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5 Steps to Better Financial Habits in 2022

January 12, 2022 by Chevron Federal Credit Union

A new year often signals a fresh start — a natural time to make resolutions, set goals and swap old habits for new ones. And just like committing to moving more can help make an exercise pledge a reality, creating financially savvy habits also can help build and sustain your most important personal finance goals.

One often cited study found that successfully forming a new habit can take from 18 to 254 days. But there are secrets to help speed that progress, as well as make it last. Here are five simple steps to point you toward beneficial financial habits that stick — beyond the hopeful New Year’s resolutions.

1. Take an honest inventory

Say you’re trying to lose a few pounds. Getting on the scale and checking your weight regularly is an obvious step to assess that goal. Your financial status is no different. As the year begins, see where you stand by running an annual inventory of assets and liabilities to check your financial balance. This personal net worth calculator provides an overall snapshot of your current financial picture, which can identify opportunities for change. The takeaway? Reviewing the past can help you focus, set targets and plan future goals. 

2. Choose a change and make it specific

Now that you have some priorities in mind, choose one that’s doable and define it. A good goal is both detailed and narrowly focused. For instance, you may want to “save for retirement,” but that’s vague and hard to quantify. Instead, chart the path by saying, “connect with HR to put 2% more of my salary into my 401(k).” Defining what you want to do, along with what’s needed to make it happen, gives you a solid place to begin turning a habit into a routine.

3. Combine rewards with action

Another way to create effective financial habits is to fuse them with positive rewards. For instance, connecting your resolution to exercise more with listening to your ultimate music playlist, only when you take time out for a walk, can help keep good intentions going. Similarly, swapping extra splurges for meaningful saving works, too. Treating yourself with something motivating — like saving the money you regularly spend on lattes for a concert or future family vacation — can help new financial habits stick. (You can easily keep such savings squirreled away and separate by using Chevron FCU’s free Sub-Savings accounts to save for special goals.)

4. Take it one step at a time

Bold goals and big promises are great to have but starting small has advantages. For example, plenty of research supports the idea that a key to achieving big goals is breaking them down into bite-sized tasks. Taken a step further, the way to build a habit is to maintain a series of small weekly or monthly wins that encourages you to keep going for the long term. This way, you feel motivated to accomplish things within reach and work your way up to bigger aims. The trick? Make your mini wins manageable and easy to do — so that you can’t say no and stall your progress.

5. Check in and readjust along the way

Ever heard of the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day?” Building successful habits doesn’t happen overnight either; in fact, it’s an iterative process that takes time and flexibility. So, accept upfront that anticipating a few challenges is all a part of the process. Monitor your progress regularly and adjust your strategy as needed. Say you’ve resolved to beef up an emergency fund. You intend to manually move money out of your checking account consistently for that purpose after each paycheck arrives. But then you realize you’re skipping a month or two — whether because of a competing expense or you just plain forgot. Instead, make it an automatic habit by setting up a recurring transfer from your checking to savings accounts in a comfortable amount. A helpful way to think about it is this: Focus on establishing the ritual first, then look for results second.

Creating financial habits with stamina

There’s power in creating positive financial habits — wherever you are right now. And a great way to get started now that 2022 has arrived is by taking advantage of a fresh collection of resources your credit union offers for members. Kick off your new year with our webinar workshops, “Are You Financially Healthy” on Jan. 20, and “Your Ideal Financial Health Check-Up” on Feb. 1.

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