I know how it goes: I start the new year optimistic about the next 12 months. A few weeks later, my determination fades and the next thing I know, it is July and once again I do not have much to show for my resolution.
But I know I am not alone. The struggle is real for you too. So, here are three simple steps to follow through on that New Year's Resolution, instead of letting it fall through.
Step 1. Set specific, attainable financial goals for the year
Set yourself clear goals. Here is mine as an example: "I will save $10,000 this year".
Write it down and then: SET. IT. UP.
Use a separate dedicated savings account and make bank arrangements for an automated transfer of a fixed sum every pay week. Remember to lock up the bank card to the savings account so you cannot spend that money. Better still, do not link the account to any card to keep it out of sight.
If you are saving together towards a joint goal such as buying a house, park the money in a common pool. You and your partner can keep each other on track and stay committed to the goal.
Step 2. Spring clean your financial records
Do yourself a favour and get your financial records in order. Consolidate all your paperwork such as monthly bills, statements and receipts, and set up an accessible filing system.
If you are not already watching your spending, start now. Have you heard of the saying "Look after the cents, and the dollars will look after themselves"? It means you will save more if you are careful with the details of your spending. According to
Visa's Mystery Spend Survey in 2015, Singapore consumers lose almost $2,600 each year in daily expenses to unaccounted spending. To avoid this, use free mobile apps such as Wally, Monefy and Pocket Expense to keep up with bills and budget effectively. They make it easy to monitor your spending, manage your income and most importantly, review your finances.
I started tracking my finances for the past few years after being stressed out about where my salary went every month. When you have a proper financial system in place, it will motivate you to maintain it.
Step 3. Do more for your retirement
If this is not one of your permanent financial goals, it needs to be. It is one of the best things you can do for yourself right now and your future self will thank you for it.
Einstein said, "Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it." Do not be the one who pays. All you need to know is that the earlier you start saving, the more you can build up your savings through the power of compound interest.
Your CPF savings can grow three times more through the power of compound interest
Say Alex starts working at age 25 with a salary of $2,200. He and his employer contribute $130 per month to his CPF Special Account.
This contribution will increase to $250 per month as more gets allocated to his Special Account as he gets older.
With an interest rate of up to 5% before age 55 and up to 6% thereafter, his savings will have grown to $165,000 (assuming he works 32 out of 40 years).
That's three times more than if he had just kept the monthly savings in a biscuit tin!
An easy way to get more for your retirement is to top up your CPF Special or Retirement Account through the Retirement Sum Topping-up Scheme. Take full advantage of the good interest rates and the power of compound interest.
In fact, this is the best time to do it if you are aged 55 and above because from 1 January 2016 onwards, an additional 1% interest per year will be given on the first $30,000 of your CPF savings, on top of the existing 1% extra interest on the first $60,000. This means that the first $60,000 in your combined CPF balances will earn up to 6% interest per year.
Remember to top up early to maximise your interest earned and receive higher monthly retirement payouts! Topping up every January over ten years can get you a 20% return on your CPF savings (based on the current Special/Retirement Account interest rates of up to 5% per annum). Just think of it as essentially free money you would be missing out on otherwise.
Knowing that you have your retirement plan in place will give you peace of mind. So top up for yourself or your family members today using either cash or your CPF savings! Read more about the scheme
In summary: Be clear about your goals, spring clean your finances, and top up your CPF account for a happy new financial year ahead! And if you find yourself in July defeated by your resolution, just do what I do: pretend it is 1 January all over again. Do not give up and you will finish the year in a stronger financial position. Start by doing these three things today!