(StatePoint) Planning and budgeting are important all year long, but focusing on one’s finances becomes even more of a priority around the holidays.
For a majority of Americans, holiday preparation -- both financial and personal -- is vital, according to the 2013 Measuring Optimism, Outlook and Direction (M.O.O.D.) of America study, conducted by Lincoln Financial Group. In fact, almost nine out of 10 respondents say they always budget for holiday presents for loved ones each year. Nearly as many -- 85 percent -- say they’re willing to go above and beyond planning to travel to see family for the holidays or to host a holiday get-together at home.
But does that behavior last all year?
“Our data shows that optimism, a ‘take charge’ attitude, and financial preparation are essential drivers that help Americans achieve meaningful goals during the holidays,” says Kristen Phillips, head of marketing and strategy for insurance and retirement solutions at Lincoln Financial Group. “While there’s a spike in personal and financial empowerment this time of year, these same behaviors can carry over all year long with the right attitude. That mindset doesn’t end when we pack up our holiday decorations”
Lincoln Financial's poll also shows that, more broadly, being empowered and living life with a proactive attitude is driven by everyday behaviors. This is true regardless of someone's race, age or socioeconomic status.
Here are some specific behaviors that help Americans achieve their financial goals around the holidays that can be put into practice all year:
• Plan: It’s hard to save without having clear objectives in mind. Prepping for the holidays is a great example of identifying your goals. Now do it for the rest of the year. Perhaps it’s retirement savings, a down payment on a house or college tuition for your kids.
• Be positive: Optimism goes hand in hand with financial preparedness and a “take charge” attitude. Focus on things that make you happy -- such as spending time with family and friends -- after the holidays, too.
• Budget: If you can make a budget and stay within it for holiday gifts, you’ll also be able to do it from month to month. Budgeting can keep you on track to meet short and long-term financial goals.
• Invest “extras”: It’s tempting to spend holiday bonuses and other salary increases on splurge items, but putting those extra dollars toward savings goals will serve you better in the long run.
• Pay off credit cards: To avoid mounting debt after year-end shopping, pay your credit card bills in full each month. If that is not possible, make sure to pay more than the minimum.
• Get help: Meet with a financial professional to discuss a strategy for paying down debt, investing and meeting goals.
For more information on the M.O.O.D. of America study, visit http://beachieflifeofficer.com/MOOD.aspx.
Preparing for the holidays is just the start. Let this same positive attitude and behavior carry you well into the New Year.
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