By: Catherine Baab-Muguira, The Motley Fool
Nearly half of Americans considered setting a financial New Year’s resolution for 2013, according to a survey conducted by Fidelity Investments. Encouragingly, the survey also found that, last year, resolve to keep financial resolutions hit an all-time high, with 62 percent of people saying they kept to the financial resolutions they made in 2012.
We’re almost a month into 2013, and however well you’re doing with your money resolutions, we thought now would be a good time to give you an inspiration booster. So, check out these stories of three real people on the way to achieving ambitious financial goals this year.
Build an Emergency Fund Without Getting Derailed by Emergencies
Cherie Lowe, a blogger and mother of two who lives outside Indianapolis, resolved to build an emergency fund this year after spending the last four years paying off $127,000 in debt (from $80,000 in student loans to a $100 balance on a Kohl’s charge card).
“To keep up with our goal, we have been intentional about immediately removing designated funds from our checking account as soon as salary checks clear,” Lowe says. “If you don’t immediately remove such income from your checking account, it will grow legs and walk to Target.”
As is so often the case, the best-laid plans can be derailed by real life. When she and her husband Brian, an attorney, recently discovered water in the crawl space of their home, they had to tap the new emergency fund for $1,000 to fix the problem.
“Thank the Lord for the emergency fund,” says Lowe. “In past years, I would have panicked. It doesn’t hurt any less to spend the money, but at least it’s there and we still have some left over, too.”
Undaunted by this setback, Lowe already has financial resolutions for 2014 and beyond on her mind. “Once the three-to-six-month emergency fund is filled,” she says, “we’ll begin specific savings accounts like ‘College Planning,’ ‘New Car,’ ‘Vacation,’ etc.”
“My resolution is to clean up and repair my credit report,” says Becky Blanton, a single, self-employed woman who lives near Charlottesville, Va.
Her resolution is perhaps more urgent than most because she lives in a rural area and her only means of transportation, a 1975 Chevy van, failed to pass inspection. “I knew if I didn’t clean up my credit now, when it finally dies I won’t be able to get a loan for a new car,” she says.
But there is an even deeper, more personal, backstory behind Blanton’s goal.
Blanton, who was once homeless and whose debts are primarily medical, says that the process of dealing with creditors can be demoralizing and frustrating. Plus, “So many people evaluate us based on credit scores and vehicles that it’s easy to buy into their fantasy that a great credit score makes you a better person,” says Blanton. “It doesn’t, but it does go a long way to making you a person with more options, and that’s what I’m after.”
Today, Blanton says she is past the feelings of shame and embarrassment. “It’s like being on ‘The Biggest Loser.’ You know the whole world is going to see how fat you are, but in the end, your life is going to change for the better so you learn to tough out the process: the embarrassment, the shame, the feeling stupid about not understanding how all this credit and financial stuff works. It’s a matter of mind over money.”
Focusing on the positive, she says, has helped her stay committed to achieving her goal. Early progress has also been encouraging: “In less than six weeks, I’ve had seven items removed, and bumped my score up almost 40 points from removing inaccurate items from my report.”
Pay Off $25,000 in Debt — or Else
Adam Duke, a single entrepreneur in Las Vegas, has set for himself the lofty goal of paying off all his debts in 2013.
“I graduated college in 2006 and have always had student loan debt hanging over my head. I have had credit card debt for years after foolish spending in my early 20s,” he says. But in 2013, “I want to pay it all off, never borrow money again (besides a mortgage) and live a debt-free life.”
Duke’s debt accumulated over the last several years. All told, he owes about $25,000 in the form of two student loans and three credit cards. The endless bill-paying has become tiresome, Duke says, and he’s had enough.
“My primary motivation is the writing checks each and every month to these student loan companies and credit card companies,” he says. “I am sick of writing checks and cannot wait to write the ‘big one’ to pay them all off.”
To accomplish his goal, Duke is trying to generate more business. He has also enlisted the help of an accountability partner. “We are in the same line of work, so we are colleagues and share ideas about running our consultancy businesses,” he says. “We have little 30-day goals that we lay out and share with each other and we keep each other updated weekly.”
Even better, there are stiff consequences if Duke and his partner fail to keep their resolutions. “Mine is wearing a pink thong and taking a picture in front of the ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign,” he says. “You don’t think that motivates me? It does, big time.”