Since it's just fifteen days until the end of the year, it's time for you to take a look back at how your financial life has changed this year.
Did you have little or big goals for 2016? Did you reach them? Did you promise yourself that you would save a certain amount of money this year to pay off debt, save for a special goal like a home, car, your children's education, or that you would ramp up your retirement savings? Do you feel good because you did it? Or are you in the same place you were last January with little accomplished and those credit card bills coming due in January without a chance of paying them off next month.
You don't have to answer these questions to anyone but yourself and your family. You know what you did or didn't do. I am not trying to make you feel good or bad. I just want you to look at "reality". Take a good hard assessment of where you were in January 2016 and where you are today.
Did you have high hopes a year ago but through a lack of effort or procrastination you are still in the same place? Or did you have high hopes and worked really hard to get where you are now?
I have learned a lot over the years about procrastination. I used to drag my feet kicking and screaming. I still have moments of procrastination when I just don't want to do something that I know I should. An example: Running to the grocery store for a few things without a list and just throwing anything in my cart. Why? Because I was tired that day and just plain lazy. Well that cost us a lot of extra money. I try not to do that at all anymore. If I don't have the list made and the coupons pulled, I just don't go until a day that I do. There is always enough food in the house that it doesn't matter what day I go.
Financial procrastination is the same as procrastinating about whether you will shampoo your carpets or wash your floors today. You really don't feel like you want to do it even though you know you should. Putting off the cleaning work for a week or two may not hurt anything. But ignoring your financial situation for a week or two could cost you money such as paying interest or a penalty because you forgot to pay a bill. Ignoring your financial goals will cost you in the long run.
I can't tell you how many times over the years I have heard people say I am trying to get us to a debt free situation, trying to save for a vacation, retirement, or a child's education but I just can't do it. I have heard a million and one excuses as to why but never the real one. The reason most people don't chip away at the credit cards and pay them off is because they lack interest in doing it. It's one thing to say you will, it's another to do the hard work it takes to get there.
So many people don't like to give up anything to make their financial situation better. So if they want to go on that vacation, they just put it on a credit card even though they are thousands of dollars in debt. Why because they deserve it? Give me a break. They are shooting themselves in the foot.
There is one thing that people in debt do that to me is really, really scary. They throw their money away all year on meals eaten out, going to sports games, concerts or other forms of entertainment but when the school or property taxes come due, they charge them. This is Russian roulette. If you can't afford to actually pay cash for the property or school taxes, you should be downsizing your home into a cheaper area for those things. Perhaps you would be money ahead renting.
As far as saving for any goal, I have heard the following excuse too many times. I don't have enough money to save any. Okay I will agree if you are in debt. Get rid of that first but only after you have saved some for an emergency fund. You don't want to have to charge more for an emergency. But it is hard for me to believe that even on the lowest income, you can't save a dollar or two a week.
Even when Hubby was in college and we were on one income, we put a few dollars away every week. There is always a way to save on something or go without something to do that.
I can try to motivate you to get to your goals but you have to take action or you won't get there. Inaction will kill any plan.
You can continue to go down the debt path for 30-40 years and end up poor in retirement. But don't blame anyone but yourself. You did it and no one did it to you.
I am not saying that you should give everything up today so that you can save for tomorrow. I am saying there is a balance. Save a certain percentage for tomorrow while still enjoying a happy, healthy life.
After you are debt free, continue to put that money that you used to pay off that debt into savings or investments earmarked for the goals that are important to you. There is nothing that motivates you more than looking at those savings growing year after year and knowing that you will reach your goals.
So now is the time to think about the actions you will take in 2017 to get to where you want to be in life. If you reached your goals in 2016, congratulations! If you didn't, think about what you can do better. After you do that, write down your goals for 2017 and know that you will do better. That is what new years are all about. I am wishing you all much success and hard work in 2017.
All of this is written to get you thinking, not to scold anyone. If I have motivated just one person for 2017 then I am happy. As always, I want you all to be successful with your goals. I know it is a busy time of the year with Christmas upon us, planning for taxes, etc. But please don't neglect planning your financial life for 2017.
On Monday, I will post some of the things that I will be doing in the New Year that fit into our plan.