THE BLOG
01/05/2012 02:16 pm ET | Updated Mar 06, 2012

Seven Tips for Keeping Your Financial New Year's Resolutions

Perhaps this year you'll finally get your financial house in order - roping in spending, slashing debt, maximizing income, and choosing investment and savings plans that actually deliver what they promise.

Whatever you resolve, you must find a way of sticking to your financial resolutions beyond Valentine's Day, past Mother's Day and Independence Day, all the way through Labor Day, Thanksgiving and New Year's Day 2013.

Don't get discouraged if you haven't succeeded in the past.  According to Marti Hope Gonzalez, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Minnesota, before they ever succeeded, most successful New Year's goal-setters faltered for five consecutive years or more.  About 45 percent of people who set New Year's resolutions run out of inspiration before Feb.  14.  But a subset of Americans -- about one out of every five -- does push ahead to achieve their stated goals.

Whether the resolution is to lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, drink less or spend less, for a small percentage of the population, New Year's Day is the very trigger they require to set off on their final journey that previously seemed unattainable towards -- or away from -- a lifelong pattern of behavior.

What does it take to be one of the successful few? What can you do this time around to increase your likelihood of remaining on track come New Year's Day 2013... and beyond? Here are seven tips to help you permanently get your financial house in order:

1.   Realize we all have it within us to modify our behavior -- Researchers have discovered that we all have it within us to cross the "Resolution Finish Line," regardless of how ingrained our habits are. There is no type of individual, class, religious or ethnic group that is predisposed to failure - or to success.  Nor is luck a key component.

2.   Understand that real, permanent change is usually driven by your own desire, rather than by the pressure others exert on you. Those who are most successful at changing, according to Professors Edward L. Deci and Richard Ryan, are those whose motivation to change comes from deep within.

3.   Have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself -- Where are you right now, and where do you want to be? Professor Deci recommends those who seek to change begin by having a heart-to-heart conversation with themselves. "Sit yourself down in a chair and be ready to have an honest look at where you are at this moment and where you, based on your own desire, want to be down the road."

Even when the path to success is steep and clogged by obstacles, those who slug forward of their own volition achieve a "much higher sense of well-being, a much better sense of feeling good about yourself and what you are doing, and a general sense of vitality as you are living your life," he says.

4.   Enlist the support of one or more allies or a coach to encourage you and help keep you on track. While the quality of your motivation is the key to success, there are actions you can take to reinforce your internal resolve.  Chief among these, many professionals agree, is enlisting the support of one or more allies to encourage you and point you back in the right direction should you begin to drift.

M. Kathryn Seifert, Ph.D., a Maryland psychologist who operates three mental health clinics, says a "coach" -- whether a professional for hire, a friend or a religious leader -- can help to reinforce your commitment. "Some people need a coach to keep going -- someone who can say, 'that didn't work, what are you going to do next?'" she says.

5.   Set incentives and consequences. Consider using websites that give incentives -- and disincentives -- for sticking to or breaking your commitments, such as GoalPay.com.  This website is designed to allow friends and family members to monitor the progress and provide incentives to GoalPay users who have committed to change.

J.D.  Sherrill, a 30-year-old graduate of Arizona State University who has battled to quit smoking and shed weight, is one of the founders of GoalPay. He says the inspiration for the website came from his own experience. "The things that I kept to myself were easier to forget about and never actually follow through on," he says.

6.   Don't wallow in self-blame when you fail -- Put aside your emotions and plot a logical pathway back. Steve Siebold, a popular author and speaker who coaches corporate sales forces on mental toughness and self-control, has interviewed hundreds of millionaires in an effort to deconstruct their secrets.

Siebold, author of How Rich People Think, insists that anyone can become wealthy. One of the key differences between those who are defeated by financial roadblocks and those who knock down barriers along their path is how they respond to disappointment.

Siebold estimates that 40 to 60 percent of today's most successful investors, entrepreneurs and executives have failed multiple times.  Rather than wallowing in an emotional state of self-blame, those who rebound the fastest and most successfully set aside emotional thinking and put their minds to the task of plotting a logical pathway back.  "The key to the whole effort is their belief system," Siebold says. "They believe this is possible."

7.   Don't set yourself up for failure by insisting on an all-or-nothing change -- Learn from the past, realize where you made errors and build on them like stepping-stones, says Judith A.  Belmont, a psychotherapist and author of The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life, a book about "thriving in the face of life's adversities, overcoming challenges, developing stress resilience, and making effective and long-lasting changes for a happier life."

Belmont notes, "There is no such thing as a perfect resolution." She describes most New Year's goals as "a setup for failure" because they embrace an all-or-nothing attitude toward change. She cautions against perfectionism and advises patience and persistence.  "It doesn't matter where you are on the journey, what matters is the direction you are going," she says.  "Learn from the past, accept shortcomings, realize where you made errors and build on them like stepping stones."

Only you, when you set your mind and heart to the task, can successfully generate a turnabout of your fiscal direction.  This could be the year that you surprise everyone - perhaps most of all, yourself - by keeping and maintaining your New Year's resolutions.

Have you made and successfully kept a New Year's resolution?  If so, what was the key factor that made it work?  Tell us in the comments box below so other readers can benefit from your experience as well.

As a consultant to financial advisors, Pamela Yellen investigated more than 450 savings and retirement planning strategies seeking an alternative to the risk and volatility of stocks and other investments. Her research led her to a time-tested, predictable method of growing and protecting savings now used by more than 400,000 Americans. Pamela's book, Bank On Yourself:  The Life-Changing Secret to Growing and Protecting Your Financial Future is a New York Times Bestseller.  Learn more at www.BankOnYourself.com