Julie Jason: Use resolutions to start your financial plan

Writing New Year's Resolutions - stock photo

Writing New Year's Resolutions - stock photo

Nora Carol Photography/Getty Images

Now that it’s the start of a fresh new year, I’m hoping you have a few financial resolutions ready to go. If you’re resolving to save more, you are not alone. “Save more money” is the top financial resolution for next year among those considering a resolution, according to the recently released Fidelity 2021 Financial Resolutions Study (tinyurl.com/y95r66t6).

I like that, but I’d like it even better if your resolution included what you wanted to do with the money you saved, along with a plan for the future.

In my world of portfolio management, I’d like you to “save more and invest the savings for the future.” The future might be preparing for retirement (my favorite goal for anyone who wants to retire someday).

If you’re not investing that savings, you might need it to pay off debt, a worthy goal (43 percent chose “pay down debt” as their top resolution in the Fidelity study). Or, you might want to consume the savings by purchasing something you would like to have: a TV, a new car or, when the time is right, a much-needed post-COVID-19 vacation.

No matter what your personal situation calls for, consider this: It’s not an all-or-nothing calculus. Your savings can have multiple goals. For example: half to retirement; a quarter to paying off student loan debt; quarter for purchases. Of course, the figures will depend on your age and your circumstances, all the foundation of a personal financial plan.

Before going any further, let me ask you: How have you done with financial resolutions in the past? Did you stick to them? Did they cause you to start thinking differently about saving and investing for the future, and the importance of a big-picture financial plan? That would be the biggest benefit of putting a financial resolution in play.

When asked by Fidelity, 77 percent of those surveyed who worked with a financial professional said they were able to stick to their financial resolution in 2020, compared with 50 percent of those who did not have a financial professional.

That’s an interesting tidbit. I can definitely see the benefit of getting your financial professional on board to help you with saving and investing for retirement — and creating a plan for the future.

It’s certainly worth a talk: “I’m saving for retirement this year. Help me set up a plan that will make it easy for me to not only automate the savings but also to invest wisely for the future.”

Finally, we all have to admit that this new year is different. COVID-19 will not disappear overnight, and in fact, COVID-19’s impact on the economy is the biggest financial worry for 46 percent of those surveyed. That’s well ahead of those who cited unexpected expenses (35 percent) or the rising cost of food and other day-to-day essential items (34 percent).

It can be tempting to skip resolutions altogether and wait out the virus.

I encourage you, however, to engage now.

Times may not be as bad as they may seem. A majority (72 percent) of those surveyed by Fidelity are confident they will be in a better financial position in 2021 than they were in 2020.

A financial resolution is the start of something good — a move in the right direction toward a plan of action that can help a family survive and thrive in the best of times and the worst of times.

And, as always when planning is involved, there is no better time than now to get going on those goals.

Julie Jason, JD, LLM, a personal money manager (Jackson, Grant of Stamford) and author, welcomes your questions/comments (readers@juliejason.com). Her awards include the 2018 Clarion Award, symbolizing excellence in clear, concise communications. Her latest book, a curated collection of Julie’s columns, is “Retire Securely: Insights on Money Management From an Award-Winning Financial Columnist.” To hear Julie speak, visit juliejason.com/events.