Making large life changes on a whim does give a psychological boost in the short term, but following through with something as complex as a better financial future takes more than a split-second decision. Thankfully it's far from an impossible mission.
If you've made it to February without giving up, congratulations! You've probably made it farther than most resolutions have. Whether you've decided to try and wrangle an unruly checkbook or figure out your retirement years ahead of time, you'll have your work cut out for you. There are a few marked differences between the two yet they share many similar goals in establishing financial stability and long-term growth. Financial planning regards your pre-retirement plans while a retirement plan accounts for when your income suddenly stops and they rely fairly heavily on one another.
If you've made it this far you've likely taken stock of your financial situation and have an idea of what your budget looks like. A good budget is split into distinct categories that are clearly defined without leaving you unable to enjoy yourself or move funds around in the case of an unexpected expense, but letting your impulse spending spiral out of control is a good way to wind up with no savings to fall back on. You may also find your budget plans shifting over time and that's completely normal. For example, a lack of an emergency fund means you might be wise to divert funds into a safety net as an additional savings target before moving money elsewhere.
Allocating budgeted funds means making a plan that is realistic and achievable. If you've previously struggled with sticking to how you've plotted out your funds, it may be time to look at your goals and adjust accordingly. Having regulations on your spending that are strict enough that you struggle to stick to them makes for worse savings than lighter, more consistent goals. Having a physical representation of your goals also gives a tangible reminder of what you plan to achieve whether it's as simple as a note or as elaborate as a bar graph with marked goals and future plans.
Others may find solace in the dream of retiring well before traditional retirement age. Many of the core concepts of early retirement also lend themselves well to strong retirement planning, an angle of financial planning that many younger workers fail to plan for accordingly. The difference between saving a few dollars per year or putting aside a solid percentage of your paycheck can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars through your career.
There's more to retirement planning than simply putting money aside, too. Properly caring for your mortgage and working a life insurance plan into your budget are just as important as paying off outstanding credit card debt. Mortgage payments drain interest that could be put towards other savings and life insurance plans offer settlement buyouts in the case of emergencies as well as stability for your loved ones.
If you still find yourself struggling with impulse buys and wild spending, automating your savings and pulling payment information out of your most common spenders makes it more difficult to fall into common traps of overspending and putting aside your savings until the end of the month. If you only save when you think you have extra money you likely won't save anything at all.
Not every big budgetary change in your lifetime will stick and there's nothing wrong with taking a few tries to find a financial plan that works for you. There's an element of discipline that it takes to avoid falling into bad habits and breaking existing habits can further complicate things. Form a plan, don't be afraid to shift your budget around and always try to save for yourself before anything else. If you don't, you may have to make another resolution next year!