Yes, You Can Keep Your Money Resolutions in 2011

“Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.” - Mark Twain

My blog today is inspired by a recently aired PBS special by motivational author and speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer titled “Excuses Begone!” It is a fitting time of year for Dr. Dyer’s message as we reminisce on the past year and examine what we wish to change in the coming one.

As the month of January is the busiest time of year for fitness centers across the country, after the holiday gift giving and spending it certainly is the time most renew our good intentions to grab a deeper hold over our financial lives. And while financial resolutions to save more, manage debt, or reap the financial benefits of dropping bad habits don’t require much in terms of physical exertion, the mental challenges for many of us to tackle things we may not understand — and certainly don’t imagine we will enjoy — can be as difficult to maintain as any workout routine.

In “Excuses Begone!” Dr. Dyer systematically refutes all of the ‘mind viruses’ that keep us from keeping our resolutions, and provides wisdom and actions to achieve the change in behaviors we want in our lives. Below are a few nuggets of wisdom frequently taught by Dr. Dyer that provide the starting point for making and meeting our resolutions:

  • Never underestimate your power to change yourself (or overestimate your power to change others).

  • When you correct your thoughts, everything else falls into place. Fixing ‘self-talk’ is critical to build new money habits.

  • It doesn’t need to take a long time to change thoughts – only effort. Spend time thinking about past self-talk scripts you tell yourself that have hindered your progress, and replace them with a positive and motivating truth.

  • Find a rational reason to change. What is the positive end that will make things better? Remind yourself of that reason frequently.

  • Protect your goals, don’t share them! While you may truly have the goal of running a marathon, revealing it to others creates an environment where you have to defend your goal, and can feel guilt for not achieving your milestones. Instead, allow others to see by your actions of running every day the positive changes you are making.

  • To change from negative to positive habits, consciously examine your actions and realize what choices you are making today that are keeping you from the positive outcome you desire.

Next, lay-out your goals and the steps for meeting them. For more detail see my past blog on goal setting for examples of the power of goals, how to develop written goals, and more tools from the FPA to help.

And to help get you off the starting blocks, below is a template you can use along with a few common example goals:

  1. Savings

  • Reason for change – increase safety cushion, decrease reliance on credit, build nest egg for retirement

  • Possible goals – establish an emergency reserve of 6 months of expenses, get a head start on variable expense items like a car replacement fund, and increase savings to retirement plans.

  • Date & amount – begin weekly contributions to savings accounts of $10/week re-examining that amount monthly, increase 401(k) savings to at least 10% and by 1% more annually

  • Next action steps – research online FDIC-insured savings banks and open an account in the next week, call my 401(k) custodian tomorrow

  • Negative thoughts that have impaired progress – “I can’t afford to save money.”

  • Replacement thought – “I can find $10/week or 1% of my salary in my budget to start a savings habit, and will try to increase that amount monthly.”

  1. Spending

  • Reason for change – to meet savings goals, to be able to save more effectively.

  • Goal – have a better idea of spending patterns and where money goes, to reduce non-essential spending to meet savings goal of at least 15-20% of income.

  • Date & amount – track expenses over the next month, increase savings by $100/month within the next two months.

  • Next action steps – research online tools like and alternative software this week, decide on how to track spending next week.

  • Negative thoughts that have impaired progress – “I’m not good at learning new ways of doing things, especially with computers.”

  • Replacement thought – “Spending the time to learn something new upfront will lead to years of benefits in better understanding where my money goes.”

  1. Personal financial knowledge

  • Reason for change – to alleviate the stress that finances can cause in our lives.

  • Goal – become more knowledge about financial topics.

  • Date & amount – spend an hour a week reading personal finance books or websites like FPA’s All Things Financial Planning Blog.

  • Next step – sign-up for the blog’s RSS feed, find the personal finance section of your local library.

  • Negative thoughts that have impaired progress – “I won’t stick to it. I don’t have the time.”

  • Replacement thought – “Spending just a little time will ease my financial concerns as I will be better equipped to deal with stresses over money. I can make time for finances by reducing time spent on and unsubscribing from lists for other topics.”

The preceding blog was originally published by the Financial Planning Association®(FPA®). To view the original blog please visit the FPA Web site.


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Detroit, Ann Arbor, and online fee-only, fiduciary financial advisor blog / podcast on retirement, investments, economy, taxes, 401k, 403b, Roth, IRAs