January is typically our “get serious” month, when we’ll try to “get serious” about all sorts of things, from relationships to diet and our retirement goals.
Let me suggest setting up a budget may be as good for you as a healthy diet – and as ineffective. At some point, many of us will resume eating the things we shouldn’t, and many of us will break our budget rules, with self-made promises to get it all correct by next month, which ends up creating distress on the following month, and so on.
Instead of setting up a budget, which may end up adding new stress and guilt to your 2019 outlook, I’d recommend two other possibilities:
- Consider realistically depicting what you want and what you actually spend and save.
It’s a little like your weight – quit pretending your shoes are adding fifteen pounds to what your scale says. Be honest. How much do you have now? How much will you need to have set aside in order to maintain your lifestyle in retirement?
As long as you establish how much you need to set aside for key items like retirement, and then follow through on that figure, you may not need that detailed budget, after all.
Of course, many of us need help with that level of transparency. We might not even know what we own, what our investments are earning, or when we could possibly retire … let alone what we’ll have when we retire. Find an advisor you can trust to help walk you through those transparency kickstarters.
- Set yourself up for success. No one knows better than you exactly what events, people and anxieties can get you off track and out of line with your financial plan.
So take some time and make a list of things that you’re pretty sure will find their way into your monthly spend – a concert that you just have to attend; the pup swallowing another sock; an investment opportunity you couldn’t refuse.
Then, remind yourself that your pursuit is happiness, not guilt. You’ll get more joy from being honest with yourself and enjoying life while still hitting your necessary goals.
Too often, we help people who are unhappy in their pursuit of happiness. I’ve found that a comprehensive, honest plan often helps set you up for success – instead of guilt and financial paralysis.
Enjoy the first “get serious” days of 2019. I hope you’ll add “get real” to your “to-do” list. It might produce even better results.