A good New Year’s resolution doesn’t usually just pop into your head when the big ball drops in Times Square. Just like your financial planning, a little forethought before January 1st goes a long way towards setting good, actionable goals, and changing your life for the better.
As you’re working your way through the holiday bustle and thinking ahead to 2018, use these five tips to set solid resolutions that won’t melt away before the end of January.
1. Be specific.
A resolution like “I want to be healthier” is impossible to keep because it’s too big, too vague. Try asking yourself questions to focus a big goal down to something more specific. Asking, “How am I going to get healthier?” might lead you to a more achievable resolution, like, “I’m going to take a long walk through my neighborhood three days every week.”
“How am I going to lower my handicap?” Sign up for weekly golf lessons.
“How am I going to give more to my community?” Find a volunteer position.
“How am I going to improve my painting?” Enroll in an art class.
What about, “I want to visit my grandkids more.” Still too vague! Break out the calendar, talk to your family, and circle some important dates like graduations, performances, or sporting events. Maybe even try to block out a week next summer for a big family trip! Again, the more specific you make your goal, the happier you’re going to be with the result.
2. Don’t set the bar too high.
Now I am all for big thinking and setting the bar high, and it’s great if you want to challenge yourself and make a meaningful change in your life next year. But when it comes to resolutions, the smaller the better, and the easier the better. If a resolution is too difficult or too time-consuming, you’ll abandon it and make yourself miserable in the process.
Setting small goals can feel like we’re letting ourselves off too easily, but in fact the smaller the goal, the more likely we are to incorporate it into our routines. Going to the gym every single day is going to be tough, especially if you’re still working or have a family. But if you aim to hit a three-day-a-week goal, exercising will more likely become a healthy habit. Maybe you’ll start squeezing in a fourth workout, or a morning jog when you have a free hour.
3. Shake up your routine.
Successful retirees replace their old 9 to 5 work week with a new, invigorating schedule that revolves around their passions. If you’re a new retiree, make your resolution a part of your new schedule. If you’ve been retired for a while, and you’re starting to putter around the house a bit more than you’d like, pick a resolution that will shake things up a bit. Get a new activity on your weekly calendar. Take classes or lessons that will help you develop a hobby into a real skill. Set aside time every day to work on a project that matters to you, like writing, crafting, or researching a dream trip. Eventually these small steps towards your bigger goals will become habits that make your life in retirement more interesting, and more fulfilling.
4. Give yourself a break … and a reward!
A big reason people give up on resolutions is they get frustrated when they feel like they’re falling behind on their goals. I’ll be the first to admit that I have “all or none” tendencies and have been known to abandon a diet or workout regimen over just one slip! So let’s get this out of the way up front: You’re going to fall behind. You’re going to miss a workout because you’re sick. A snowstorm is going to ground your flight and keep you from a planned weekend with your grandkids. You’re not going to learn how to use that new piece of tech or computer software as quickly and effortlessly as you’d hoped.
And that’s OK! The important thing is that you cut yourself a little slack, and stay motivated to make up the lost ground.
Also, don’t start feeling like your resolution is a punishment for things you aren’t doing as well as you could. Self-improvement should be a positive experience. Build a few rewards into your scheduling and tracking routine – a night out with your spouse, a great dinner at the hot new restaurant – and hitting your goals will be even sweeter.
5. Make your resolution a group effort.
Friends, family, and community are great resources for keeping you motivated and holding you accountable. If you want to go to the gym more, find a workout buddy. If you want to read more, join a book club. If you want to travel to New York to watch the ball drop live in Times Square, drop me a note first – I can share with you some practical knowledge for making your own experience more enjoyable and manageable!
And if you’ve resolved to adjust your financial plan in 2018 to account for some big changes or new aspirations, make an appointment to talk to one of our fiduciary advisors at Keen Wealth. We’ll help you achieve the goals you set, putting actionable steps in place and keeping your retirement plan on course.
But getting on that treadmill … that’s up to you!
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 24 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
Keen Wealth Advisors is a Registered Investment Adviser. Nothing within this commentary constitutes investment advice, performance data or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Keen Wealth Advisors manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed here. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.