Dealing With New Year’s Resolutions as Finance Bloggers
New Year’s can be a boom time for our business. Certainly, getting out of debt or saving for retirement are less common resolutions than getting in shape. But that does not change the fact that all of us might soon be seeing some new readers and subscribers who have resolved to improve their finances.
Unfortunately, New Year’s resolutions are notoriously difficult to keep. The Wall Street Journal reported back in 2009 that 88% of all resolutions end in failure, and it would be naively optimistic to believe that rate has magically improved over the past few years.
So how do we as finance bloggers help the reader who really is hoping to turn over a new leaf and using New Year’s as their reason to try? I took the question to my fellow bloggers on FaceBook to see how people in our profession view resolutions for themselves and how they plan to keep them. Their varied responses can give us some great ideas for how to help our readers achieve their goals, no matter what time of year they make them:
Both Crystal Stemberger of Budgeting in the Fun Stuff and Dominique Brown of Your Finances Simplified go in for the traditional New Year’s resolution, proclaimed from on high (or at least online) before the first of the year.
Crystal hopes to lose weight, pay off the mortgage on her rental house, max out her and her husband’s 2012 Roth IRA contribution by April 2013, and go on at least three fun trips. For each of these goals, Crystal has thought out how she will go about achieving these goals: by going on Weight Watchers and exercising 5-6 days a week, by tossing whatever she and her husband can spare at both the mortgage and the IRAs, and by staying on top of her work so that she can afford time away.
Dominique has the crazy and ambitious resolution of saving $100,000 in cash by the end of 2013. He plans to achieve this through “some serious austerity measures all while increasing income streams by 20%.” Although Dominique knows he can pull off $60k of his goal, he’ll be looking for other opportunities to raise the other $40k.
Lessons: If your readers are like Crystal and Dominique and have made specific New Year’s Resolutions, you can best help them by encouraging them to determine their specific plans for reaching their goals. It’s also important to remember that flexibility can really help a plan come together. Dominique may not know how he will make the difference between what he knows he can save and his goal, but that means he’ll be looking for new opportunities throughout the year.
Goal Setting Throughout the Year
Other bloggers prefer to look at what they can change throughout the year, rather than waiting for a new year to remake themselves. As Abby Freedman Perry of I Pick Up Pennies put it, “[resolutions] are too easy to break and then you have an entire year to dawdle and ‘start fresh.’” Eric Rosenberg of Narrow Bridge Finance concurs: “I believe in making promises to do something starting today. Why wait for 1/1?”
It’s for this reason that Todd R. Tresidder of Financial Mentor and Andrea Travillian of Take a Smart Step look at what they want to accomplish throughout the year. Todd sets goals in multiple time frames, like long term, one year, quarterly, and monthly, and he revisits those goals throughout the year. Andrea keeps an ongoing list that she reviews regularly, and makes a daily to-do list based on her overarching goals, and revisits that big list at least once a week in order to make sure her daily to-dos are in line with her big goals.
Julie Starnes Rains of Wise Bread has a similar philosophy. She likes to use down time (like during holidays or spring break, for example) to consider her new goals or revisit old ones. According to Julie, she best meets her goals “through better focus [and] also by changing habits and/or accomplishing one or two tasks that smooth the way for the goal.” She gives the example of taking a half-day gardening class to improve her “brown thumb” and successfully grow a garden after years of unproductive attempts.
Lessons: It’s important to remind our readers that they do not need to wait for a major change—like the beginning of a new year—in order to change themselves. They are in control of their lives 365 days a year, not just on January 1. It also helps to remind them that willpower is not enough. Like Julie, your readers ought to look for ways to change their habits and find tasks that will help them to make their goals a reality.
The “I Hate Resolutions” Club
This large and illustrious club includes among our ranks MF Dasko of Start Freelancing Now and Doug Nordman of Military Retirement and Financial Independence. According to Doug, “I’ve already used up my lifetime quota of New Years’ resolutions, and I don’t have much to show for a commitment that usually fades by February. These days my top two goals are ‘Be a good spouse’ and ‘Be a good parent.’”
Doug makes a good point. After many years of failing to keep resolutions, many of us (and our readers) will fall back on the things we hope to do best in our lives—be good to our family members.
However, that does not mean that we should ignore other ways to improve our lives. After all, improving our finances is one way to be good to our families. MF Dasko recommends working on mastering a new skill throughout the year, which can lead to great things—including financial independence.
Lessons: For those readers who are anti-resolution, remind them that learning and mastering new things will can help them to reach their big goals, even if they don’t want to wait for New Year’s to articulate those goals.
New Year’s Resolutions often fail because the resolvers decide to change things in a vacuum. They want to get out of debt, and they have every intention of doing so, but they may not have any idea how to go about it. We are in a unique position to help people to change their habits and their lives through our advice, our community, and our personal stories of change.
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