I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions because I tend to disappoint myself. Every January 1st, I envision a beautiful future—where I’m a marathon runner who meditates for an hour a day while being a gourmet chef who only cooks with fresh ingredients from my personal organic garden. The problem with this dream for my life is that on the morning of January 1st, my current reality is very distant from my goals. The truth is that I dislike running (even a mile), struggle with being silent (for more than ten seconds at a time), tend to cook little more than scrambled eggs, and I somehow manage to kill even the lowest maintenance succulents. My hopes and intentions for the new year might be noble and even worthy of an Instagram post, but they are so far-reaching that I will most likely give up on them rather quickly. By the end of the first week in January, I begin to feel like a failure.
Financial planning reminds me of New Year’s resolutions sometimes. Our financial goals are usually well-intentioned, aren’t they? We hope to retire one day, to own a home, to pay for our education or that of our loved ones, and to give generously to charitable causes, among other things. It’s so exciting to imagine what we will do in retirement, and we dream about the impact we will make through large gifts. But those financial achievements are daunting if we start from scratch, and most of us can’t reach our goals in a day or even a year. Often, our instinct might be to shut down when we feel overwhelmed. When it comes to financial planning and big resolutions for the new year, it’s easy to give up. Like many people who don’t go to the gym after the first week of January, we might just throw out all financial goals when we realize how far off they are.
My vision of being a farm-to-table chef in prime physical condition who can sit in meditative silence for long stretches of time is not in my immediate future. But there is a lot that I can do now. I can plant my first pot of herbs, increase my physical activity just a little bit each week, and set a timer to maintain a quiet state for a five-minute stretch. It gets me one step closer to my grand life vision.
Maybe it’s time for a reframe with regards to money as well. Let’s keep it simple— what is one attainable financial goal for 2022 that can get you a little closer to your big dreams? Maybe it starts by saving “x” dollars each month from your paycheck via auto draft, opening and making a small contribution to a 529 education savings account, or setting 20 minutes aside each Sunday morning to honestly look at your budget to see if your values align with your spending habits. These small steps might not be glamorous, but you might just stick with them. Creating better habits is really the goal and taking bite sized steps to get there can work really well. When we look back months (or years) later we’ll have made meaningful progress. And don’t forget, your team here at Woodward Financial Advisors is always here to help, too.
Written by Libby Boehne