Financial Tips

I’m a Financial Advisor, and These Are My Top 3 Tips for Sticking To Your Financial-Health Goals in 2021

Erin Bunch

Photo: Getty Images/Westend61

Financial wellness, or the ability to live without debilitating financial stress, is integral to an individual’s overall well-being. Many of us aspire to reach a state of fiscal health, which may be why it’s common to center New Year’s resolutions or goals around money. In fact, according to a survey of more than 3,000 adults by Fidelity Investments conducted in October, 65 percent of us were predicted to have made financial resolutions for 2021.

Whether your specific money goal for the year ahead involves increasing your savings, decreasing debt, spending less on Postmates, being able to make ends meet, or anything else, January is a great time for committing to improving your financial picture and (ideally) decreasing your stress and anxiety in the process. Still, such goals tend to be ineffective if you don’t have a detailed plan by which to power them.

One great way to ensure follow-through and success is to work with a financial advisor; another great way is to get free advice from one on the internet. Below Winnie Sun, the financial advisor currently changing my life, satisfies both ways by offering her tips and tricks for setting—and sticking to—your 2021 fiscal resolutions.

How to stick to your resolutions

1. Get specific

According to the Fidelity Investments survey, some have reported success in sticking to past financial resolutions when the resolutions were specific. For example, you could designate a dollar amount or percentage you want to save, reduce your spending by, or pay your debt down by. And if your goal is to make more money, assign a dollar amount or percentage to that, too.

Sun then recommends writing down that specific goal posting it somewhere visible, like on a mirror or on your work desk, to help keep your resolution top of mind every single day of year.

From there, to make bigger goals achievable, you’ll want to break them down into smaller, micro-size goals, too. That way, your brain gets a hit of the happy, motivating neurotransmitter dopamine with every small success, which keeps you pushing towards progress.

2. Be realistic (but also, push yourself!)

For instance, don’t do like I do each year and resolve to have six figures saved by December when your current savings is basically nonexistent and your income isn’t expected to skyrocket. Committing to a goal that isn’t tied to a realistically achievable blueprint can often mean setting yourself up for failure, making letting yourself off the hook that much easier.

Win’s advice? Before assigning a percentage or amount, talk to a financial advisor or assess your financial picture. Then set goals you know you can start working towards achieving immediately. So, let’s say you want to save $10,000. Work backwards from there to figure out how much less money you’d have to spend each month to accumulate those savings, and then see if that’s feels doable to you. If it’s not, lower your goal.

3. Reward yourself

Regular rewards are important if you want to see yourself through to a goal and then repeat similar goal achievement in the future.

“It’s really important to celebrate when you make a win…those that do so are consistently much happier people.” —Winnie Sun, financial advisor

“It’s really important to celebrate when you make a win…those that do so are consistently much happier people,” Sun says. “So if you’re really good about not spending more than $100 on splurges for the month, you have to make sure you have a celebratory [non-costly] event. Otherwise you’re not going to want to repeat that exercise.”

If can’t make any financial resolutions for 2021, that’s okay, too

For a lot of people, setting financial goals for 2021 is not possible right now. 2020 was a tough year, to say the least, and as a result savings might be a serious pipe dream. “The most important thing to focus on right now is survival,” says Sun. “Don’t overstretch yourself with resolutions—those can wait.”

Sun also notes that if you’re in trouble financially, some of the best aid you can access is likely to be found at the local level as opposed to the federal (the paltry stimulus checks are hardly enough to live on, for instance). In some cases you might be able to get help paying things like rent and even utilities through local programs and grants. And in the meantime, she says it’s important to be kind to yourself. “Give yourself grace,” she says. “The important thing right now is just figuring out how to get by week by week.”

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