With the new year well underway, now’s the time to check in on your money-related resolutions. If you find that the resolve you had for reaching financial goals is starting to fade, you’re not alone — but it's not too late to get back on track.
There are plenty of good financial habits you can adopt to help you meet your goals. But before you vow to increase your 401(k) contribution or finally beef up your vacation fund, it’s a good idea to first get to the root cause of why you’re waning in the first place. Here are four reasons why your money goals may have stalled.
YOU’RE DISCONNECTED FROM YOUR FINANCES
In today’s digital world, people have become increasingly detached from their money, says Elisa Robyn, a wealth relationship psychologist. Thanks to online banking and automatic payments, there’s no longer a need to go into a physical bank or balance a checking account. In fact, a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey found that the average American only spends around two minutes a day managing their finances.
“Imagine treating a friend this way — if you only sent cards from an automated site and never actually checked in and said hello,” Robyn says. “You would likely lose that friend without even knowing it, and the same is true for your money.” By checking your accounts on a weekly basis, you can keep your finances top of mind. And to further connect your money to your savings goals, for instance, Robyn encourages people to “name your accounts something other than ‘savings’ and instead dub them ‘Hawaii trip’ or ‘comfy retirement.’”
YOUR RELATIONSHIPS INFLUENCE YOUR MONEY HABITS TOO MUCH
The people you spend time with — particularly your spouse and close friends — are a big influence on how you save and spend. A partner who doesn’t understand the importance of your savings goals or friends who encourage shop therapy could be counterproductive to your progress.
For instance, “If you find that your partner's values do not align with yours, you may find yourself spending more than you should,” says Sherrie Campbell, a clinical psychologist. “You’ll have to deal with not only money going out the window, but also a built-up resentment toward your partner.” Even if your money habits may differ, you need your friends and loved ones to respect your money values, and encourage and support you in pursuit of your financial goals.
YOU FEAR CHANGE — AND MAYBE EVEN SUCCESS
When you change your money habits or make a commitment to meet financial goals, it can have a snowball effect on the rest of your life. As exciting as that is, it can also be scary. “When you change one aspect of your life, you may begin to notice that other aspects change, too,” Robyn says. That could mean anything from choosing healthier relationships, changing jobs or even returning to college to finally get that advanced degree.
Part of the fear may be rooted in not having your finances as an excuse anymore for why you aren’t following through on your goals. “The reason could be your unconscious but strongly held conviction that you are not worth saving for, or that you will never truly deserve a financially secure life,” says Thomas A. Caffrey, a clinical psychologist. Deep-seated insecurities about your own worth don't dissolve simply because you've set a financial goal, so keep pushing forward.
YOU ONLY FOCUS ON WHAT YOU NEED, AND NOT ON WHAT YOU WANT
Sometimes your financial goals simply do not align with what you actually want for yourself. “It’s possible to make a goal for yourself that you have no interest in accomplishing,” Robyn says. “Maybe you’ve set a goal of saving for a bigger home, but in reality you’d prefer to sell your home and just travel.”
You’re more likely to accomplish a goal if it’s focused on your specific needs and wants, and not on the kind of life you think you should be leading. By zeroing in on your individual priorities, you’ll be more successful in tackling your goals — financial or otherwise.