Fidelity Investments reports that for the 10th consecutive year here are the top three financial resolutions Americans considered:
- Save More (48%)
- Pay down Debt (29%)
- Spend Less (15%)
Of those who had a financial resolution for 2018, a whopping 74 percent of them reported that they stuck with it. They could be fibbing, of course, so don’t feel bad about yourself if you were not among those who succeeded with your goals.
These resolutions share something in common: They require that you actually understand how much money is coming into your household and the amount that you spend. To do so, one thing is certain, technology makes tracking your money easier.
There are a host of free apps and Intuit’s Mint ranks at the top of the list. Mint allows you to see everything in one place, from bank account balances, to credit card bills, to retirement accounts. It also comes with a free credit score. Another free choice is Marcus by Goldman Sachs’ Clarity Money, a personal financial management tool that helps organize your financial life and uncover unwanted spending, so you can redirect those funds elsewhere.
In addition to the free app world, many users of You Need a Budget report that the $6.99/month cost (after an initial free 34-day trial) is worth it. It’s a great tool for the Students within your household, and they get the service free for 12 months.
If this sounds about as much fun as a root canal and you are inclined to blow it off, remember this: If you don’t know how the cash is coming in and out of your household, it’s hard to make informed decisions about your financial life. A little time spent upfront today can be the difference between working until you die or retiring comfortably. Some important questions to ask yourself today:
- How much money is really available to paydown your outstanding debt?
- Can you afford to push a little bit more toward your emergency reserve fund, so you have that comfy six to 12 months of living expenses socked away? Ditto for your retirement plan or college funding.
For those who already have the cash flow nailed and want to firm up your financial footing, you may consider buying a $149 subscription to ES-Planner’s software. Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff developed it to help people conduct their own planning. The service uses technology to “do lifetime budgeting, calculating how much to spend, save and insure each year to maintain your family’s living standard.” Perhaps it’s time to schedule that appointment with a CFP professional, a CPA-PFS or a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Make sure that any professional you engage adheres to the fiduciary standard, where they do what’s in your best interests not theirs!