Plan your goals and fulfil them with simple New Year ‘resets’, writes Neal Vaughan.
The Australian Psychological Society's annual stress and wellbeing survey shows finances are the leading cause of stress for Australians at any time of year.
So even if your only New Year resolution is “to be happier”, toning up your finances should be a priority.
"You shouldn't let the festive hangover cloud your financial goals. The trick with making financial-related resolutions stick is to do some realistic goal-setting first," says ANZ Private business manager Stefanie Bellino.
"It could be that ‘spend less to save more’ comes before a more complex ambition like building an investment portfolio to retire earlier," she explains.
And when it does come to investment, Deakin University business school senior lecturer Adrian Raftery says a little at a time is a great way to start.
"You're probably not going to be a millionaire next year so don't write that down as your goal, but you could start saving into an investment fund that makes you wealthy down the track," says Raftery.
In fact, putting aside $20 a week may be all you need for a happier future, adds Bellino.
"It doesn't sound like much but $20 a week extra into super could mean retiring a few years earlier plus you feel better for doing something constructive," says Bellino.
If you need help saving, try downloading the Australian Securities and Investment Commission's MoneySmart expense-tracker app, use it to list all your expenses and then make a January hit list of where you could save.
"New year is the perfect time to get things back under control, resolving to trim outgoings is key," says Bellino, who suggests one simple resolution to achieve the rest: "Make January research month."
Whatever your ambitions in 2016, here’s some tips for greater financial fitness.
- First resolve to cut and control expensive credit card and personal loan debt, both Raftery and Bellino say. Consider a lower-rate personal loan or credit card with 0 per cent interest-on-balance-transfer to consolidate your debt and avoid paying interest while you get it under control.
- Get a health check on your home loan. With interest rates hovering a record-low levels, even small changes to your borrowing costs now will add up to a big difference over the life of your loan.
- Consolidate, review and compare your health, life and income insurance. “Sometimes, life and income protection is cheaper through super, and other times, the opposite is true. Either way, a closer look means you could make big savings,” says EasyPlan Financial Services insurance manager Brigitte Phillips.
- Shop around for a better deal on your mobile phone, internet and TV subscriptions.
- Stuck with an expensive gym membership you don’t use? Cancel it for a cheaper one or work out with a local fitness group.
- Cut down on expensive takeaway snacks to be healthier as well as wealthier.
- Giving can be personally fulfilling. You can shout the value of small, everyday items to charity via Shout For Good: “Imagine if everyone donated the value of a morning coffee to their favourite cause? The impact would be substantial.” says Jane Martino, founder and CEO of Shout.
- By investing you are preparing for your future needs and wants.
- Check out ASIC's MoneySmart site for simple tools and advice to help you achieve your financial resolutions.
- If it all sounds like a lot to do, perhaps 2016 is the year to resolve to get professional financial advice and set up a long-term financial plan, so you always know what you are aiming for, and set your spending and savings to match.