We here at MortgageKeeper are jumping on the resolution train. To have a look at getting our finances in order, we welcome Karen Carlson, Director of Education for one of our newest clients, InCharge Debt Solutions, as our guest blogger.

Top Five Money Resolutions for 2013

By Karen Carlson, Director of Education at InCharge Debt Solutions

Looking to shore up your finances this year? Become in charge of your money with resolutions you can take to the bank.

1. Pay off your credit card debt. If you are among the nearly 40% of Americans who carry credit card debt from month to month, it’s time to kick the habit and pay it off. If your total debt is less than 15% of your annual income, you should be able to pay it off in one year. Divide the amount owed by the number of paychecks you receive in a year. Pay your debt payments first, on payday.

2. Build an opportunity fund. Typically called the emergency fund, we like to cast money stashed away ‘just in case’ in a positive light. What opportunities could you take advantage of in 2013 or 2014 if you had money saved? Where could you go? What experiences could you have? Set up direct deposit from your paycheck to your savings account and put
your money where your dreams are in 2013.

3. Stop living paycheck-to-paycheck. What’s worse than working 40 hours a week for 10 years with nothing to show for it? Working 40 hours a week for 20 years with nothing to show for it. In fact, a large percentage of baby boomers have worked the majority of their adult lives and have accumulated little in the way of assets. Paycheck-to-paycheck living will rob you of the ability to save, invest and retire with dignity. Learn how to live with less. Be creative. Draw a line in the sand and find room in your budget this year.

4. Grow Your Income. As the unemployment rate drops, there will be more opportunities to work longer hours or pick up a second job. But recognize that the US job market is in the middle of a dramatic shift, toward jobs that require higher education and greater technological skill. Get educated. Get certified. Improve your income potential and employability, even if it means a temporary pay cut. Consider creating a job by starting a small business.

5. Reach Out When You Need Help. If you’re struggling financially and you need help, all you have to do is ask. Reputable nonprofit organizations are standing by to help you analyze your financial situation, make a budget and illuminate a path to stability. These include InCharge—who also make referrals using the MortgageKeeper data application to find local agencies that can help.

Making a resolution is the first step, but sticking to it can be difficult. Behavior change research shows that successful resolutions are followed by detailed action plans. This means committing to your resolution to writing, breaking it down into small ‘bite-sized’ goals (weekly milestones, for example), and tracking your progress. It’s okay to have a slip-up, but get back on your plan as soon as possible.

Good luck and Happy New Year.