Most New Year’s resolutions fail. Here’s how to ensure your financial plan doesn’t!

I’m a self-confessed fitness nerd. This makes me the guy you love to hate in the first week of January. You’ll hate me even more come February 1.                                                                                                                                                                                             

Always diligent about my workout routine, I’m typically at the gym at 5:10 a.m. on the dot, five days a week. I track my progress diligently, including not just my body weight, but how much weight I’m lifting, how many reps I’m doing, how much cardio I’m completing, my body fat percentage, and more. Spreadsheets are my friend, and tracking these numbers not only helps me clearly see my progress over time, but it also keeps me motivated to keep going (even on those days when I would much rather hit the snooze button and sleep for an extra 90 minutes).

At this time of year, almost everyone I know is still in hot pursuit of their New Year’s resolutions. That fact is obvious at the gym, which has been packed since New Year’s Day—and almost every face there is new to me. And yet we all know the statistics: most New Year’s resolutions fail. As someone who has seen quite a few Januarys come and go at the gym, I can almost guarantee that nearly every one of those new gym members will be gone by February 1. Their resolutions to finally get fit or lose those last 10 pounds will fall by the wayside, and they’ll be back to hitting the snooze button at 5:00 and sleeping soundly until 7:00. And though I may be happy to have a bit more breathing room at “my” gym, it makes me sad to see so many new goals get washed away because, let’s face it, habits happen, and creating new ones takes some serious motivation and effort.

When your fitness plan doesn’t stay on track, your physical health may suffer. When your financial plan doesn’t stay on track, your financial health is at risk, and that can have an even greater impact on your long-term future. The key to success—at the gym, with your finances, and with anything else you hope to accomplish—is setting your goals and (here’s the key) tracking your progress along the way. At any age, here is how to begin:

  • If you’re in your early to mid-career you probably don’t yet have a clear picture of when you plan to retire or what your assets will look like when you do. Like most of our Foundations clients, you may be juggling paying a mortgage, raising a family, budgeting for everyday expenses and, yes, saving for retirement. At your age, a simple spreadsheet may be all you need to track and evaluate your progress. Take time today to record your net worth, your debts, and how much you’re saving every month. Then track your progress every month for the next year by updating your spreadsheet the last day of the month. Come 2019, you’ll be amazed at what you’ve been able to accomplish. Even more, you just may be motivated to accelerate your pace.
  • If you’re closer to retirement, you can get more specific with your tracking. To help our more established clients we use an in-depth analysis tool called Monte Carlo (this is a race to the finish after all!) that considers every aspect of your finances—current income, savings and investments, Social Security, retirement spending goals, and more—and runs that data through 1,000 trial scenarios to determine your probability of having at least $1 left at the end of your life. Using this information, we can help you manipulate key variables in your financial life and adjust your plan to help ensure you don’t outlive your money. The first time we use Monte Carlo, you may have a 40% chance of reaching your goal. With smart planning, that number may jump to 60% in five years, and to 80% in ten years. It’s a great metric to track and monitor your progress and, ultimately, to keep you motivated to stay on track.

No matter what your age or how much you’ve saved today, remember that building a strong financial future is a marathon—not a sprint. Whether your goal is to lose 10 pounds or lift 150, there are no shortcuts. The same is true for your finances. If you’re 30 years old and investing $50 each month into a retirement account, by the time you hit 60, that small investment could potentially become a $56,000 nest egg (assuming a 7% average rate of return) thanks to the power of compound interest. If you wait just 10 years to start saving, your monthly investment would need to more than double—to roughly $110/month—to reach the same goal. That’s why it’s vital to set your goals today, track your progress, measure your results, and stay motivated for the long game. Of course, we’re always here to help along the way.

See you at the gym!


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