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8 Financial Resolution Ideas for 2010

Every year I make out a list of goals or resolutions for the year to come. I keep my list in google spreadsheets so that I can track my progress and see how I’ve done at the end of the year. I try to make the list reasonable and attainable.

Here are 8 Ideas for Financial Resolutions for 2010. It gets overwhelming to do them all at once. Pick two or three high priority ones and work on those first.

1. Track your spending.

Tracking your spending is one of the best ways of finding out if your money is going where you want it to go. Every time I work with someone and they do this exercise they are surprised at how much they spend on something. Love going out for dinner? Great! Go out more often. Find out you are spending $4000 a year on it when you’d rather spend it on something else? Suddenly making dinner at home becomes a lot more exciting.

2. Open and max out your TFSA

If you haven’t opened a TFSA yet, now is the time to do it. For the first few years of savings (you get $5000 a year contribution limit each) it’s a great plan for your emergency fund. After that you may want to sit down with a professional to decide which you should max out first, your RRSP or your TFSA. I happen to agree with Ed Rempel’s advice.

3. Track your net worth

The vast majority of the people I meet with have no idea the value of their total net worth. Nearly all are surprised one way or another when they do this exercise for the first time. Some are shocked at just how much debt they have and others are pleasantly surprised that they have more than they thought they did. Tracking your net worth every month is a great way to motivate yourself to keep on track financially.

4. Write or re-write your will

You need a will. If you have children or dependents, you really need a will. Some people argue that it’s easier to download a will online or order a will kit that does all the work for you. I’m a strong believer in getting a will done by a lawyer. For those who already have a will, read it over to make sure it doesn’t need updating since it was last done.

5. Max out your employer matching

I am amazed at the number of people that miss out on free money. Some companies have an employer matching program where for every dollar you contribute to your RRSPs, they will match it up to a certain percentage. You want to make sure you are maxing this out. Call your HR department and check. I’ve worked with several people who were amazed that they answer was yes, and they’d been missed out on an employer match for years.

6. Pay off the credit cards

Don’t just make minimum payments. The faster you can pay off your high interest debt the more cash you’ll have to spend now and save for the future. Make a plan to get the cards paid off quickly and if it’s too tempting to buy on credit, consider switching to cash or debit.

7. Build your Emergency Fund

Most financial professionals recommend having between 3 and 6 months living expenses in an emergency fund. If your job is volatile, a baby is in your near future or you highly value security, you may want to make it more. Many couples I know like to have between 9-12 months of living expenses in their emergency fund. Money in your emergency fund shouldn’t be invested. It should be in a high interest savings account or short term GIC. This is money you may need in the short term. It’s not for long term investing.

8. Save up for something fun

Getting your financial life in order doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Life is about finding the balance between saving for the future and living in the now. Want to go on an exotic vacation? Set up a vacation fund. Looking for a Vespa or a Harley? Start saving now. There is nothing wrong with spending money on fun things. Just save up for it first.

Our resolutions for 2009 were to pay off the car and max out our TFSAs. For 2010, our goals are to save up for a potential move or second car depending on whether we decide to relocate or commute and increase our savings by a certain percentage.

What are your financial resolutions for 2010?

Kathryn works in public relations and training for a non profit. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Her passions include personal finance and adult education. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.

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About the author: Kathryn has been a staff writer for MDJ since January 2009. During the day she works in an office. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • saveING.ca This is why I signed up with ING Direct December 29, 2009, 10:47 am

    ah man I have to get on top of this, here’s some tips to make it stick for those like me who need this;

    from 6changes.com

    1. Pick 6 habits for 2010.
    2. Pick 1 of the 6 habits to start with.
    3. Commit as publicly as possible to creating this new habit in 2 months.
    4. Break the habit into 8 baby steps, starting with a ridiculously easy step. Example: if you want to floss, the first step is just to get out a piece of floss at the same time each night.
    5. Choose a trigger for your habit – something already in your routine that will immediately precede the habit. Examples: eating breakfast, brushing your teeth, showering, waking up, arriving at the office, leaving the office, getting home in the evening.
    6. Do the 1st, really easy baby step for one week, right after the trigger. Post your progress publicly. (Read more.)
    7. Each week, move on to a slightly harder step. You’ll want to progress faster, but don’t. You’re building a new habit. Repeat this until you’ve done 8 weeks.

    You now have a new habit! Commit to Habit No. 2 and repeat the process.

  • mp December 29, 2009, 12:53 pm

    Mine is to have an emergency fund equivalent to 12 months of living expenses saved by Dec 31 2010.

  • No Debt Guy December 29, 2009, 1:08 pm

    My main goal is to trim some fat from my spending. Figure out what I can do without this year.

    First up is my expensive web hosting. Just working on transfering everry thing now. PITA!

  • Craig December 29, 2009, 2:41 pm

    Tracking spending is something I have focused more on this past year. I am not very specific with it, but like to know the basis to where my money is being spent and where I can adjust.

  • Kate December 29, 2009, 2:49 pm

    My two goals are to save at least 5k and pay off the one remaining credit card.

  • Financial Cents December 29, 2009, 4:20 pm

    Good post and nice ideas for 2010!

    Here are mine, in no particular order:
    1) save at least $5,000 for lump-sum payment on mortgage
    2) contribute at least $5,000 to ENB DRIP
    3) max-out TFSA
    4) save (and take) a well-deserved vacation!

    Cheers!

  • Keith Morris December 29, 2009, 5:06 pm

    Here’s a good one: automate your finances!

  • Dave December 29, 2009, 5:59 pm

    Amen to your comments about writing a will. I’m a lawyer. I don’t practice estate law, but I know enough to be aware of the pitfalls. There is no way I would muck about doing my own will, which is why I had a lawyer whose practice is wills and estates do mine.

  • cash back credit cards December 29, 2009, 11:01 pm

    The problem I have been hearing is that more and more employer are taking away the match due to money issues. Also, is a TFSA like the american Roth IRA do you know?

  • janine davis December 30, 2009, 1:29 am

    Thank you so much. This helped a lot.

  • Doctor Stock December 30, 2009, 3:31 am

    To be honest, I wish everyone just did #1 – track the pennies every day. You’d be amazed at how much cash is spent on different things when you actually know. Good post!

  • foolishman December 30, 2009, 3:51 am

    Thanks this very helpful. My goal for the year is to invest!

    I have money but investing is very difficult for me, as there are so many options and choices to make that it boggles my mind. What kind of general investment strategy could be recommended for someone like me:

    I’m nearly 30, single, no commitments and my only goal is to make as much money as possible so that I have a realistic option of retiring at 40-45 years of age with an average income of 40-50k (today’s dollars) until I die.

    My portfolio:

    income (bt): $80k + OT (ranges from 15k to 70k, last few years)

    assets:

    chequing account: $82500
    “Loan” held in Father’s LOC*: $75000
    RRSP – TD Balanced Index Fund: $40000
    Company Pension: ~$30000

    total:

    *(he pays me interest instead of to the bank, and I can withdraw the money at any time)

    debt:

    none

    I have no idea where to begin, other than to open a TFSA, but invest in what?

  • norm4475 December 30, 2009, 3:16 pm

    Good list. I pretty much do all these things except for the will.

    Something I would suggest in addition to tracking net worth is setting a goal for net worth at the end of the year. Include milestones for each month or quarter to keep yourself on track. I will do it monthly so that I can adjust my targets.

  • Kathryn December 30, 2009, 8:43 pm

    foolishman: It’s great that you can admit you’re overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to start. The important thing is that you have a goal, you know where you want to go and you have a great income and no debt. What you need is the ‘how’ to get there. You will want to make an appointment with a fee for service financial advisor for advice. They don’t make money off your investments, only on the time they give you. You may also want to begin reading some beginner investment books.

    I might also post your situation to the forums and see what others say. The only problem with that is that you will get a lot of conflicting advice based on people’s risk tolerance levels. Seeing as you have over $82,000 your checking account, my guess is your risk tolerance is fairly low. Yet if you want to retire early, you will have to take some risk.

  • PD December 31, 2009, 2:23 am

    My resolutions are:
    1) Track my expenses and be a better steward of my money
    2) Decide between RRSP and TFSA or both
    3) Renegotiate my mortgage and make some double up payments
    4) Buy a new car in October

  • Link Wheels January 1, 2010, 12:47 am

    Fantastic info Kathryn,

    I should organize a will, I have not done so yet.

    Regards, David Pagotto

  • used tires January 2, 2010, 1:06 am

    Fantastic idea with this post, for me personally I think one of the best things most people can do is get themselves more educated financially, I know that is one of the thing that lacks alot in a society, which leads to so many mistakes that could be prevented if everyone had that power called knowledge. :)

    Till then,

    Jean

  • andrewbpaterson January 2, 2010, 12:47 pm

    Great list, Kathryn.

    – I’m already doing a few of the items on the list (# 1, 4, 5);
    – Regarding #2, I don’t really want to max out TFSA until RRSPs are exhausted;
    – Regarding #3, I just read Rich Dad Poor Dad, so I’m all excited about buying assets that produce income, and tracking those assets as opposed to things like my car and consumer electronics which are “assets” that just suck my income away. I hope it’s not just a phase! Finally,
    – I’ve printed out the remaining items (#6, 7, 8) and am pumped to get ‘er done!

    HAPPY 2010!!

  • cannon_fodder January 3, 2010, 11:29 pm

    By using my CC for almost everything I buy (coupled with the distinct advantage of working from home or on the road almost exclusively) I don’t get surprised as to where my money goes. Thus, I don’t need to track expenses.

    Because I am in the highest tax bracket, I only max out TFSA contribution if everything else is maxed (e.g. RRSP). That being said, I likely will find a way even if it is to take some of my dividend income from my SM portfolio to fund it.

    I have begun tracking my net worth on a monthly basis. I used to do it twice per year.

    Will and Power of Attorney were done years ago and nothing has changed that would require a rewrite.

    Employee matching has been maxed out for every employer that I worked.

    I never carry a credit card balance UNLESS it is one of those 0% offers. (I’m hoping to make it 3 years in a row getting a 0% credit card for balance transfers.)

    I don’t have an emergency fund per se. I believe to tap into LOC’s if I run into an emergency. It costs nothing in lost opportunity or fees if I don’t use it. But, as I build up a balance in a TFSA, this could soon represent an implicit Emergency Fund.

    Saving up for something fun almost always means vacations.

    My financial priorities are:

    1. Max out RRSP contributions for my wife and I (including contributions to spousal RRSPs)
    2. Max out TFSA
    3. Pay down mortgage

    I’m not sure if we will eliminate our mortgage this year or not. It depends whether this makes sense or not (i.e. why divert money to pay down nondeductible debt at 1.5% if you can put it in a TFSA and earn more?).

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