The new year brings reflection and reassessment. Although it can be tough to stick to every pledge on a big list of New Year’s resolutions, simply staying true to just one solid change can make a big difference.
Following are five changes worth considering in 2020. Act on even one of these resolutions, and you’ll probably be in a better place a decade hence.
1. Boost your retirement savings by 1%
Can you picture saving 20% or 30% of your salary toward retirement? It sounds radical.
Yet, when you consider expanding lifespans and the potential shrinking of Social Security in years to come, the only guarantee against old-age poverty might be to save about 30% of your earnings and invest it intelligently.
Travel back in time 10 years. If you’d started adding a measly 1% more each year to your retirement savings, your contribution today would be 10% higher. If you were saving 10% at the beginning of 2010, you’d be at 20% now.
Here are a couple of tactics to get started:
- Divert money before you see it: Sign up for automatic payroll deductions so the savings portion of your paycheck never reaches your checking account. This will derail any temptation to spend the money. If your employer doesn’t offer automatic deductions, your bank should permit an automatic transfer of a set amount of money from your checking account to a savings account monthly.
- Automate your increases: Some workplace retirement plans let you choose to automatically bump up savings each year, which makes the dent in your paycheck scarcely noticeable. If you don’t have this feature at work, do it yourself, raising your retirement contribution by 1% each January.
2. Drop your defenses
Defensiveness — the impulse to meet every challenge with an attack — robs us of the chance to listen to information we need to hear.
That, in turn, robs us of chances to grow, succeed and make deeper connections. If you’d been listening better 10 years ago, your life might be much richer today.
So, drop those defenses! When someone asks you to listen, just do it — no arguing, no counterattacking. You don’t have to agree or respond. Just say you’ll think it over.
You’ve got your own grievances, no doubt. Save them for later, for when it’s your turn to be heard.
3. Quit smoking
It’s not easy to be a smoker today. Scorned and despised, smokers are stuck puffing away in backyards and alleys, in rain and snow, because no one else wants their secondhand smoke.
We know that if quitting were easy, you’d have done it by now. But don’t give up trying. Often, it takes many attempts — and failures — before you succeed at quitting for good.
If you had quit smoking in January 2010 and stuck with it, you’d have a smoke-free decade under your belt by now. That likely would add years to your life.
It’s not too late to start turning things around.
4. Ask regularly for raises
Raises are critical for your ability to keep pace in your field and progress financially. Even small increases are better than none, as they add up over time and build a larger base from which to negotiate next time.
Consider your request from your manager’s point of view. Prepare to demonstrate your value to the company, citing numbers and anecdotes. This might require you to put on the steam at work and keep careful track of your results so you’re armed with data.
If your company simply won’t part with the money, it might be time to look for a better job.
5. Decide whether to change careers
If you’ve spent years wondering whether to leave your career or double down and improve it, make a decision. Letting indecision drag on can sap your energy, making it difficult to commit enthusiastically.
Here’s how to proceed: Don’t just go back to school without researching and shaping a detailed plan. Higher education is expensive, and taking on student debt is risky. Something less costly and more basic — such as a certification program or vocational training — might pay off better in the long run.
If you’re older, also consider “5 Things to Weigh Before Going Back to School After Age 50.”
For help with the decision — including learning about employment and earnings after graduation — check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook.
How are you planning to change your game in the new year? Share with us in comments or on our Facebook page.
How to earn $30 in less than 30 seconds
Earn extra money by using Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) — a site that gets you cash back at more than 2,500 stores. As a bonus for joining Rakuten between now and Dec. 31, 2020, you'll earn $30 when you sign up using our link and spend at least $30 shopping online through Rakuten within the first 60 days. Start earning cash back and claim a free $30 bonus today.