Financial Resource Center

Money Management

January Financial Fitness Challenge—Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

by Susan Tiffany, CCUFC / January 3rd, 2013

The beginning of a New Year is fraught with pressure to make this the year you finally become a Perfect Person. Our expectations are high, and we've been succumbing to them for generations. In 1726, a 20-year-old Benjamin Franklin wrote his list of 13 virtues, including "No. 5, Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing." In 1699, at age 32, Jonathan Swift, the author of "Gulliver's Travels" and other classics, wrote a list of 17 things he hoped to achieve in his future old age. Wisely, his last item was "Not to set up for observing all these Rules, for fear I should observe none." Maybe it's time we examined our expectations and thought about what we're trying to achieve.

Keep it real

If you end up overwhelmed with your "must do" list, overdoing can be a way of procrastinating and doing nothing. Swift was wise to recognize that he might "observe none" in his quest to achieve so much. So think about your priorities and what you have to accomplish. Here are some suggestions:
  • Review insurance coverage.
  • Build emergency fund.
    Read about your options—but just enough. Don't overdo it or you'll undo it.
  • Improve credit score.
  • Name a guardian for minor children.
As you make your own list, always use a verb—build, review, name, improve. Note that each of your goals requires action. Remind yourself why you're working toward each goal:
  • You want to make sure you have the right coverage—not too much nor too little—and to make sure you're not spending more money than you have to; you have other things to spend the premium money on so it makes sense to run a checkup regularly.
  • You want to be able to weather financial challenges without turning to credit cards; you want the peace of mind that comes with financial preparation.
  • You'd like to buy a house in the next year or so and you know you need a clean credit record to get the best interest rate, which will make your monthly payments manageable.
  • You want the best for your children; you want to have the peace of mind from knowing they will be in the best hands if something happens to you.
Now, think which of these tasks has the biggest payoff for your personal goals, and pursue that one thing.
Overdoing can become a way of procrastinating and doing nothing.
You aren't abandoning all the other goals—you're just peeling one off the list so you can focus on it and get it done.

A dream with a deadline = done

Now you have to get to work. Break down your goal into the tasks that will get you there. For example:
  • Identify a guardian.
  • Talk with the guardian and make sure he or she is willing and able to take on the responsibility. Do you have a Plan B?
  • Read about your options—but just enough. Remember, don't overdo it or you'll undo it.
  • Make an appointment with the lawyer to find out what's required to make the guardianship effective.
  • Keep the appointment.
  • Follow through with any details to finalize the guardianship.
When you accomplish your first goal, congratulate yourself—briefly. Now turn back to your list and pick your next achievable objective.

Financial Fitness Challenge

Your credit union money mentors bring you this website and other tools to help you make the most of your financial resources. The Financial Fitness Challenge continues to look at ways you can make better financial habits no matter what condition the economy is in. ST
Susan Tiffany, CCUFC
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