Rural Missouri - January 2011 - (Page 24)

Getting MART in the new year Make a resolution to plan for your financial future I by Suzanne Gellman “The secret to getting ahead is to get started now,” Marks says. “It’s only too late if you never get a plan in place and start.” 24 f you are like many people, you probably made some New Year’s resolutions last January that included money — like a goal to pay off debt, save for retirement, start an emergency fund or increase your 401(k) savings. But, like many people, those financial resolutions might have been pushed aside as the year progressed. The good news about New Year’s resolutions is that you get to make new ones each year, so don’t brush off last year’s financial resolutions if they didn’t get fulfilled. This can be the year for making “SMART” choices for your financial future. In a recent Money Magazine poll, only 24 percent of those polled had kept New Year’s resolutions for their financial goals. Maybe that’s because their goals were unrealistic, or they tried to do too much at once. Most likely, it’s because they didn’t create a plan for how to achieve their goals. “Procrastination can steal your personal prosperity, so you should pay attention to your finances now,” says Randy Marks, president of the Missouri Electric Cooperatives Employees’ Credit Union in Jefferson City. To help you achieve your resolutions for this year, write them down on paper and set these “SMART” goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Specific: What are you going to do and why? How much does it cost? Create a written plan of how to achieve your goal. Don’t just say “I want to save more” — decide what you are saving for and why (an emergency fund, a family trip, retirement, downpayment on a home, etc.) Measurable: How much are you going to save per week, month or even year (if it’s a long-term goal). Use direct deposit or automatic transfers to make saving easy and to move money out of your checking account into a separate savings account. No matter how little it may seem, pay yourself first! “You’ll be surprised how quickly a few pennies add up,” says Marks. “If you begin with one penny and double it every day, you would have $1.3 million by day 28. By day 30? $5.4 million. Every penny counts.” Attainable: Dare to dream, but have a plan. Although goals should push your limits and abilities, goals still need to be within reach. Make sure you include smaller steps along the way in your plan, too. Having small, but regular successes will help you stay motivated. For example, this month you kick or reduce one spending habit. Next month, you start contributing that amount to your 401(k) — a small success toward an attainable, bigger goal. Realistic: Make sure you have the skills and resources available to achieve your goal or that you can develop the skills or resources needed. Finding balance is an important component to being realistic. For example, you may want to increase your savings, but make sure you still have spending money for dinner out with the family or movie nights. No plan should be a straightjacket. Don’t try to do it all at once, or you set yourself up for failure. For example, if you are trying to cut back on spending, don’t try to quit or reduce all your spending cold turkey. Try to cut back or reduce one spending habit at a time. Once you master the first habit, go on to the next one on the list. Timely: Set a time frame to achieve your goal. Make sure long-term goals have short-term and intermediate steps so you can measure your successes along the way. Review your goals periodically to make sure they are still good for your financial situation, whether they should be revised or if they’re goals you still want to achieve. In addition to the traditional financial resolutions people make around this time of the year, here are some ideas for financial resolutions/goals people often forget to make that promote fiscal stability: • Create a financial notebook or folder for the spouse not managing the finances so they know where things are and who to contact in case of emergency. • Review wills, trusts and advance directives to make sure they are up to date and still what you want. • Review insurance policy coverages as well as beneficiaries on insurance, bank/investment accounts, retirement accounts, etc. • Review your investments. Is the investment allocation still right for your situation? • Build up your emergency fund. • Create or update your household inventory list/ video and store a copy in a bank box or fireproof storage box. • Review your credit report and take any steps to correct any errors. To get a free copy of your report, go to (You are entitled to receive up to three free copies of your credit report per year.) With a little bit of planning and setting realistic “SMART” financial goals, you should be able to make good strides toward those financial New Year’s resolutions you’ve set for the year ahead. “The secret to getting ahead is to get started now,” Marks says. “It’s only too late if you never get a plan in place and start.” Gellman is a financial education specialist for University of Missouri Extension. You may contact her at For additional financial tips and online calculators to help you determine how much to save or how much you need, visit Additional articles on everything from budgeting to insurance and car buying tips and estate planning can be found at WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - January 2011

Rural Missouri - January 2011
Doing Wood Right
Mail Bag
Blackwater’s Bucksnort
Out of the Way Eats
Huntin’ With Hawks
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Billards Meets Bowling
Getting $mart in the New Year
Meet Yorik, One Tricky Dog
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - January 2011