(BPT) - With the holidays past and a new year upon us, now is the time for Americans to focus on their 2014 resolutions. And while fitness goals often top the list of New Year’s resolutions, diet and exercise aren’t the only ways to get back into shape. This year, do yourself and your loved ones a favor by getting financially fit as well.
Although most Americans intend to become financially savvy in the new year, only a small fraction fully commit to their financial success. According to a 2012 study from University of Scranton, 34 percent of Americans established financial resolutions goals, but only 8 percent were successful in achieving them. Luckily, 2014 is a new year, which means new opportunity to focus on and work toward your financial aspirations.
To help stay financially fit in 2014 and beyond, here are a few tips:
* Be specific with your resolutions: Once you know exactly what you're saving for, arm yourself with the right savings tools to achieve your goals. Capital One 360's My Savings Goals enables you to name your goals and track them throughout the year, if you have a specific deadline or certain budget you want to meet. You'll even get alerts as you reach milestones along the way.
* Save regularly by setting up automatic transfers: Start the new year off with an aim to save. One of the easiest ways to save is to have funds automatically moved to your account every month or with every paycheck. With an automatic savings plan, you can set it and forget it.
* Maximize retirement savings: If you have a 401(k), max out your contributions (and your employer match, if you have one) to gain full benefits for the tax year. Also, while you’re permitted to make IRA contributions through the tax filing deadline, contributing now may provide additional tax-deferred growth potential.
* Give your portfolio a tune-up: Take a look at the investments you have and make sure you’re maintaining a well-balanced, diversified portfolio that aligns with your risk tolerance and goals. If you’re just getting started, an online investing tool can help you assess your investing style and risk profile, and set up a personalized portfolio and investing plan that works for you.
* Create an emergency fund: To minimize debt and financial penalties resulting from having to pay off unexpected expenses, create an emergency fund. Allocate some of this year’s holiday budget, year-end bonus and/or tax return to an interest-earning, FDIC-insured savings account. You can also set up automatic contributions to build your savings. A good rule of thumb is to maintain six months’ worth of expenses in your savings, just in case.
* Look for responsible ways to establish credit: Remember that a credit card doesn't equal free money. Start with a low-limit credit card that offers points and/or rewards and pay your monthly balance in full and on time. Late fees add up quickly and hurt your credit score. And, set up alerts to help you track your spending and to help you pay your bill on time.
The winter season can be a stressful time financially, but if you plan ahead and stick to your financial goals, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy financial success in the new year and for years to come.