SOURCE: BANK OF AMERICA

January 14, 2014 11:38 ET

Sticking With Your Financial Resolutions

MISSION, KS--(Marketwired - Jan 14, 2014) -  (Family Features) With the new year underway, there is a heavy focus around resolutions. Whether you are making a resolution to celebrate a fresh start or looking to make a change no matter the time of year, maintaining resolutions can be difficult. In fact, a recent survey from Bank of America found that 49 percent of respondents don't make New Year's resolutions because they prefer to set goals throughout the year.

Goals tied to the new year, and those set at various points in the year, are all aimed at making significant life changes. According to the survey, 81 percent of resolutions involve health and fitness, 45 percent involve personal finances and 30 percent are targeted toward making changes in social life and relationships. With the large number of people planning to make changes in their finances, it is helpful to determine how to best ensure you achieve your goal.

"I'll be the first to admit keeping to a financial resolution takes a lot of hard work. It takes good behavior and good habits," said Farnoosh Torabi, a consumer finance expert. "With life being so complicated, stressful and complex, we often abandon them. Get the systems in place -- the small steps you need to take now -- to help you get on the right track."

Research shows that consumers who understand their behaviors and motivations are more likely to build and keep positive habits for the long term. That's why it's so important to have strategies to keep those financial resolutions throughout the year. A few pointers to stick with your financial resolutions include:

Prepare before your resolution begins
Putting thought into your resolutions before you spring into action can put you on the path to change. Starting early with a few small changes can also improve your odds of staying the course to achieve your goals.

For example, if you're looking to improve your financial health, begin by imagining a debt-free life. Visualizing how things may change can provide additional motivation you may need to move forward. Think about having more money available each month and how it would change your stress levels. Imagine what it would be like to not worry about meeting your payments, or saving more for retirement, education or emergencies. Thirty percent of survey respondents said they identify their New Year's resolutions early as a way to stick with them throughout the year.

Develop an action plan
It's fine to make a resolution, but the odds of sticking with it improve dramatically if you create an action plan of smaller steps to support your goals. If your number one resolution is to lose weight, your plan might include budgeting money for a gym membership and cleaning out any junk food from your pantry. Creating a budget? Start by tracking your spending to see where the money is going. Then create a budget that's tight but workable, to give you more flexibility to pay down debt, increase savings or invest for retirement. If have to carry a balance, but want to responsibly manage your credit card, consider a card that helps build positive habits. For example, Bank of America's Better Balance Rewards card pays you to manage your credit card use. Every quarter that you pay more than your minimum balance on time, you earn $25 cash back. If you have at least one other qualifying account with Bank of America, you can receive another $5 bonus, totaling up to $30 a quarter. You'll be eligible for up to $120 a year toward your balance, and you'll feel better knowing how much you can spend each month.

Write it down
Forty percent of survey respondents say they use written reminders to help stay on track with their resolutions. Try writing your resolutions on Post-it notes, in Evernote, in calendar reminders or on notes stuck to the refrigerator -- whatever you'll look at regularly -- to keep yourself committed and on track. Research shows that a written goal is more likely to be achieved. If your goal is managing your finances better, write a reminder on your daily calendar to check your credit card statements as they come in -- it's the best way to spot transactions you don't recognize.

Get a little help from your friends
Sometimes a gentle reminder from a family member or friend can work wonders. Share your resolutions with a trusted person and ask for occasional reminders. Some 23 percent of survey respondents plan to enlist help this way. A friend may be able to coax you to going to the gym, or even talk you out of buying that handbag you've been eyeing that's out of your budget. The key to cutting debt is to stop adding to it. If you're in a hole, stop digging.

Partner up
Find a friend or loved one with the same resolution and agree to motivate and support one another to stick to your goals. It's easier to manage a diet, exercise plan or budget if you have support. Twenty percent of respondents plan to partner up to keep to their resolutions.

Start your New Year's resolutions thinking today, and keep the big goals in mind every day, whether they aim for better health, sounder finances or better relationships. With the right attitude and commitment, 2014 could be a very good year.

For more information, visit www.bankofamerica.com.

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