Allworth Co-CEO Scott Hanson shares three ways to improve your relationship with money in 2023.
Human beings have been making New Year’s resolutions for thousands of years.
But just because studies say that most resolutions do not last does not mean you should ever give up trying.
I know several people whose lives have been altered for the better due to resolutions. And that is especially true when it comes to money.
Because while most resolutions are general in nature, such as, “I’m going to be healthier,” money is quantifiable; You can count it and measure it.
We are now over a month into the year, and whether you detest resolutions, or you have a tradition of making and keeping them, with the turn of the calendar year now in the rearview mirror, here are 3 things you should do to make 2023 a better one financially.
1. Save more by doing this
One of the biggest reasons so many resolutions fail is because they are too general.
Still others fail because they require you to make dauntingly large and sudden lifestyle changes, or they require 24/7 oversight.
All of us have changes we could make to live healthier or better lives. And this goes for money, as well.
But while “saving more” is a big picture resolution, depending on your financial situation and spending habits, it does not necessarily have to be difficult to achieve.
For those of you who have yet to retire, if you have access to a retirement savings plan, the first thing I would do is to “up” your automatic contributions. 1% more? 3% more? How about 5% more?
Go to either your employer’s plan administrator’s website, or your bank’s website, and “up” your contributions now.
2. Find the “sweet” spot between focusing on paying down debt and saving/investing
Debt is a thief. Yes, it is possible that like millions of Americans, you walked right into the debt trap on your own accord. But it is also just as likely that emergencies or inflation, or both, have conspired to increase your debt load well beyond what it was a year ago.
Think of this: Money that is not going out is the same as money coming in.
Lots of resolutions are aimed at paying off debt. But what if you feel you must choose between investing-and-saving more or paying off debt?
First, I would speak to your fiduciary advisor and really analyze your budget and your options. (If you do not have a qualified, fiduciary advisor, you need to get one. A fee-based advisor will not only work with you to evaluate and improve your entire financial situation, he or she will help you make dispassionate decisions about money.)
Now, as a flyover, if your debt is of the high interest variety (think credit cards), then while you should still attempt to “up” your retirement account contributions, while there are myriad exceptions, if it truly is one or the other (attacking debt or saving), you may want to focus on debt.
However, if the interest on your debt is low, say, your only debt is a mortgage, then the scales tip and I would probably focus more on saving and investing.
3. Vow to be more open and forthcoming with yourself or your partner about money
Most couples avoid conversations about money, and that’s just one way that little problems become big ones.
When I meet with certain couples for the first time, it is unfortunate to see the damage the stress that their inability to speak about money has had on the relationship.
But the only way out is through. And you must begin somewhere, or it will only get worse.
Fights about money are right at or near the top of the list of things about which couples argue. But here is a nice story: I was watching a clip the other day of a charming couple that had been married for 82 years. (Yes, 82!) Think of this: They were both born during WWI and before the Great Depression.
And do you know what they said? That the key to their successful union was the ability to be able to sit down and calmly discuss hard things like money.
Communicating about money takes courage and practice. If you and your partner are at an impasse, or, just as problematic, you do not fully understand how your partner views finance, I urge you to make this the time in your life where you resolve to build a bridge over that communication gap.
While I am not a marriage counselor, I am a money, investment, and retirement counselor. And I have found that anything that safely increases open communication and honesty about money typically tears down walls and brings people together.
If you are single, and you know that, on some level, your financial situation is not what it could be, then you need to be honest with yourself and make some tough decisions.
And if you are partnered, and you have issues discussing money, or if there’s confusion about what your goals are, make a vow that 2023 will be the year you work together and put miscommunication, or non-communication, about money behind you.