5 Smart Financial Resolutions for 2014

According to a new survey from Fidelity, 54% of Americans will make a financial New Year’s resolution for 2014. So if you’re planning to make yourself an promise that will help you economically in the long run, you’ll have plenty of company.

To help you ring in the New Year the right way, consider these five smart financial resolutions to carry you into January and throughout all of 2014.

Financial Resolution #1: I will save 10% of my paycheck

While a 10% savings target is a good goal, that figure doesn’t have to be written in stone. In fact, if you’re not regularly saving anything at all, it’s OK to start with an even more modest savings goal—perhaps just 3% or 5% of your salary.

Simply getting into the habit of being a consistent saver can be a tremendous boost to your overall financial health.

Perhaps that’s why both Fidelity’s survey, as well as a new GoBankingRates.com survey, show that saving money is Americans’ biggest 2014 financial goal. (Stashing more cash ranked tops for 54% of those surveyed by Fidelity and 40% of those polled by GoBankingRates.com).

Financial Resolution #2: I will pay down debt

The second most common financial goal, the surveys show, is paying down debt in the New Year.

Most folks have so much debt that you can take your pick here: there’s mortgage debt, student loans, credit card debt, auto loans and more. But whatever you do, make sure you commit to paying more than the minimum payments.

If you only make minimum payments on your outstanding debts, you’ll pay a lot more in interest charges, and the debt will take far longer to pay off in the long run.

Resolution #3: I will improve my credit rating

Your credit rating is enormously important, and impacts everything from the rates you’ll pay on loans and insurance to whether or not you can rent an apartment or get hired for certain jobs.

If you’ve been neglecting your credit (or worse, abusing it), it’s time to turn your credit and financial health around. Start by checking your credit reports at no cost at AnnualCreditReport.com. By law, you’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit bureau: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Financial Resolution #4: I will get a better credit card deal

After all the shopping and gift-giving you’re likely to do during the holiday season, it’ll be a good idea to shop around for a better credit card deal. Try to get a 0% credit card offer or a card with a very low interest rate that will allow you to do a balance transfer.

Go online to a place like CardRatings.com, a free credit card comparison site, to search for the best credit card offers available based on your credit profile and spending habits. For those of you who’ve been asking yourself “how do I get out of debt?,” lowering your interest rates is a strategy to help you do just that.

Financial Resolution #5: I will create a last will and testament

More than 70% of all adults in America don’t have a will. Unfortunately, this is one of those tasks that most people procrastinate about and never seem to find the time to do.

To overcome this obstacle, just tell yourself that if you finally create a will in 2014, it will be a major “to do” item you can scratch off your list. Creating a will doesn’t have to be expensive either. You can create an affordable online will at LegalZoom.com or Nolo.com.

Regardless of your current economic circumstances, try your very best to make a commitment to pursuing these five critical—and achievable—financial resolutions.

If you stick with these financial New Year’s resolutions, you’ll turn 2014 into a happier, more economically healthy year for you and your family.

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox is a personal finance expert and co-founder of the free financial advice site, AskTheMoneyCoach.com. Follow Lynnette on Twitter @themoneycoach and Google Plus.