By Sarah Wall
With the flurry of activity around the holidays – from Christmas parties to gift exchanges, to pageants and performances, and more – the days of December fly by, and before we know it, a new year is upon us. This time of year, there’s a pervasive feeling of hope and optimism for what’s to come, and the energy and enthusiasm for setting goals and sticking to them are infectious.
But as with anything, simply having the desire to start the new year off well isn’t enough: reaching goals usually requires specific action items that we can apply to support those goals. Once established and pursued over a few weeks, these strategies become habits that are not easily broken. For both our personal and financial goals, the latter of which may need to be on everyone’s list this year, establishing strong, centered habits may be particularly important in 2023.
Start by Recentering and Reprioritizing Your Values
Writing down our thoughts and commitments for the year ahead can be an especially helpful tool, providing accountability in future weeks and months when our dedication wanes.
Start off by listing the five most important things to you – your values – and, ideally, put them in order. Among them might be your family, your health (physical, spiritual, intellectual), and your career. Then, consider how much time in an average week you spend investing in your listed values. Doing so will help you see the areas in which your priorities aren’t lining up with your time and energy. If you value your health, while social media doesn’t make your priority list, but you find that you spend more time on Facebook than cooking at home or walking around the neighborhood, perhaps that’s an area in which you can consider adjustments in the new year. The process can take some time and be somewhat uncomfortable, but it can also empower you to ensure you’re spending your energy effectively and in line with the things you truly care about.
Create Actionable Strategies that Become Habits
Once you’ve determined your broad priorities for the new year – promoting your health or improving your relationship with your spouse, for example – decide what actions you can take to help reach them. For instance, one action item that would support a goal of cutting back on social media would be to limit your logins to once per day with a timer set for 30 minutes of screen time. Improving your relationship with your spouse might be achieved by setting a weekly “date night,” which doesn’t need to mean going out to an expensive dinner every Friday. It can be as simple and low-cost as taking a weekly hike together on a nearby trail on Saturday mornings.
Setting two or three action items to support each of your goals gives you the opportunity to develop habits that, over time, turn your goals into reality.
Take Stock of Your Financial Wellness
Financial wellness in 2023 will likely be especially important and worth considering on its own, in addition to your other personal goals and strategies. That’s because most economists forecast a high probability that a recession will unfold by the middle of the year, and planning ahead is highly beneficial to limit the negative impact.
Some universal strategies can lessen any recession-driven financial pains. If you haven’t done so already, create a budget to track where your spending is going so you can cut back on some non-essentials. A budget will also help you determine how much money you spend in a month on housing expenses, transportation, groceries, and insurance, which can inform how much money you should aim to have in an emergency fund. In the event of job loss or a reduction of hours for you or your spouse, you may need that emergency fund with at least three to six months in easily accessible savings to cover expenses. Additionally, if you’re closer to retirement, move some of your riskier stocks to more conservative investments, such as utilities or bonds.
There’s no better way to start the new year off right than to take advantage of the enthusiasm for fresh opportunities that a new year brings. Whatever your personal goals for 2023, there are actions you can take to bring them to fruition, and this year, we should all apply those same principles to our finances as well. Taking the time now to invest in our values and priorities will give us the confidence and control to make this year a success, no matter what lies ahead.