Mid-year Financial Checkup: How to Get your Goals Back on Track


June #ZebraChat Recap

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8 min read

Who thinks about New Year’s resolutions in June? Pretty much no one, except over here at The Zebra. As personal finance aficionados, we love the idea of revisiting the goals we set for ourselves back in January, checking each other’s progress, and even motivating each other to stay on (or get back on) track. So, that’s exactly what we did in our June #ZebraChat.

During our monthly chat, we asked our participants to share honest feedback on how they were doing on their financial goals and discuss the challenges and lessons learned in the last six months.

Why 80% of New Year’s Resolutions Fail by Early February

A U.S. News article from 2015 breaks down the reasons why most resolutions are doomed to fail. While the focus of the article was mostly health and fitness related, the overall message applies to your finances, too. Joseph J. Luciani, Ph.D. writes, “To answer this question, it’s important to recognize that outside-in solutions such as dieting, joining gyms and so on are doomed to fail if, other than your well-intentioned resolve to change, you’ve done nothing to enhance your capacity to either sustain motivation or handle the inevitable stress and discomfort involved in change. Saying this differently: Unless you first change your mind, don’t expect your health goals to materialize. As the saying goes, it’s not the horse that draws the cart, it’s the oats. It’s not the gym, Pilates class or diet that will change you – it’s your mind.”

Indeed, your personal finances are much like establishing a new fitness schedule. They both require self-discipline, and as Dr. Luciani reminds us, self-discipline is something that is acquired, not something people are born with.

Your Mid-year Financial Checkup

Accomplishing a goal is really hard work. Whether you feel as though your goal progress is completely derailed or right on track, here are some things you can do right now to evaluate your finances.

Give Your Finances an Honest Evaluation

Look at your bank accounts. Review your budget (do you even have a budget?). Check your debts. Pull your credit reports. Take you head out of the sand, and look at everything. For some, this could be really tough. However, in order to really understand where your personal finances are at this point, you’ll need to take your head out of the sand.

Pick a Personal Finance Path

There’s no one way to do personal finance “right.” There are many schools of thought. Here are just three examples:

Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps are designed to be followed one right after the other. He’s very much against using credit and is a huge proponent of using cash, and his famous envelope system teaches people how to assign jobs to money before spending it.

Clark Howard, on the other hand, does not frown upon using credit. Instead, he teaches people how to use credit to their advantage. He’s all about cutting costs by living frugally and getting people to save money. He doesn’t have a set “plan” per say, but he is big on educating people about the world of personal finance.

The You Need a Budget (YNAB) method is similar to the envelope system but instead uses an app that “gives every dollar a job.” There are four major rules to the method, and it has exploded in popularity in recent years.

And there are many others! Maybe one will work better for you than another.

Reassess Your Goals

Maybe your goal was a little too ambitious, or you gave up on week two. The great thing about goal setting is that you can start all over again. You’re your own worst critic. Cut yourself some slack, make tweaks, and onward you go!

If your goal is a long-term one that could take several years, break it out into smaller goals. Celebrate those milestones. Maybe set up a reward for yourself to accomplishing that mini-goal.

If your goal was too easy, and you accomplished it much sooner than you anticipated, create another one. Always have something to work towards: save for retirement, build up your emergency fund, pay off another debt, donate to a charity, and the list goes on and on.

Cut Down on Expenses

This is exactly what it means: Trim the fat. Tighten your belt. Cut the cord. Meal prep. Eat in. Coupon. Find the extra expenses that you can live without, and stop spending money on them.

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help

There’s no shame in seeking help. Sometimes it might be best to reach out to your personal network, social network, or reach out to a professional. There are several options:

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving people’s financial wellness. You can speak to a certified professional one-on-one for little to no cost. There are offices in all 50 states.

Reach out to a fee-only financial planner. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) is nation’s largest association of fee-only (so no commission) advisors. Each advisor must sign and renew a Fiduciary Oath yearly and subscribe to their Code of Ethics.

Facebook Groups, like NPR’s Your Money and Your Life, can serve as an online support group. There are countless other personal finance groups, or you can start your own and invite your friends and family to join so you can support one another.  

#ZebraChat Recap

Didn’t join us for our monthly chat? Here’s a recap of all the great advice you missed.

Q1.) Did you make a New Year’s Financial Resolution? If so, what is it?

Q2.) Be honest: How’s it going?

Q3.) Have you tweaked your goal based on the progress you’ve made so far? Or are you pushing through?

Q4.) What have you found the most challenging?

Q5.) What have you found the most rewarding?

Q6.) Are there any apps/resources you’ve come across that have been helpful?

Q7.) Do you have a support network (family, friends, online groups) to help stay on track?

Q8.) How do you plan to stay motivated these next 6 months?

Q9.) Let’s end on a positive note! What are you most proud of in your financial resolution journey?

 

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