Enjoy Wellness

This Week In Your Wallet: Resolutions

Jean Chatzky  |  January 8, 2019

Hi – and Happy 2019! Since we turned the page on this calendar year, I’ve been thinking about resolutions. And I’m not the only one.

A quick Google search reveals that everyone from CNET to Good Housekeeping is weighing in on not just how to make them, but how to keep them.

Me, I’m already one for two. Thanks to a recommendation from Madison Reed, founder and CEO Amy Errett (seriously, it was a very brief chat that took place while we were waiting for an elevator) I downloaded the Headspace app and I’ve meditated now for 8 consecutive days. But my other resolution — giving up my nightly glass of wine — is going to be a lot more difficult, if not impossible.

And this got me thinking that maybe we should all stop dwelling on hard-and-fast resolutions (that we feel oh so guilty about “breaking”) and instead focus on making small changes that can more easily be incorporated into our daily lives. In other words, resolutions command discipline, while changes can be shaped to fit our existing lives. And if the goal is to succeed at doing something, then why not make it as easy as possible on ourselves? Two things made this clear to me this week.

The first was a reminder that popped up in Headspace, that said something along the lines of: This will be easier if you find a specific place for it in your day. Get up. Brush teeth. Meditate. That’s been working for me, although I also make coffee and let the dog out first. The second was this story from The New York Times that focused on the differences between active and passive policies we may have at our employers, and how good they are at inspiring change. Active policies – which require that we do something like putting money into a Health Savings Account to get a tax deduction – work, but generally just for people who were likely to do those things anyway. Passive policies – where you don’t have to do anything and you get the good result anyway, like auto-enrollment into 401(k)s – work more universally.

Of course, we can’t just wave a magic wand and put passive programs in place in governments or even at our employers — though we can suggest them to HR. But we can cobble together some one-and-done solutions that automate changes in our lives that stand to have longer-term impacts. For example, we can – with a few keystrokes – increase the amount we’re contributing to our 401(k)s, open a high-interest rate savings account and fund it every time we get paid, put an app on our phone (like Digit, Acorns or Stash) that will help us save, and automatically pay some bills. We can make it easier on ourselves, and change simultaneously.

Market Perspective From A Pro

The first two trading days of 2019 were the worst since the year 2000. On the third, the market bounced back more than 700 points. It can be stress-causing and crazy-making, for all of us. USA Today reporter Adam Shell reflects on nearly 20 years covering the ups-and-downs of Wall Street and offers some very helpful perspective, including his thoughts on why trying to time the market does not work (he got out, but never got back in, missing a 10-year bull run) and why you may just have to reduce the risk in your portfolio to enable yourself to sleep at night. And that’s okay.

Refunds And Withholding

Finally, if you were worried that the government shutdown would prevent the payment of your tax refund once tax filing season kicks off January 28th, that’s not happening anymore.  Although that was the stance during prior shutdowns, the policy was reversed yesterday. But before you celebrate – ask yourself if you’re sure you’re actually receiving one. In the middle of last year, the IRS released new withholding tables to coordinate with the new tax law. Some 30 million people are not withholding enough. If you’re one of them, you might want to start stashing away a little extra cash to cover you in case of a tax bill — you don’t want last year’s mistake to snowball into one for this year. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator to check yourself.

Have a great week – and a great year!

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