If you're losing momentum on your New Year's resolutions, you're not alone. More than half of people who make New Year's resolutions give up on them within six months, according to research conducted by University of Scranton professor John Norcross, Ph.D.
Since financial resolutions are the second most common resolutions made by Americans, and many financial resolutions involve complex behaviors that may have you wondering where to begin, here are some tips that may make sticking to your resolutions easier.
Resolution No. 1: Save more
Saving more is a key to long-term financial security, yet many Americans fall short of taking the steps necessary to put more money away for their golden years.
According to a 2015 survey by Bankrate, half of Americans save 5% or less of their money, and about 1 in 5 don't put any money aside for the future at all.
Failing to make the most of retirement plans at work could be one reason why. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, only a little more than half of Americans are saving money in such plans.
If your employer offers a retirement plan and you don't take advantage of it, the simplest way to make good on your "save more" resolution is to enroll. Setting aside a small percentage of your salary every year in one of these plans can add up to tens of thousands of dollars over a career, especially when you include growth because of compounding interest, or the ability for interest to earn interest year after year.
If you already participate in a retirement plan at work, reach out to your human resources department and up your contribution percentage for 2016. Many people contribute less than the maximum allowed, and there's a good chance you won't notice an increase in your contribution of a percent or two.
Finally, if you don't have a retirement plan at work, commit to establishing a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA this year. Traditional IRAs may offer tax-savings up front, and Roth IRAs may lower your tax burden in retirement, and in both cases, individuals can save up to $5,500 in 2016. If you're over 50, you can invest an additional $1,000.
Resolution No. 2: Spend less
Constructing a monthly budget that spells out exactly how much money you can spend on discretionary purchases is the best way to follow through on this resolution, but if budgeting isn't your cup of tea, here are some easy moves you can make to lower your expenses this year.
- Cut the cord and ditch or reduce your cable bill.
- Shop around for a lower rate on your car insurance.
- Use cash to buy everyday items instead of credit cards.
- Transfer balances from high interest rate credit cards to lower interest rate credit cards.
Resolution No. 3: Pay off debt
Doubling up on your mortgage payment once a year can significantly reduce how long it will take you to pay off your home loan while saving you thousands of dollars in interest charges along the way. For example, a person with a 30-year mortgage who pays an extra $100 per month on their mortgage payment would end up saving more than $30,000 in interest over the course of their loan.
That's a lot of money, but the benefit of paying down credit card balances can be big, too. Interest rates on credit cards can be as high as 20% or more, and for that reason, minimum monthly payments only make a small dent in your principal. Therefore, commit today to a debt-reduction strategy that includes rounding up your monthly credit card payment and making additional credit card payments every six months. Oh and one more thing, don't forget to lock those credit cards away so that new spending won't offset your efforts to pay them down.