Spotlight: Keep New Year’s resolutions simple, achievable

Keep New Year’s resolutions simple, achievable

Replacing the tattered 2011 calendar with a pristine 2012 version will inspire many of us to take stock of our lives and try to figure out how to be a better, richer, kinder, fitter person in the New Year.

But it won’t happen without a firm plan. The more specific the objective, the greater the likelihood of success, advises Lisa Zaslow, founder of Gotham Organizers, a New York firm specializing in organizational and productivity challenges for individuals and businesses.

“Most New Year’s resolutions are way too vague,” Zaslow said. “They start goals that are way too big — be better organized, lose weight — how do you know if you’ve achieved that?”

Zaslow, who has a master’s degree in organizational psychology from Columbia University, recommends resolutions with precise goals.

“Now you can make a plan to achieve them and stay on track,” she said. “So it’s really clear whether you’re moving forward or you’re relapsed.”

And Zaslow maintains that setbacks are inevitable.

“What most people do is abandon the goal altogether,” she said. “What I recommend people do is plan to fail. Recognize that’s part of the process … then get yourself back on track.”

To help with tackling self-improvement goals, we’ve gathered tips from local experts on a few common resolutions.


Getting out of debt

If getting out of debt is a New Year’s resolution, then the first basic step is to set priorities for your expenses, said Mark LaSpisa, president, managing adviser and certified financial planner at Vermillion Financial Advisors in South Barrington.

“Most people don’t do it,” he said. “It’s a scary thing; people get nervous and try to ignore it.”

Robert Strobel, financial adviser for Wells Fargo Financial in Elgin, said people need to be deliberate about what they’re spending. Avoid impulse spending and write up a complete budget including everything from to-go coffee to mortgage payments, he said.

“The biggest thing is to figure out what you are actually left with,” Strobel said. “Some people have an idea, but they don’t know what their net is because they haven’t added everything up.”

A complete budget could reveal extra cash flow that could be added to pay off credit card debt and other expenses, he said. Found income could also be added to 401(k) and retirement funds.

LaSpisa said the average American family carries about $13,000 in credit card balances.

To set spending priorities, he advises, ask basic questions: How much do I owe? What is my minimum payment on credit cards? Which card carries the highest interest rate? Then commit to not adding more expenses.

Pay down or off the debt with the lowest balance first, he said. That will help ease stress, make you feel more productive and encourage you to stay on track.

Minor lifestyle adjustments also could free up cash such as reducing energy bills by turning down the hot water tank or thermostat, canceling magazine subscriptions, and finding cheaper cable and Internet service and cell phone deals.

Strobel suggests following simple rules such as not grocery shopping when you’re hungry or buying a car when yours breaks down.

Strobel also advises learning from the rich.

“The things successful people do is they buy under,” he said, meaning that if you can afford a $30,000 car, buy a $20,000 car and if you can afford a $300,000 mortgage, buy a home that is $250,000.

“You’ll have a pool for an emergency and ultimately reduce your stress,” he said.

Amanda Marrazzo, Contributor
Chicago Tribune, December 28, 2011. Web.

Keep New Year’s resolutions simple, achievable – Vermillion Financial Advisors, Inc.

Keep New Year’s resolutions simple, achievable