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I’m sure we would all like a six pack and six figures in the bank in 6 month’s time, but how many times have you started the year with a good looking set of New-Year’s resolutions, only to find that by April, your good intentions are a distant memory? Take last year for example. Did you start the year with a list of New Year’s resolutions? Where are they now? Round of applause to you if you can remember them at all! Standing ovation if you have achieved some or all of them, because you are in the top 8%!

Lots of people say that New Year’s resolutions are a complete waste of time. This is because most people fail to achieve them. The end of the year is however a great time to make a list of the things you want to achieve. But why are these targets so difficult to achieve? Here are five simple rules about setting yourself targets.

1: Make sure your targets are unambiguous. “I’d like to sort out my finances” is a typical vague New Year’s resolution and doomed to failure from the start. What do you mean by “sort out?” and “finances?” The whole idea is opaque and cumbersome, like trying to pick up a heavy concrete ball. Can you imagine at the end of the year saying, “Phew, I’ve sorted out my finances now!” Highly unlikely! Much better to focus on something specific like, “This year, I will reduce my debt and start contributing to my pension.”

2: Put some numbers on it: We sometimes leave a resolution loose on purpose to give ourselves a get-out clause! I’ve often heard people say things like “I said I’d sort out my finances last year, but I’m not quite there yet.” What a cop-out! A statement such as this may give you comfort that you haven’t failed completely but if you haven’t succeeded, you have failed. Simple. A resolution that is measurable such as “This year, I will reduce my debt by 25% and start contributing 10% of my income to my pension” is much more tangible.

3: Make sure it’s achievable by keeping it simple. It may be impressive to put together a list of twenty tough goals, but how would you feel if you managed to achieve only seven of them, failing at thirteen? Would that feel like success? Why not start with a list of 5 goals? If by April, you’ve crossed everything off your list, reward yourself for your achievements and then put together another list of five and start again.

4: Only set realistic targets. I’ve heard some great ones – one of the best and most common is “I want to be rich.” I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to be rich. But how realistic is a goal like that? Much better to make small, realistic bite size financial improvements towards your ultimate goal of being rich. If you’d like to be rich, getting out of debt and contributing to your pension will ultimately help you achieve that long term goal.

5: Give yourself a time limit. Setting a target like “By the end of April next year, I would have reduced my credit card debt by 25% and would have started investing 10% of my income into my pension” brings the whole target to life.

And don’t be shy to ask for help. Sharing your fitness goals with a qualified personal trainer will help you achieve results faster. Yes, you’d like a six pack, but your personal trainer will be able to tell you whether this is achievable and how much pain you’ll have to put yourself through to achieve your goal.

Discussing any financial goals with an Independent Financial Adviser will give you the focus and ownership you need to smash your targets. How nice would it be to start the year looking back and saying – “I set myself some targets last year and have achieved all of them. Bring on next year!” Think what that will do to your self-esteem and confidence! It can be done. Good luck and Happy New Year!

Akwasi Duodu, IFA, London

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