60% of Americans Say They'll Be Better Off in a Year. Here's How to Improve Your Financial Outlook

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  • A recent survey found that many Americans are optimistic about ending 2022 on a more positive financial note.
  • If you're hoping to do the same, be sure to follow a budget, map out specific goals, and trick yourself into boosting your savings.

These steps could be your ticket to a more positive financial picture.

Many people saw their finances improve in 2021 compared to 2020, when the pandemic caused widespread unemployment and income loss. A late December survey by Ally Bank revealed that 60% of Americans think they'll be in a better place, financially speaking, by late 2022 compared to late 2021.

If you're hoping to improve your financial picture over the course of the year, there are certain steps you can take to make that possible. In fact, Lindsey Bell, Chief Markets and Money Strategist at Ally Bank, has some advice on how to change your financial outlook for the better.

1. Set up a budget that's easy to follow

A big step on the road to taking control of your finances is following a realistic budget. But don't just list your expenses and call it a day. Rather, think big.

Bell says, "When going the budgeting route, give every dollar a job, whether it’s an extra loan payment or savings." If you're hoping to boost your emergency fund by $3,000 in 2022, put a savings line item in your budget for $250 a month to stay on track.

2. List specific goals

Arbitrarily telling yourself to "do better financially" may not really inspire many changes. That's why Bell suggests writing down specific goals.

"Living debt free, retiring early, owning your own business -- the sky’s the limit," she insists. Having specific objectives might motivate you to trim your spending or boost your earnings with a side hustle to meet them.

3. Automate the process

If your goal is to spend more judiciously, you may need a little help. Automating the savings process could be your ticket to success. Bell suggests using automated transfers to stay on target, whether it's moving money from your checking account to your savings account every month or automating your retirement plan contributions.

In fact, the great thing about 401(k) retirement plans is they're set up to deduct contributions from your paychecks automatically. Just tell your employer how much you wish to contribute on an annual or monthly basis, and your payroll department should take care of the rest.

If you don't have access to a 401(k) plan, you can save for retirement in an IRA. These days, many IRAs offer an automatic transfer feature, so you can arrange for some of your earnings to land in your long-term savings plan before you get a chance to touch that money.

4. Celebrate your wins -- even the small ones

Improving your financial picture is a work in progress -- and so it's important to give yourself credit when it's due. "Keep it fun and document your progress," Bell insists. "High-five with an accountability partner. Post your progress on Instagram. Do what motivates you."

No matter what your financial picture looks like at the start of 2022, the right moves and attitude could leave you in a much stronger place come December. Follow these tips to meet your goals -- and have something to celebrate at the end of the year.

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