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New Year's resolutions: Financial stability is realistic if you follow a plan

By JACINDA HOWARD, The Mirror

A new year is rapidly approaching and with it, so are countless resolutions to become more financially secure.

Getting a handle on one’s finances is a common New Year’s resolution for Americans. Boosting financial stability can be challenging, but not impossible if a goal is set, a plan is created and a commitment is made.

“Have clear goals in mind and realize they are attainable, but it will take some time to get there,” said Doug Legg, a financial advisor for Edward Jones in Federal Way.

The key to financial success is establishing a goal, then creating a plan to achieve it, Legg said.

Improving one’s financial situation could include a variety of desired outcomes. Some people simply wish to get themselves into a position that allows them to pay their bills on time. Others want to make sure they can retire with enough money to lead a pleasant life as a senior citizen. Cutting debts, saving for significant purchases such as automobiles or homes, and creating an emergency fund are also common financial goals.

Federal Way resident Betty Huff believes establishing a six-month emergency fund, or “nest egg” as she refers to it, is important, especially for young people, newlyweds and those just beginning their careers, she said. Sometimes it is hard to predict how long it may take to land a good job, she said. Just as unpredictable is the possibility of losing one’s job, Huff said. An emergency fund allows for a person to live within his or her means, without having to dip into savings or living funds, while working to improve a financial situation, according to a column written by Legg titled “Make some financial resolutions — and stick to them.”

Creating a plan:

Before a goal can be realized, a plan to achieve it is needed. One should ensuring the plan and the intended goal are both attainable.

Legg advises to be realistic in one’s goal-setting and planning. This often involves conducting a fair and accurate evaluation of one’s current finances and creating a budget, according to a Federal Trade Commission document titled “Knee Deep in Debt,” found online at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/kneedeep.shtm.

For example, a budget can help to determine how much money must be set aside monthly before one can attain the house or automobile he or she desires, Legg said.

Sticking to it

Creating a plan is only half the battle, though.

An important realization is that no plan is going to work if it is deviated from. Make a plan and stick to it, Legg said.

Change requires an effort, hard work and discipline, he said.

“It seems the biggest problem that people have with resolutions is they don’t take the process seriously, and then they wonder why they keep getting the same sorry results over and over again,” Legg said.

Sometimes using credit cards to make spendy purchases can be tempting, but in the long run, this move will only add to one’s debt, according to Legg’s column.

Federal Way resident Tracy Lone believes becoming more financially secure means learning how to manage credit cards.

“I think a lot of people should think about spending in their means and not using charge cards,” Lone said.

Most people who are serious about making a financial change in their lives can achieve their goal — with a little patience and hardwork — on their own, Legg said.

“Financial stuff is really pretty easy; it’s not magic,” he said.

However, helpful resources, such as accountants and financial advisors, are available for those that need a little advice.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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Financial resolutions:

Read financial advisor Doug Legg’s column “Make some financial resolutions — and stick to them” in The Mirror’s Dec. 26 print edition or online at www.fedwaymirror.com.

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Other common financial goals:

Increase contributions to a 401K, or other retirement, fund

Work toward a new or better-paying career

Manage debt

Build credit

Save for a college education

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