Taking A Financial Road-trip….
February 1, 2013 § 1 Comment
Just a few weeks ago, we marked the start of 2013. There was the usual excitement about the New Year and enthusiasm for reforming habits. Each year, commitments around improving personal finances make up more than 1/3 of all resolutions. As the weeks wear on though, the holiday bills come due, the heating bill soars and sticking to your goal seems impossible. You are not alone. Nearly 1/2 of resolution-makers abandon their plans before January closes. But, getting back on track may not be as tough as it seems. Reflecting on how you navigate through life may help you adjust your money management habits and increase your chances of success.
Remember, life is one big road trip…and that includes your financial life. The way you plan for getting to your destination behind the wheel tells a lot about your personality. Are you lost without your GPS, or do your prefer plot your route with your trusty-map and highlighter in hand? Think about how you travel the road and apply it to your finances.
GPS’ers: Plug in your destination, decide on a catchy name for your computer generated voice (Gertrude is mine) and do EXACTLY what she tells you. Autopilot all the way! She’ll get you there for sure (although you may be routed through Canada along the way from Chicago to Boston). Never fear though, you WILL arrive at your destination in time to enjoy a cup of “chowdah”.
If you are a GPS traveler when it comes to money, you need to find tools to automate your financial life. To control your budget, use your bank’s automatic bill-paying service. Take advantage of retirement plans offered by your employer and sign up for the automatic paycheck deductions into the plan. Ask your employer if you can split your paycheck into two bank accounts. Use one for your monthly expenses, and allocate the remainder to a second account earmarked just for saving.
Map-Maven: Do you love to gaze at the crisscrossing patterns of the roads? When someone mentions a legend, do you instinctively look for the little box at the bottom of a page, rather than Tony Bennett? Does the feel of damp paper soaked with yellow highlighter ink bring a smile to your face?
If you answered yes, you definitely prefer hands-on control of your road trip, and will probably enjoy taking personal control of your financial life as well. For you, a program like Mint (www.mint.com) will allow you to analyze exactly how you spend your money so you can improve and track your progress each month. A program like StickK (www.stickK.com) incentivizes you to reach your goals (financial and otherwise). Most people who use StickK select a financial penalty (although it’s not required) for wavering from their goals. But, the program allows you to pay your penalty to a loved one or donate it to one of 8 selected charities. (For instance, if dining out is what derails your budget, set a StickK goal to spend less than $100 a month on eating out or pay a $10 penalty.) Programs like Smarty Pig (www.smartypig.com) and Payoff (www.payoff.com) offer a game-like atmosphere for setting and achieving your saving and debt-reduction goals.
Start by knowing the type of road-trip navigator you are, and apply the same style to your financial life. But most of all, don’t quit. February is almost here! Even if you have had a detour in your financial plans in the past couple of weeks, find the tools that work for you and get back on the road to financial success.
This guest-post is by long-time friend of Pinnacle, Michelle B. Glassburn. Michelle is a non-profit executive, financial education advocate, and mother of two based outside of Boston, Massachusetts. You can follow Michelle on Twitter @M_Glassburn.