‘My Financial Resolution? To Make a Financial Resolution.’

Ariana Tobin and Carmen Wong Ulrich Dec 6, 2013

‘My Financial Resolution? To Make a Financial Resolution.’

Ariana Tobin and Carmen Wong Ulrich Dec 6, 2013

When it comes to financial resolutions, David, a physicist in Washington D.C., says he knows what he’s supposed to say:

If David is like most Americans, he’s being honest — he probably won’t make or keep a personal finance resolution this January. According to a study from the Journal of Clinical Psychology, monetary self-improvement ranks third on the national list of most common New Year’s resolutions, behind “losing weight” and “getting organized.” With “staying fit and healthy” clocking in as a strong fifth, researchers concluded that concern for the thickness of one’s wallet doesn’t compete with the thickness of one’s waistline.

In short, a glowing credit score just isn’t as sexy as a bikini body.

Social scientists love to analyze the annual, logic-defying cycle of the New Year’s resolution — and, of course, so does Marketplace.

What goes into making — let alone keeping — a personal finance resolution?

We took to the streets with a microphone for an (admittedly unscientific) survey.

Reason 1: Those pesky outside factors.

When I asked Jackie, an office assistant at a church in Washington, D.C., why she thinks it is so difficult to keep personal finance resolutions, she paused to think. Then:

Jackie has resolved to find a new job in 2014. And no matter how resolute she may be, she won’t be surprised if she joins the 92 percent of Americans whose New Year’s promises do not come to pass.

Jackie’s friend Chiquita, a program assistant for the federal government, has resolved to stop using her credit cards. She is writing down every penny she spends (when we spoke, she was at $2.24), but she, too, worries external factors will get in the way:

Reason 2: Don’t even think about instant gratification.

Clinton does international health work, and he’s made a financial resolution or two over the past few years. Yes, he wants to find an affordable place to live, and yes, he plans to put money in a savings account. And it’s going to take time.

Reason 3: So many small toys.

Eleven year-old Taylor knows what that waiting is like.

Reason 3: Hey, I was getting by.

Jeff, a physician from Houston, Texas, (and Taylor’s dad) empathizes with his daughter’s quandary. When he decided to “bite the bullet” and pay off his household debt, it meant making a choice between buying something new and paying for something old. There were quite a few false starts. Until his finances changed for the better, he just wasn’t mentally ready to make what felt like a sacrifice.

Reason 4: Where to start?

For the uninitiated, the world of personal finance can look like a matrix. For Josh, a college student in Iowa, the practical decisions of a financial resolution seem confusing. Too confusing.

Reason 5: We need help! What else?

What are your financial resolutions? We’d love to hear on Facebook or in the comments below. 

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