I’ve never been much of a “New Years resolution” person– but, in 2016, I became one by accident. Early in the year, I received a fitness tracker for my birthday. It was perfect timing; after the arrival of my second son, I had struggled to find time to exercise. The new steady stream of prompts, stats, and feedback from the tracker were enough to keep me engaged. I could literally make progress one step at a time, making the endeavor less daunting. The device’s partner app became my “most used” app as I became more competitive with myself and other users. Fast forward to December; I’ve had a more active year than I did in 2015– by far.
This year, I’m actively resolving to take similar steps (get it?) to improve my family’s financial health. My goal? I want to save more for our retirement and for the kids’ college expenses. Once again, I’ll be taking baby steps by using an automated approach to tackle my goals. Can I save 50% of each paycheck beginning on January 1st? Of course not. I couldn’t have leaped out of my desk chair and run a marathon last January, either. Instead, I’ve made a couple of very small changes that will make a big impact over time.
First, I elected a very modest increase in my 401k deferral each month. This will be small enough that I won’t notice a big difference on payday. But I know that every additional dollar represents potential for decades of additional tax deferred compound growth. Second, I’ve automated small contributions to each of my son’s college saving plans to take advantage of grant funded matching. While I’m kicking myself for not setting this up sooner, I’m looking forward to making progress. Again, I’ve chosen amounts not so big to be punishing, but substantial enough to accumulate over time.
The best part? I’m already done. Thanks to the automation, all I have to do is let time do its job. So this year, I invite you to join me in automating a resolution. Saving, investing, giving, or budgeting– you can be done before the year begins. Thanks to technology, apps, devices, and websites, many of these tasks are made easier than ever. Every little bit goes a long way; after all, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”