3 Secrets to Help You Reach Your Money Goals

Julia Chang
Posted

successYou’ve already made a commitment to your money by joining the LearnVest Action Program.

Today, in our first edition of the “Achieve” newsletter, we’re going to let you in on new research that can help you reach your goals even faster.

The first step is making a financial resolution.

Why? According to researchers at the University of Scranton, the success rate of people who set resolutions is 10 times higher than those who desire a change, but don’t specify it as a “resolution.”

Think about your financial plan that your LearnVest Expert gave you: What’s on your roadmap to achieve with your money? Can you picture it—and, by that, we mean exactly how much you want to save? Or what vacation will you take next, and by when?

Now, we’ll let you in on another little-known secret: There’s a reason that most of us fall short of achieving our resolutions, despite our best intentions. In fact, those same behavior change researchers say that while nearly half of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% of us tend to meet them by year’s end.

We know you’re serious about your money, which is why we’re here to help you be part of that elite crowd with follow-through.

Why Only 8% of Us Fulfill Our New Year’s Resolutions

According to John Norcross, the professor of psychology who headed up the University of Scranton study, one of the biggest mistakes many of us make is creating goals that are too vague. “We say if you can’t measure it, it’s not a very good resolution, because vague goals beget vague resolutions,” he told NPR. After all, saying “I want to lose 10 pounds by next December” is much easier to wrap your head around than merely saying, “I want to lose some weight.”

That advice doesn’t apply just to shedding a few post-holiday pounds; it can also be crucial for your financial goals, whether it’s something you want to accomplish in the next few months (like opening that IRA by March) or in the next few decades (like owning a beach home in Key West, surrounded by your grandkids).

Where to begin? Envision your goals as clearly and specifically as you can. We recommend writing down your resolution, or even breaking out the paper and crayons and drawing your biggest financial goal, in full color. 

To help, we asked LearnVest founder and C.E.O. Alexa von Tobel for her advice on sticking with goals in the long run, including a special visualization exercise excerpted from her new book, “Financially Fearless: The LearnVest Program for Taking Control of Your Money,” just for you, our premium members.

Alexa’s 3 Secrets to Help You Reach Your Goals

1. See the “winning” you. Visualization, or the act of composing a mental image of yourself completing a behavior, is an age-old technique athletes use to prepare for competition—in fact, one historic study by psychology professor Alan Richardson found that basketball players who pictured themselves successfully making free throws, but barely practiced, improved their actual performance nearly as much as those who practiced a lot. “Visualizing your future goals can be incredibly powerful and make you feel more confident about achieving them,” says Alexa.

2. Put pen to paper. Keeping those big ideas in your head won’t get you where you want to go. Researchers from Dominican University found that people who wrote down their goals were more likely to reach them. “It’s important to include specific details and write them in present tense—even if those goals are still years away,” says Alexa. In other words, write “I have $50,000 in savings,” not “I want to have $50,000 in savings.” And keep it positive: “I live in sunny Los Angeles,” versus “I’ve left a hideously cramped apartment in the Northeast.” Norcross says these types of techniques take you from the “contemplation” stage to the “action” stage of moving toward a goal.

3. Become a storyteller. We want to do good things with our money because doing so helps us lead the lives we want. This more real version of Mad Libs, taken directly from Alexa’s book, will help you bring your longer-term goals into clearer focus. Just fill in the blanks with your ideal life.

It’s a Wednesday in June and you’re 65. Fill in the blanks to craft your future life:

I wake up at __ a.m. I live in ____, and I’m happy to be here because ____. I spend my morning ____ . Then it’s off to ____, where I ___. In the afternoon, I____. Throughout the day, I spend time with ____, _____ and ____. As the day winds down, I _____. 

And remember, there are no right or wrong answers. It’s your life and your goals—and there’s no better time to get started.

LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc. that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Please consult a financial adviser for advice specific to your financial situation. LearnVest Planning Services and any third-parties listed, discussed, identified or otherwise appearing herein are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies.