January 1 is just around the corner and that annual excitement is in the air, when you start thinking about fresh starts, turning over a new leaf and kicking off a New Year's money resolution.
To help you score a resolution win in 2017, you should consider fine-tuning your goal so you're primed for success. For starters, your goal should be specific. "I want to save more money" is fuzzy; "I want to put an extra $200 toward student loan debt each month" gives you a starting point and a tangible outcome. The other components of a rock-solid, reachable resolution? A realistic time frame, strategies for dodging roadblocks and a plan to maintain your motivation.
But even the most well-thought-out resolution game plan may not be enough if you don't have the support to help make it happen. That's where a surprising success strategy comes into play—talking about your goal with the people around you. It's something most of us know intuitively: According to the 2016 Money Habits & Confessions Survey by LearnVest, 74% of Americans agree that discussing a financial New Year’s resolution with others will make them more likely to stay the course.
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Of course, bringing up your money goals with friends and family can be crazy awkward. “Since money is such an intimate subject for a lot of people, it has traditionally been very shrouded—we’ve been raised to believe that talking about it is an intrusion,” says Maggie Baker, Ph.D, author of "Crazy About Money: How Emotions Confuse Our Money Choices and What to Do About It." What's more, she says, "It’s human nature to compare yourself with others in your social group, which can make financial conversations uncomfortable."
Whatever your money resolution focuses on, here are three ways it pays to push past the awkwardness and go public.
You’ll Have Someone to Answer to
Staying mum on your resolution can tempt you to slack off, since nobody is keeping tabs on your progress. But spreading the word holds you accountable—and makes you more likely to follow through. In a Dominican University study released in 2015, 62% of people who shared their goals with a friend had either accomplished them or were at least halfway there four weeks later, compared to 43% of those who’d kept their ambitions to themselves. And the success rate was even higher among those who sent weekly progress reports to their buddies, climbing to 76%.
The takeaway? This extra motivation to deliver good news and not let your friends down plays an important role in staying the course. “Ask a friend to check in with you once a month,” Baker suggests. That text or tap on the shoulder asking you how things are going reinforces your commitment, she adds.
You’ll Nail Down the Details
We already mentioned that mapping out specifics can help you become a money resolution success story. But talking through your goal with trusted friends can help with this by encouraging you to go into even more detail about your resolution—and all the ways you'll get around potential problems. You could get an even stronger handle on how to navigate temptations (like avoiding the mall during end-of-season sales) and what action items you need to complete to help reach your goal (such as automating bills).
After you share your goal, encourage friends to fire off questions about your plan of attack: Will you still splurge on restaurant meals? Will you increase your 401(k) contributions? Rather than a vague pledge, you’ll be compelled to firm up your plan—which, as we've stated, is a key element of success. Research bears this out: According to one University of Missouri study, focusing on how you’ll achieve a goal ups your odds of hitting your target.
You’ll Boost Your Motivation
You know how fun it is to talk about a trip in advance: deciding where you’ll stay, the kinds of food you’ll eat and the new things you’ll try while you’re there. Obviously, mapping out a budget or boosting your retirement contributions are far cries from organizing a vacation in the Turks & Caicos. Still, discussing your intentions ahead of time with a friend who’s enthusiastic about your mission gives you one more way to supercharge your motivation.
“Excitement has a mirroring effect that can help you stay focused on the positive,” Baker says. “Instead of thinking about what an uphill slog it’s going to be to tighten your purse strings, you’ll imagine the reduction of worry and sense of pride you’ll feel next year, once you’ve made financial progress.”
In other words, sharing your goal gives you a cheerleader along the way, someone to help celebrate your wins and boost your morale. A friend's support lessens the likelihood that you’ll throw in the towel after an unplanned budget binge, for example. And continuing to share details of your progress will give you those periodic mojo boosts that are crucial to helping make a resolution stick.
We know money isn't the most comfortable thing to talk—or even think—about. So we're here to help! Save your goal and we'll help you stick with it at learnvest.com/havethetalk!