It is wise, from time to time, to stop and evaluate our lives as we seek to make the most of them.
The start of a new year provides a natural opportunity to look back and offers an extra push toward new adjustments going forward. That’s why New Year’s resolutions are so popular. But you don’t need to wait until December 31—you can decide on one of these goals any time of the year.
If you are looking for some changes in your financial circumstances, here are the ten best personal finance goals to consider. Choose just one or two to accomplish now and you’ll be surprised at the difference in your life:
10 Important Personal Finance Goals For 2021
1. Save $1,000. Less than 40% of Americans have one thousand dollars in savings, but almost every successful financial wellness plan available today includes the creation of a $1,000 Emergency Fund. Finding that much money overnight might be difficult. But if you can find $83/month to put away, you’ll complete this resolution by the end of the year… and be in better financial position than 60% of the country!
2. Make one extra payment (over the course of the year) on your mortgage. One extra monthly payment per year on your mortgage shortens the length of your loan by 4-5 years. You can spread this out over the course of the year or plan now to direct an expected windfall toward it (tax refund, year-end bonus, etc.).
3. Put money into retirement (any amount). Your year of retirement is now one year closer. That is true for every single one of us. But 78 percent of Americans, say they are extremely or somewhat concerned about not having enough money for retirement. There is only one way to change that—start saving. Even if it’s just a little. If you haven’t saved anything yet, find out this year how to open an account, put some money in, and begin directing a percentage toward it each month.
4. Embrace a 2-week Shopping Ban to challenge your shopping habits. Pick the dates, mark them now, and commit yourself to not spending a single dollar for two weeks (groceries may be a worthy exception). There’s no downside to the experiment—only upside. You’ll learn more about yourself, rethink your consumption habits, and save some money along the way.
5. Sell $200 worth of clutter. The premise is very simple. Turn your unwanted stuff into cash money. Free your home of clutter and build up savings along the way! Minimizing your stuff is a win-win—this is probably the biggest no-brainer on the entire list. If you’re looking for help knowing what to get rid, check out some of the suggestions offered in The Minimalist Home.
6. Increase your credit score. Many credit cards provide free access to your FICO score. The thing about credit scores is this: It’s important to have a good one whenever you need it, but we don’t always know when that’s going to be. So find a way to check yours now and make a commitment to improve it by the end of year. Here are seven reputable ways you can do that.
7. If you are a dual-income family, seek to save one spouses’ entire salary. One of the best pieces of financial advice I ever received was this one from a mentor just prior to my marriage, “If you and your wife are both working, determine to live on only one salary and put the entirety of the other person’s salary into savings.” We did exactly that… living on $30k/year… and set ourselves up for financial success at the very beginning. This resolution will take planning and won’t likely happen as soon as the calendar turns to January, but it is a goal you should choose to work toward in 2021.
8. Make a budget. No seriously, do it, this year. No more stalling. You’ve been told the importance of setting a budget since you were in high school (or maybe even younger). If you haven’t, do it now. No more putting it off. This is the year! If you’ve found traditional-style budgets don’t work for you, try something with a different approach, like a spending plan.
9. Invest money in the stock market. Buying stock is essentially the same as saying, “I trust that Jeff Bezos knows how to make money better than me.” And with new and free apps like Robin Hood with no minimums, getting started investing in companies you believe in has never been easier. Take any dollar amount (even as small as $10 or $20) and find a stock or mutual fund to invest in. You’ll learn a lot and likely grow your money in the process.
10. Become a recurring monthly giver to one charity. Most people with a beating heart want to live generous lives. We all desire to solve problems and support causes we believe in. For most people, the only thing keeping them back is they can’t seem to find the extra margin to do so. Stop waiting for excess money to be left at the end of the month to get started, Instead, decide to get started today—right now. Pick one charity and set yourself up as a recurring monthly giver—even if it’s just $2-$5 per month. Not only will you feel good solving problems in the world, the action will show you that you do have the margin to give.
Adopting all ten resolutions is almost certainly too much to ask. But choose one or two specifically that will help you and you can be passionate about. You’ll be surprised how quickly they make a difference in your outlook toward personal finance.