There's nothing like a brand new year to convince us that anything is possible - including getting our financial houses in order. For many of us, debts are a constant source of worry and anxiety. In fact, for some people, debt can trigger feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.
No one needs to live that way. Whether you're in a little debt or a lot, there are steps you can take to gain control of your finances, improve your credit rating and FICO score, and make yourself feel better. But setting your goals, and then deciding how you're going to achieve them, is half the battle.
To help you make concrete financial strategies, start with the following resolutions and then work out the tactics to make the strategies successful.
The Five Best Financial Resolutions to Make
1. I will set specific, measurable and time-sensitive financial goals, and I'll put them in writing.
2. I will pay off my debts, and try to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate.
3. Once my debts are repaid, I will take 10 percent of each paycheck and invest it in savings.
4. I will analyze my choices for retirement planning, to make sure that I make the most of them.
5. I will assess all risks to my family's financial health - including the death or long-term disability of a family member - and obtain insurance to cover them.
The Three Most Overlooked Financial Planning Solutions
1. Reviewing your mortgage. Did you make the best choice for your mortgage? If you didn't, how much would the penalty be if you renegotiated? If your mortgage is fine, do you take advantage of all of its options, such as the annual principal pay-down clause?
2. Making a will. Leaving your family without a will to help deal with your financial estate could cost them dearly -- in expenses, legal fees and emotional wear and tear.
3. Preparing a power of attorney. Make it easier for your family to make health-related or financial decisions if you're incapacitated.
The Worst Mistakes That People Make When Setting Financial Goals
1. Expecting instant solutions. It takes time to get into debt, and time to get out of it.
2. Going it alone. When you need health advice, you visit your doctor; when you need financial advice, you should visit a qualified, non-profit adviser.
3. Not writing it down. Create a plan, write it down, and review it regularly. If it needs to change, change it.
Stanley J. Kershman is The Debt Doctor. A leading authority on solving financial disasters, he has been helping people get out of debt for more than 25 years. He's also the author of Put Your Debt on a Diet: A Step-by-Step Guide to Financial Fitness (Pepper Pike Press), a practical handbook that walks you through the process of improving your money management skills. For free copies of Stanley's handy budgeting worksheets, visit www.debtonadiet.com.