5 Money Goals: A Therapist and a CFP Explain How to Reach Them

Jane Bianchi

focus goalsThink back to January: What money resolutions did you decide to go gangbusters on? Maybe this was the year you decided you’d get down to a $0 credit card balance. Or maybe you’re determined to boost your retirement savings come hell or high water.

Guess what? By June you’ll have a nearly 50/50 chance of following through on those goals, according to research from the University of Scranton. That’s because we all lose motivation over time: The behavior-change scientists found that at the six-month mark, 40% to 46% of folks were still keeping up with their resolutions.

Of course, you’re better off than most already: You have an Action Program in place, and you know which goals you’re gunning for. But if you could use a little motivational push, don’t worry—that means you’re only human.

To help you keep making progress, we asked a psychologist and one of our own LearnVest Planners to look at five of the most common financial resolutions and pinpoint the biggest mental hurdle associated with each. Then they explained ways to try to sidestep it. Here’s to your momentum!

1. Saving More Money

Deep in your gut you know you need to save. Looking, superficially, at your bank balance, you know you need to save, because you never know when a financial emergency might strike. Or you simply need to jump-start saving for a big goal you already have: a new car, a home or big trip. Even when you have the best of intentions, why can it get so difficult to stay disciplined?

The Mental Hurdle: You might be too focused on the short term and not enough on the long term, says Fran Walfish, Psy.D., a psychotherapist in Beverly Hills. For example, you might think that saving, say, $50 a month is insignificant and therefore not worth stashing away, so you spend it on a fancy dinner instead. (The thinking: It’s just $50 bucks!) ”The truth is, even a small amount builds up if you keep doing it,” says Walfish. You could stay more motivated if you focus on your end goal: The $600 you’ll have at the end of the year, as opposed to the $50 you’re waffling about this week.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Retrain Your Brain to Save More for Retirement

Help Yourself Stay on Track: One of the keys to continuous saving is taking human deliberation out of the equation and automating as much as you can, says LearnVest Planning Services CFP® David Blaylock. You may already have completed your challenges to automate savings transfers, but think about what else you could be putting on autopilot. For example, could you open another online savings account, name it for your big goal and automate your deduction of $50 to that? “When money is out of sight, it’s out of mind. If you can keep the money out of your hands, that’s helpful,” says Blaylock.

Also make sure you’re keeping tabs on your priority goals in your Money Center. Watching how those trickle-in transfers grow over time can help keep you motivated.