothing says relaxation like online travel service provider Priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN), which allows consumers to combine their flight, hotels, and car reservations into a discounted package. With most Americans unwilling to give up their vacation regardless of their economic situation, and Priceline pushing dominantly into Europe, it's a smart "me time" play.
Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
The Motley Fool owns shares of, and recommends Facebook, LinkedIn, Nike, Priceline.com, and Whole Foods Market. It also owns shares of Microsoft. John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.