Try These 5 Strategies to Make Your Financial Resolutions Stick
Our Zions bankers offer tips and tactics for saving more, paying down debt and spending less in 2019.
Save more. Pay down debt. Spend less.
For the 10th consecutive year, these are the top three financial resolutions among American considering one, according to Fidelity Investments’ New Year Financial Resolutions Study.
It’s no secret why these same three resolutions top the list every year – they can be tough to accomplish, even for the most savvy savers. That’s why we turned to our team of seasoned bankers from Idaho and Utah – with a combined 80 years in the financial services industry – to share their strategies for a fiscally happy new year.
Banker best bet #1: Pay down debt strategically
Like many Americans, several of our bankers have a goal of paying off debt in 2019. Executive Banking relationship manager Adam Velasquez ruptured his Achilles tendon in August and ended up with some debt following his surgery. “My goal is to get it completely paid to zero at the end of 2019,” says the Pocatello, Idaho, banker. “I’m trying to aggressively pay off the smaller bills first, and then take the payments and apply them toward the other bills.”
Ogden, Utah, branch manager Jen Fillion-Hood recently completed an MBA at Weber State University and her student loan payments will be starting soon. She plans to automatically set aside funds every month for her payment. “That way, the student loan payment is always taken care of and I’m not trying to scrape it together at the end of the month,” she says.
Velasquez says paying down debt is a good way to prepare for an economic recession in the future. “We don’t know what’s going to happen in the economy,” he says. “Hope for the best but plan for the worst.”
He says he also encourages his clients to not pay just the minimum payment on a home equity credit line, for example. “If you do, you’re just satisfying the interest and it’s not going to get paid down,” he explains. “I strongly encourage my clients to pay more toward the principle.”
Nampa, Idaho, branch manager Scott Thompson encourages people to work with their banker for guidance on the best strategy for paying off debt. “One of the misconceptions is you pay down the highest interest rate first, but that’s not always the case,” he says. “My suggestion is to pay down the balances that will have the most impact on you. That might mean interest savings for one person, or improved cash flow for another.”
Banker best bet #2: Be savvy about saving
For Fillion-Hood, a 529 college savings account has been critical in helping pay for her son Noah’s education at Berklee College of Music in Boston. “Start as early as possible,” she encourages. Ramirez says with one son well into his freshman year at Oregon State University, she realizes the importance of putting away money for her younger sons’ college education – and that it’s never too late to do so. “My goal for this year is to contribute to a 529 plan,” she says.
Remember to take advantage of direct deposit and bill pay. “I have my bills scheduled to come out the day my direct deposit goes in,” says Fruitland, Idaho, branch manager Torie Ramirez. “I have everything scheduled for either one pay period or the next so I can even out my costs as far as bills getting paid.”
She also encourages people to make savings another “bill.” “I’ve decided $200 is a savings bill, that goes right to savings right off the top, too,” Ramirez says. “It’s a bill – otherwise, I will want to spend it.”
Fillion-Hood splits her direct deposit three ways, with a portion to checking, a portion to a vacation fund and a portion to an account used to pay her mortgage. “It’s the whole out of sight, out of mind concept,” she explains.
Banker best bet #3: Teach your children well
Ramirez has taught her four sons about budgeting, earning an allowance and saving to reach a goal.
“They have their regular chores that they aren’t paid for, but they can earn money by doing extra things around the house,” Ramirez says. She says they will print a photo of the item they are saving for and hang it up in their room “as a reminder of what they’re shooting for.”
Banker best bet #4: Hit the gym
While at first blush this doesn’t seem like a financial goal, Velasquez — who is recovering from a major injury — begs to differ.
“I don’t want to go through an injury again and I also don’t want to go through that financial burden again,” he says. “If I don’t take care of my body, I run the risk of rupturing my Achilles again or blowing a knee. So, to me it’s a financial investment.”
Banker best bet #5: Live within your means
Thompson says it’s important to define the difference between needs and wants when you’re looking to make a purchase. Ask yourself, do I really need that or is it just something cool to have?
“It’s not to say you shouldn’t be able to buy your wants but you want to put yourself into a position with credit and with savings so you can take advantage of those opportunities when they arise,” he explains. “If it’s a want, understand the cost of waiting. Will the cost go up? Will it go up more than the cost of financing it?”
Living within your means may be an old-fashioned idea, but it hasn’t gone out of style. “People see something and they want it,” Thompson says. “But just because you can afford it, doesn’t mean you should.”