No matter how enthusiastic our New Year's resolutions may have been to save more, spend less and/or take total ownership of our finances in 2023, they might now be losing their luster. The days since we made those ambitious resolutions are quickly passing and the shine is wearing off.
In 2023, financial planning has become more critical than ever, with economic uncertainties and changing market dynamics. To gain insights into how professionals stay on track with their financial strategies, we reached out to a group of experienced financial planners and experts on how they manage their money.
These experts shared their time-tested techniques and innovative approaches to ensure that their own financial goals are met despite the challenges of the current landscape. From personalized investment strategies to adapting to emerging trends, these financial planners and experts offer valuable lessons for anyone looking to secure their financial future in today's ever-evolving world.
Let's dive in to see how our experts keep their financial planning on track in 2023.
I Don't Just Track My Spending, I Chart It
Financial experts are hardcore about keeping their eye on their money -- and it pays, literally.
Amanda L. Grossman, a certified financial education instructor and personal finance blogger at FrugalConfessions.com, said that many people rely on apps to keep track of their finances automatically, but "what these apps don't account for is when you stray or get off-target with your financial goal, which happens a lot."
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"What you want to do is to start calculating and then tracking the gap between where you are, and where you should be, according to your financial plan or goal," she advised.
What this means, Grossman explained, is "charting where you should be each week or month (or even daily) to achieve your financial goal, and then also charting (in a different color) where you actually are. The space between the two lines will be your 'gap', which can either mean you're behind, or ahead, or 'the curve'. The curve being the numbers you need to be hitting to hit your overall financial goal target."
I Have Specific and Practical Objectives
According to Cheri Fisher, a financial advisor from The RFP Success Company, a fundamental method she employs to maintain her financial stability is encapsulated in the SMART program. This acronym stands for making goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
Fisher said, "Be specific about how much and by when you intend to save, this will enable you to manage your cash resources wisely."
"Writing down 'I will save more' isn't tangible, and quite frankly, comes off more like a lofty wish than an actionable goal," says Nishank Khanna, CFO of Clarify Capital. "Your goals should be specific. If you really want to save more, come up with a number and write that down. Whatever you write should be concrete and measurable. When you're able to quantify your objectives, you'll find it much easier to track progress and work towards goal achievement."
Additionally, if you are able to write down your financial goals with a pen and paper (as opposed to using a phone or computer), you should do so. Research has shown that the manual act of writing can enforce our memory, potentially helping us more easily recall our goals later.
Once your goals are written down, set dates in your planner, revisit them regularly and check your progress. "Then remember those accountability dates by setting reminders on your phone and sending emails/texts to your future self," says Shaun Morgan, personal finance blogger at Simply Know Money. Morgan also recommends printing out your goals and placing them in areas where you might stumble upon them without meaning to.
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I Budget for Savings
"Warren Buffett is quoted as saying, 'If you want to make saving a priority, take a look at how you budget. Do not save what is left after spending; instead, spend what is left after saving,'" says Dr. Robert R. Johnson, professor of finance, Heider College of Business, Creighton University.
"If one truly wants to make savings a priority, it cannot be a residual -- what is left over. It should be a line item on your budget. You don't successfully build wealth by simply taking what you have left after all your expenses. We accomplish what we prioritize. Prioritize savings and invest those savings."
I Vision Board
Michael Hammelburger, the CEO and a certified financial advisor at The Bottom Line Group, says one effective approach he employed was creating a financial vision board, a departure from conventional number-crunching methods.
By visually representing his financial goals with images and symbols that represented his desired life, Hammelburger found himself staying motivated and focused on the bigger picture. This innovative strategy added a unique dimension to his financial planning process, helping him achieve his aspirations with greater clarity and determination.
I Do Financial Challenges With My Family and Friends
According to Hammelburger, another unconventional approach he employed was organizing financial challenges with friends or family. These challenges, like a no-spend month or a creative side hustle week, were designed to be both fun and rewarding.
Engaging in friendly competition and offering each other encouragement held them accountable and enhanced their financial discipline. By making money management an enjoyable group activity, they found it easier to stay on track and achieve their financial goals.
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I Revisit My Subscription Services
This advice is evergreen for a reason. According to our financial experts, you probably have a few subscriptions you could let go of.
"Many people sign up for monthly subscription services, [and] once they're signed up, they rarely go back to reassess," says Steffa Mantilla, a certified financial education instructor and founder of the personal finance site, Money Tamer.
"Make a list of all your subscriptions and critically assess whether you're getting the full value out of them. Many people find that they have two or three services that offer the same type of service. By cutting even a few of these subscriptions, you'll save hundreds of dollars every year."
I Invest Time in Learning About Money
"In our country today, we require more formal education to drive a vehicle than we do to manage money," says Harry N. Stout, author of several personal finance books and owner of FinancialVerse.
"People are just not prepared to address the financial matters they face in life. Study after study shows that Americans lose over $1,000 annually by not properly understanding basic household finance issues -- that's about the monthly mortgage payment on a modest home or over two average car loan payments."
Stout said that by improving your financial literacy, you enable yourself to make smarter money management decisions that can lead to financial security. You can start by familiarizing yourself with everyday financial issues like budgeting, spending, debt, taxes, retirement savings, college savings, mortgage management and tax and estate planning.
"If sufficient time is not spent learning about better managing money matters," he continued, "individuals will not be able to reduce financial stress and anxiety. Knowledge is power."
I Took a Course on Debt
Our financial experts are always educating themselves on the latest in finance.
Debt.com's 12-month self-improvement email course, #WeKnowDebt, is free of charge. The course gives Americans "a comprehensive breakdown of basic personal finance topics [including] budgeting, savings, interest rates, taxes, and good credit - just to name a few," said Howard Dvorkin, CPA and chairman of Debt.com.
"The course also provides support through a Facebook group for those who sign-up and have questions along the way. Each email lesson in the #WeKnowDebt course is jargon-free and comes with a unique list of resources -- along with a 'Learn this' and 'Do this' section."
I Retain a CPA and Consult Them Regularly
"It's one thing to have financial goals, but it's another to have financial goals with no viable strategy in place to meet said goals or track implementation of employed strategies," says Jasmine Young, founder and CEO of Southern Tax Preparation & Services.
"A CPA can help you do both but not if they only see you during tax time. CPAs perform relational work, meaning that if they have formed a relationship with you and you are checking in with them several times throughout the year, they are abreast of events that have happened throughout the year that can affect your finances and are better able to provide you with more guidance and advice as to how to reach the financial goals you set."
I Change My Goals as Life Changes Me
Remember those super-specific goals we made you write down? Well, when you revisit them, our experts advise that you should be open to revising them. Try to pinpoint the "why" behind them. As we change, so do our wants and sometimes even our needs.
"You might be going down a track for one thing but now you have completely different goals," says Tolen Teigen, Chief Investment Officer of Financial Decisions. "Take a step back and think about what you want to accomplish. Many people have had a lot of major changes. Maybe now is the right time for a career change or moving out of state or elsewhere."
I Let Go of Perfection
"The goal isn't perfection, it's progress. Celebrate the little wins," says Melbourne O'Banion, co-founder and CEO of Bestow. "When it comes to managing your money, don't make perfection the enemy of progress. Checking important items off your to-do list is an incredibly valuable part of meeting your money goals, such as finally buying that life insurance policy you've been putting off, setting up auto deposits into an IRA or brokerage account or creating a will. Plus, that sense of accomplishment will motivate you to keep up the momentum and do more."
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Nicole Spector contributed to the reporting for this article.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: How Experts Keep Their Financial Planning On Track In 2023