Greetings and Happy New Year!
Some 4,000 years ago, the Babylonians rang in the new year by making promises to pay debts and return borrowed farm equipment. Since then, people across the globe have rung in the new year with vows to make improvements in their lives. Like magic, the stroke of midnight sends folks scurrying toward the shiny, hopeful promise of a fresh start, leaving the tattered old year behind. As they say: new year, new me. Right?
Probably not. Eighty percent of people who make new year resolutions will abandon them by mid-February.
Not to be all doom and gloom in our first newsletter of the year, but it’s hard to deny we’re overdue for a fresh approach to new year goal-setting. For starters, let’s nix the idea that a trip around the sun calls for a complete identity reinvention.
Instead of resolutions, I’m trying something new this year by choosing some guiding principles, or intentions. Intentions feel kinder, less black-and-white, and more easily woven into the fabric of daily life.
Maybe you skipped the resolutions this year or haven’t gotten around to making any yet. Maybe you’ve already broken a few. Everyone’s situation is unique, but hopefully these six intentions offer a nugget of inspiration as we settle into the new year. And, since this is Life with Money, there are suggestions for practicing each intention in one’s financial life.
As one roller-coaster year loops into another, slowing down can prove challenging. This year, I’m catching my breath by carving out time to reflect, and I invite you to join me. Let’s start by taking a moment to regroup and review: Where have we been? Where are we going? What matters the most? How might we get there?
LWM: For your financial life, this is as good a time as any to reflect on your game plan. Have your goals or timelines changed? Are there new priorities on the horizon to prepare for? (A ‘yes’ is a sign you might be due for a check-in with your advisor.)
Daily walks around the neighborhood are a new and beloved pastime in my household. My partner has a keen eye for urban wildlife and unabashed love of snow. Each walk together is a reminder to delight in the everyday and to stop and smell the (actual) roses. These little mindful moments are an opportunity for gratitude and a perspective shift—I’m hoping for many more this year.
LWM: No need for good walking weather here; savoring life with money can be as simple as enjoying and taking stock of the things we already have. Noticing that crunchy apple or flipping through that family vacation album helps us appreciate the ways we’ve spent our money and helps us be more thoughtful about future spending.
This year, PPA team members are investing their time in various pursuits. Leslie keeps a daily calendar reminder to walk outside and tend to her plants, while Nate sets aside time each night to study for the CFP® exam. Amanda is carving 15 minutes of “me time” out of each day to read, meditate, etc., while I’m joining a weekly watercolor class at our community art center. By committing to small habits, we’re finding ways to invest in our interests, selves, and wellness. Just like invested dollars, our invested time and effort will compound throughout the year.
LWM: There are plenty of ways to practice financial wellness. Perhaps that involves bumping up retirement contributions or paying off lingering debt. Maybe it’s taking time to review your employee benefits or read up on a financial literacy topic that feels intimidating and confusing. Whatever this looks like for you, consider the benefits of compounding, where even small steps yield meaningful dividends over time.
Life is short and the to-do lists are long! If life’s regular jumble of tasks, calendar events, and important documents wasn’t overwhelming enough, the new year brings a wave of seeming “musts,” insisting that we adopt a new meal plan, exercise regimen, or 21-day system in hopes of any happiness this year. Where to begin? This year, I’m focused on reducing complexity and parting ways with systems that aren’t working (and keeping ones that do).
LWM: First, it helps to tackle tasks a little at a time. Maybe it’s the thing you dread most, or one that motivates you to take on more. Some suggestions from our client service team:
- Roll over a former retirement plan
- Update an old address or phone number
- Send back that form you’ve been meaning to sign
- If your goal is to save more, why not set up automatic transfers to take this task off your plate and mind?
This can also be an opportunity to review your budget and find areas where spending less might do. Alternatively, consider taking a step towards decluttering your financial life (e.g., signing up for electronic Schwab statements or closing an old account). After all, a year of simplifying can also be about reducing worry and stress, too.
And while we’re finding systems that might work, set up an accountability buddy to check-in when you need the extra nudge. We can help with that.
The world is wild and unpredictable, that much we surely know by now. Fellow worriers know it’s hard not to lose sleep over the unknown. This year, let’s work on controlling what we can and letting the rest go. In building a stable foundation, we’re better able to embrace change and roll with the punches, knowing we’ve prepared as best we can for the worst. It also helps refocus our attention on the things within our control.
LWM: Take some time to review your plans for the unexpected. Confirm account beneficiaries (and estate planning documents, if applicable) are accurate and up to date. Review insurance coverage to ensure coverage amounts are appropriate, beneficiaries are updated, and payments are current. Do a gut check of your emergency fund amount and savings rate, and how comfortable you’d feel relying on it.
When we share our time, resources, and ideas with others, we’re reminded that we have enough of these things to fill our cup and then some. The pervasive feeling of scarcity and “never enough” can seep into one’s spirit, so the opportunity to give to others can shift our thinking into one of abundance. Plus, practicing generosity and thoughtfulness towards others feels good! On a deeper level, sharing can also be about connections and opening up to others. For some, this might mean catching up with an old friend or setting up a standing Zoom date with a family member. For others, it’s having a conversation about money that requires a little self-reflection and vulnerability. At PPA, sharing is about finding more ways to engage in conversations about money in ways that resonate for us and our clients.
LWM: Consider the ways you’d like to share your time, resources, or wisdom this year. It can be as small as buying coffee for the person behind you in line or preparing a meal for a friend going through a tough time. Maybe you decide to make charitable donations, set up a Donor Advised Fund (DAF), or volunteer your time to a cause that’s meaningful to you. Perhaps you help start an account for a younger family member and spend time imparting the valuable financial lessons and skills you’ve collected over the years. Better yet, what if this year, your family explores charitable giving and volunteering as a group, finding new ways to connect and express values together?
Whether you decide on an intention or a goal, here’s a suggestion: pick one, write it down, remind yourself frequently, and let your year unfold. Remember that progress, not perfection, is the goal.
We can do this. Are you with me? Wishing a happy new year to everyone.