Let’s be clear, my New Year’s resolution is about finance, not money
This is my year to get my finances in tip-top shape, and I want you to follow along (and keep me accountable).
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Full disclosure: My goal isn’t to retire in the next five years. Although, I’d love to achieve financial independence. My life goal is and always will be to be a rich grandma.
But enough about family planning. For now, my biggest priority for the next 366 days is how I’m going to celebrate this major age milestone. But between fantasizing about the thirty, flirty, and thriving festivities or looking up baby names that don’t sound inappropriate with my husband’s last name (any variation of Jack is out of the question), I’m also thinking about—surprise, surprise—finance.
Becoming what I blog.
I don’t think the first word that comes to mind when someone meets me is “responsible,” but I have always been good with my money. Notice how I didn’t say great? Sure, I can keep a budget and live within my means without an issue but I also realize there’s an art to managing money. Some call that, “finance.”
Okay Melissa, we get it, you like words, but what’s the difference between money and finance?
Well, like I said, I’m pretty good with money but not finance. Simply put, money is currency. Money is how you pay for things. Money is also what you make when you sell something or get paid for a job. Finance is how you manage your money. It’s how you use that money—ideally in smart ways that make you more of it!
You’d think that getting immersed in the personal finance and FIRE blogging community would make it easy to make great choices with money, but the truth is, as much as writing for Think Save Retire has given me a lot to share about my good money habits and ponder about bigger life goals, I don’t have much to show for it yet.
In fact, my husband and I bought a brand-new car. Hello, monthly debt!
We did, however, pay off his student loans and are extremely close to paying off our wedding expenses from this summer...
… But I haven’t made a single contribution to a retirement account since July.
I also have two 401k accounts from former employers that are just sitting out there and I’m too scared to Google what is actually happening to them.
I blame information overload. With so many possibilities, it’s hard to decide where to start. And, on top of that, when to start. Between working full-time, wanting to stay in shape, have a successful relationship and spend time with friends, finding the time to tackle each financial pickle isn’t easy.
That’s why my resolution is not to save “X Thousand Dollars” or start a side hustle. It’s much simpler and hopefully more achievable than those ideas. But it is about being disciplined and it’s also measurable (or a SMART goal as we call it in the corporate world):
My New Year’s resolution is to dedicate one day a month to my finances.
Here are some of the finer details of my resolution:
- This day-long period cannot include work. Even though I do work at a personal finance company, this journey needs to happen on my own time.
- I can write about as much of it as I’m comfortable with sharing. (Hopefully it helps some of you out there!)
- The hours can be all in one day or chopped up over the course of the entire month. Whatever makes sense from a schedule perspective or from the activities I want or need to work on.
- Activities can include actually getting on the phone or meeting with finance professionals/institutions OR it can mean simply reading a book or listening to one on Audible.
Starting my resolution off on the right foot:
For January, I plan to start by tackling those 401K accounts. AKA finally hitting enter on that Google search query and seeing what to do with that money and how much my ignorance-is-bliss approach has cost me in future years as the wealthy matriarch of my family. From there, I’m even more interested in seeing if 401ks or IRAs are really my best option for saving for retirement so, I’ll plan on researching alternatives.
I also want to start looking at my budget on a weekly basis instead of just monthly. Early on, when I made a fraction of what I do today, I kept a tight pulse on my money. I was always calculating my income based on the hours I worked at my 2-3 jobs and how much “fun money” I would have left over after covering my bills and living expenses. Almost-30-year-old Melissa could really benefit from 21-year-old Melissa’s ability to make $100 last a month for groceries and happy hours.
With any remaining hours next month, I figure I should probably do some reading. I see a ton of recommendations for The Total Money Makeover including my most recent interviewee, Brian from Debt Discipline (but, if you’re reading this and have another one, let me know in the comments!).
That’s how I plan to get started. If you’re also on this journey, either just getting started like me or even months/years ahead, and have advice to share or ideas for activities to pursue I’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments!