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General FinanceAre Fewer New Year's Financial Resolutions A Worrisome Sign...

Are Fewer New Year’s Financial Resolutions A Worrisome Sign of Inertia?

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As America enters the ninth year of a bull stock market, the number of people making year-end financial resolutions is at an all-time low, according to the ninth annual “Fidelity Investments New Year Financial Resolutions Study.” And its authors say that’s because so many “are feeling better about their personal financial situation and are generally optimistic about what 2018 will bring.”

In fact, only a paltry 27 percent of respondents said they intended to make a financial resolution this year. That’s down 16 percent from the high of 43 percent who answered similarly heading into 2014, and – here’s the study’s main red flag – could actually signal a worrisome sense of “inertia” settling in.

“Now is not the time to take one’s foot off the pedal, because good financial times can represent the best opportunities to help achieve your goals and establish saving and investment habits that can get one through good times and bad,” warned Ken Hevert, Fidelity’s senior vice president of retirement.

So what were this year’s top three vows?

The same as last year’s: save more, reduce debt, and spend less. Where that starts getting interesting, though, is that when you look at those respondents who ended 2017 feeling better about their finances – and they were at a record high – a whopping 66 percent singled out being able to “save more” as a major factor.

Dig down to Millennials – who recently surpassed Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation – and it turns out they’re the most euphoric demo of all. Not only did 78 percent of those surveyed report that higher savings had improved their finances, but 90 percent believe they’ll be even better off in 2018.

That’s not to imply that all is “Happy Days Are Here Again.” (Note to Millennials: That’s the title of a song associated with both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Barbra Streisand, whom you may have heard referred to as “Babs” by some of your parents.)

Fifty-seven percent of all respondents cited “unexpected expenses” as one of their top concerns for 2018, and a large chunk of them were so spooked by all the natural disasters we’ve been experiencing that they’re planning on increasing their emergency funds.

Which brings us to the big question anyone who’s ever made any kind of resolution grapples with: How to maintain your momentum past January?

As far as your finances go, know that two of the best strategies that worked for the study’s respondents were:

* Breaking a goal into smaller, more attainable targets.

* Rewarding yourself for hitting milestones along the way.

More in-depth tips from Fidelity, titled “3 Ways to Succeed at New Year’s Resolutions,” is available at fidelity.com/resolutions. And for those who really want a financial reality check, including tax guidance, there’s “Savvy Money Moves to Make Before Year-End” and “Five Things to Review Annually.”

Fidelity’s Hevert even has a piece of advice for those who disdain financial resolutions entirely: “Make saving and investing a permanent habit, not just a once-a-year vow.”

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