Saturday, February 13, 2016

December Financial Fitness Challenge—Set 2014 Up for Financial Success

We launched the Financial Fitness Challenge in 2007 to examine daily habits that turn into lifelong behaviors, for good or ill. "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit," as author and historian Will Durant interpreted Aristotle. Another take on that theme comes from writer Annie Dillard: "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."

These themes affect all our lives—our personal relationships, health, education and career, and even finances.

Applying Dillard's aphorism to your cash flow, for example, means that if you routinely think before you spend, you improve your financial position over time. If you habitually spend money on wants instead of needs, you never will accumulate savings.

Less is more

A big temptation come the New Year is to go all out "fixing" yourself. Chances are good that a scattershot approach won't end well. Keep things simple and focused to improve your odds of success.

Of all the strategies we've talked about over seven years of Financial Fitness Challenges, I hope you'll remember these three ideas:

  1. Set a goal—Think of all the things you'd like to accomplish financially and rank them. Paying off all your credit card debt, saving for a down payment on a new car or a house, setting up your will and power of attorney for health care and your personal finances are some examples. Remember the SMART acronym and keep your goal specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Focus on one goal that will have a satisfying payoff.

  2. Fuggeddaboutit—Make a decision once and automate it. Your credit union has effective tools to help: Use direct deposit of net pay from your employer, then use automated transfers from share drafts/checking to savings to build your rainy day fund. Use online bill pay to pay all bills, on time every time. Set alerts from the bill pay system to remind you when a payment is due. Likewise, set up a low balance alert so you never get caught off-guard by an overdraft.

    Make a decision once and then automate it.

  3. Sleep on it—Impulse spending wreaks havoc with the best intentions. Give yourself a cooling-off period—sleep on a spending decision overnight or find some other way to delay spending until you're confident it's a prudent choice. Ask yourself, Is this behavior sustainable? Does this serve my goals? Having a goal and keeping it top of mind is a good way to honor your long-term objectives.

New for 2014: Everybody's Money Matters

The Financial Fitness Challenge has been fun since 2007, but we're switching it up in 2014 with Everybody's Money Matters. This new feature gives credit union members and staff a chance to call the shots for topics in Home & Family Finance Resource Center. And to win prizes in the process!

If we develop a story, Q&A, podcast, or other content based on your submission to Everybody's Money Matters, we'll send you a $50 Visa gift card. Here's what qualifies:

  1. A consumer or personal finance question; or
  2. A story idea for a future issue; or
  3. A personal, true account of exemplary service or treatment by your credit union.

We're looking forward to your input. It will help us deliver content that's useful for you and all credit union members. This is fitting—the name Everybody's Money originated in 1961 as the quarterly magazine produced by the Credit Union National Association for credit union members.

This unique credit union idea is that credit unions use everybody's money to help all of their members. We haven't published the magazine for several years, but the credit union commitment to helping members make the most of their financial resources is as strong today as it was in 1961.

"How we spend our days we spend our lives."

So start submitting your ideas for 2014 now, and don't miss your chance to register for and win a $50 Visa gift card for the last Financial Fitness Challenge throughout December 2013.

Financial Fitness Challenge

Your credit union personal finance professionals bring you this website and other tools to help you make the most of your money. The Financial Fitness Challenge looks at ways you can make better financial habits no matter what condition the economy is in.

Susan Tiffany, CCUFC

Financial Fitness Challenge links

Equal Housing Lender

  Home & Family Finance® Resource Center
  Copyright © 1997-2015 Credit Union National Association Inc.

America's Credit Unions