It started with the Babylonians, the idea of new year’s resolutions. With a 10-month calendar, March heralded their new year, kicked off with a festival to honor their gods and curry favor in hopes of good crops. When Roman emperor Julius Caesar introduced the 12-month Julian calendar, moving the first day of the new year to January 1 and honoring Janus, the god of beginnings, the idea of  personally looking forward cemented the tradition of annual resolutions.

According to goskills.com, the top 10 most popular resolutions are exercise more; lose weight; get organized; learn a new skill or hobby; live life to the fullest; save more money/spend less money; quit smoking; spend more time with family and friends; travel more; and read more.

What does your list look like? For many of us, our top 10 list for 2020 may look suspiciously like last year’s. That’s okay. Finishing what you resolved to do last year is a worthy goal. Take it to a higher level of perfection and actualization.

Within a financial life planning context, how does money play into your resolutions?  Some of the resolutions noted fall into the “fuzzy goal” category.

“Live life to the fullest.” What does that mean? The pursuit of meaning and purpose often transcends money into a spiritual realm. It may touch on relationships, philanthropy, stewardship, a cause. It may mean a major life transition. It may include some of the other nine goals in some shape or form. Good money habits most likely will play a part in your rejuvenation on the path to a more fulfilling life. How do your resolutions impact your life partner, family, children, others who love you and/or depend on you in some way?

Saving more money may depend on increasing your income and long-term earning power. That may require upping your skills, learning new things, changing jobs or careers, finishing or adding to your education, paying for coaching or other consultative assistance. It may mean cutting expenses to redirect money into self-improvement and the building of savings and emergency reserves. Comprehensive tax-planning may put more dollars in your pocket. Don’t focus so intensely on tax-reporting for 2019 that you delay strategizing a tax-efficient plan for 2020 and beyond.

Recalling the Hebrew proverb, “Man plans, God laughs,” did you finish updating your will, powers of attorney for assets and health care, and trust documents if applicable? Stuff happens, even to the young. If you don’t have things in order, consult your adviser and get it done. If you don’t have sufficient life insurance, will the life plans, goals, and dreams of those who depend on you be dashed if you don’t come home one day? How will sickness, serious injury or permanent disability impact your plans? Or how will infirmity on the part a spouse, elderly parent, minor or adult child, effect your life and plans? How would jarring surprises be paid for, dealt with? If you’re part of a larger family, who does what?

If you’re a closely held business owner, C-suite executive, key person in an enterprise, what resolutions might involve growing the value of the business, providing for growth and continuity should you or any key person die, is permanently disabled, retires, departs the firm for any reason? How would “what if’s?” impact your family, employees, investors, customers or clients who count on your enterprise? Irrespective of position, what have you determined to do to further your skills, upgrade your value to the firm, your end game being financial independence?

Resolve to follow the formula enunciated by Stephen Covey in his impactful book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

“Begin with the end in mind.” With any goal, with any significant life transition (forced or chosen), what do you want to experience? What end result do you seek?

Avoid the fuzzy-goal syndrome. Relative to any resolution, words like “someday,” “maybe,” “I think…,” mean you have not created a solid plan. Declare, “I will!” Set a timeline for accomplishment, including a funding and progress-tracking plan. When it comes to losing weight and exercise, there’s an app for that. Travel? Figure out what it will cost today for a given trip, set a date, add an inflation factor if it’s a year or more out, and start saving in a “trip account.” For “family time,” respected travel and tour operators offer active “family adventures” in America and globally catering to varied interests. See your travel agent.

Charles Kettering, 1876-1958, American inventor, engineer and successful businessman said, “Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas and progress.” Jan. 1, 2020, heralds a new leaf with new resolutions. But if your goals are not backed by a specific plan, with progress checks and mileposts, funding if need be, you only have a pipedream, a “will o’ the wisp” nothing burger. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-3553;lewis@lewwalker.com.  Securities & advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of  SFA, otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He’s a Gallup Certified Clifton Strengths Coach and Certified Exit Planning Advisor.

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