The end of the year and the beginning of the new year is a good time for thinking about what we did with our money in 2018 and what we would like to do better in 2019 and beyond.

There also is the pressure to think about finances with the nerve-racking uncertainty about where the U.S. economy is headed. What is the message in the stock market with several major indexes closing in on bear market territory? Are we sliding into recession? 

You can’t eliminate the uncertainty. The evidence is overwhelming that trying to time the markets by actively trading is financially hazardous. What you can do is examine your individual household circumstances and make adjustments to shore up household finances.

In other words, time for New Year’s resolutions about money. A recent survey by the financial behemoth Fidelity found that the top financial resolutions for next year were save more, pay down high-rate debt and spend less. These results have held the top spot for the 10 years of the survey. “Be always at war with your vices,” Ben Franklin advised, “at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.”

Financial introspection is still valuable at this time of year. The trick is not to get lost in minutia of making too long a list of money goals. So, here’s my suggestion with financial resolutions. Take the time to step back and ask yourself some big questions, such as: What do I want to be doing a year and three years from now? Is this the right career for me, or is it time to explore another path? What one change in managing household finances would truly make a difference to my life? What about that entrepreneurial dream I’ve had in the back of my mind? Time to let the idea go, or go for it? Think about where you are in life and where you would like to be in coming years.

I would also engage your family and friends in looking for answers. Talk about what you are thinking when you get together with friends at a coffee shop. What is their reaction and feedback? Gather information from your network. Focus on the “why” rather than the “how.”

I would then write down a plan that reflects what you’ve learned and decided on. Stick with broad strokes. The advantage of such a written plan is it will keep you focused in 2019. You can refer to the plan over the course of the year and rework it as needed. Out of the plan you can come up with a financial resolution or two (no more) that will move you closer to where you would like to be in the future. Happy New Year!

 

Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor, “Marketplace,” commentator, Minnesota Public Radio.