Traps That Can Sabotage New Year’s Resolutions

Traps That Can Sabotage New Year’s Resolutions

by Brandon Miller on Jan 20, 2020

Financial Planning, Retirement Planning, Education

It’s that time again. The season where some of us optimistically set our goals for the year and others eschew the whole process because they never stick to their resolutions anyway so why bother.

For you perennial resolvers, before you create your 2020 list, perhaps you should review 2019’s version. How many of your goals did you hit? If you fell short in some areas, did you start off great and fade a few months into the year? Did you get discouraged because it felt too improbable? Did you never even start?

Okay, you’re human. Forgive yourself and move forward. But to do that, I recommend first taking a moment to see if you recognize yourself in any of these common traps that I encounter over and over again in my financial practice.

Time Trap 1: There is not enough of it.

We all have the same 24 hours every day. We just don’t always use those hours wisely. That half hour you just spent perusing profiles on Grindr or Her could have been used collecting your monthly bills and paychecks and financial statements so you can figure out your cash flow. If something is honestly a priority, you’ll find time to make it happen.

Time Trap 2: Short-term pleasure vs. long-term gain.

Human nature has a tendency to put its finger on the scales when it comes to balancing what you want today with what you’ll need tomorrow. Saving money doesn’t evoke immediate joy, while spending it can be quite thrilling. Big spenders like to flash wads of cash, but you never see a big saver go into a bank and gleefully display fistfuls of money to deposit.

To compound things even more, the farther away the time where you’ll actually need the money, the harder it is to stay focused on that goal. Now is just so much more seductive than Later.

Mind Trap: Self-sabotaging thinking.

A famous Albert Einstein quote says, “Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” I think he meant that reality is just what you perceive it to be, which may account for why you and your siblings have different stories about how mom’s favorite lamp got broken.

With that reasoning in mind, if you think you can’t accomplish something, then that becomes your reality. So if you want to buy a home, but you think you’ll never be able to save enough, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You only fund your down payment fund sporadically, always finding some more urgent purpose for that money. Or you keep increasing the amount you want to save, constantly moving the goalposts just beyond your reach. Year after year, saving for a home ends up as one of your New Year’s resolutions, but you never quite seem to make it happen.

This self-defeating behavior is almost always the result of fear. But by constantly lining up new obstacles, fear of failure is more likely to trip up success then giving what you want a full-hearted effort.

Whoa, we’re getting pretty deep here for a financial advice column. So let me switch gears and give you three tips for overcoming these traps.

  1. Write it down. I know I say this in every other column, but writing down your goals and resolutions is that important. Being forced to face a written list makes you more accountable. 
  2. Use the buddy system. Speaking of accountable, having a partner who can keep you on track is invaluable. They can also provide an outside perspective and point you toward other possibilities. 
  3. Quantify your time’s value. Take your after-tax income and use it to calculate an hourly wage. The next time you’re tempted to buy something frivolous, think of how much longer you’ll have to work into old age to pay for it since every $1 today can be $4 tomorrow. Then the next time you’re admiring how hot you look in that Tom Ford cashmere sweater, you can decide if making your ex jealous is worth delaying your retirement another week.

With a few adjustments in your thinking, you may actually fulfill your whole list this year. So cheers to achieving your 2020 resolutions. Now where’s the champagne?

The opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. Brio does not provide tax or legal advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. As always please remember investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital; please seek advice from a licensed professional.

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