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Tips for a Smart Start in the New Year (2015)

Credit CardsHappy New Year! This is a great time to reflect on past successes and plan for upcoming goals. I find this time of year to be helpful in recalibrating my expectations on goals that I’ve set and how I plan to achieve them. Take 20 minutes of your time over the next week and jot down what you would like to improve about your current situation. By putting it on paper, you tacitly commit and psychologically, it’s more powerful than verbalizing. Once on paper, take a few minutes to brainstorm what resources you need to achieve your goal. If it’s money, how will you save? If it’s time, what can you cut from your already hectic schedule or what efficiencies can you cull to free up more time? If it’s emotional (i.e. happiness), what proactive steps can you weave into your daily schedule to set your frame of mind?

All of these scenarios have a multitude of solutions and many tips can be found with a quick Google search. A good way to view your challenge is by way of “cause and effect” – in other words, your challenges are the effect of some cause further upstream. By writing down your goals/challenges, it helps you to understand the root cause which can then be addressed. For instance, if your goal is to be free from the stresses of debt (business debt, credit card debt, etc.), by acknowledging the problem and writing it down, you’re halfway there. Next, you can start looking at your weekly “spend” to see why your putting more onto the card versus paying it down. One clever method is to remove the credit card from your wallet and start paying with cash and/or debit card. If it’s your business, remove the ease of access to a commercial line of credit. This will allow you to “feel” the spending in contrast to lines of credit that give you a false sense of money that you don’t have. With the new system, expenses that can be cut from your budget will quickly come to light. You also become a better judge of “needs” versus “wants”. On a personal level, my wife and I used this system several years ago and it did wonders for our household cash flow.

Whatever your goal this year, be it weight loss, retirement savings or debt restructuring, write it down so that you can uncover the cause of your desired effect.


Mark Fissel, CFP®, AIF®

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