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5 Financial Resolutions for 2016

Rather than make vague resolutions that are easily forgotten or derailed, certified financial planner Sean Moore, president of SMART College Funding in Boca Raton, urges families to get very clear about the intention of New Year’s resolutions and the actions needed to carry them out.

The first action item is to make a calendar for when your list will be complete.

“Some recommended resolutions are time sensitive,” said Moore, “so maybe a pre-resolution resolution should be to stop procrastinating and start now!”

Here are Moore’s recommendations for how to make resolutions stick.

  1. Resolution: Stick to a budget.

    Make it stick:

    One of the most common resolutions is also one of the shortest-lived. Rather than promising to track every dollar and dime spent for a month, sign up for a financial literacy class at your local college or university. Having a better understanding of finances can lead to better decision-making. Understanding and modeling good financial behavior is one of the best gifts you can give your children, today and for the rest of their lives.

  2. Resolution: Cut up the credit cards.

    Make it stick:

    Spend more…cash! Are you really going to stop the automatic payments on your gym membership (remember last year’s resolution?), SunPass and whatever else is tied to your credit cards? Probably not. So I suggest that for incidental and non-essential spending, use cash. The act of handing over physical money requires more thought than swiping your credit/debit card. If you need to give yourself a challenge, withdraw a set amount of cash at the beginning of the week (or month) and see if you run out of money.

  3. Resolution: Save money for college.

    Make it stick:

    Rather than resolve to: “Save money for my children’s college,” make a firm commitment and stick to it. Decide: “I will save $X dollars per month toward college.”
    If you can save $50 or more per month, explore the Florida Prepaid Plan options starting at just $46 per month. If that is too much for your budget, start with what you can afford today. Set up an automatic draft from your checking account into a 529 savings plan for your child(ren) and commit to a savings increase at your next pay increase.

    Want some help? You can ask friends and family members to help you reach your savings goal by asking for 529 gift certificates or deposits into your child’s college fund in lieu of birthday/holiday presents.

    Rather than resolve to: “Save money for my children’s college,” make a firm commitment and stick to it. Decide: “I will save $X dollars per month toward college.”

  4. Resolution: Set up an emergency fund.

    Make it stick:

    There is no shortcut here. Every household should have an emergency fund set aside (ideally at least 3 months’ living expenses). If you don’t have one, this should be priority #1 and first on your list.

  5. Resolution: Don’t blow your tax refund!

    Make it stick:

    Set up proper tax withholding. Now that you have taken a literacy course, established an emergency fund and are paying cash for “fun money,” stop loaning money to Uncle Sam! While a big refund check may be fun to get, it’s poor cash-flow management. In the perfect scenario, your refund should be $0.00 and the extra money in your paycheck can be used to fund the savings goals outlined above.

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