How to be smarter with your money in 2019
Every year, millions of Americans resolve to do better with their money, and 2019 will be no different.
According to Fidelity Investments'
New Year Financial Resolutions Study, for the 10th consecutive year, the top three financial resolutions among Americans considering one are: Save more (48 percent), pay down debt (29 percent) and spend less (15 percent). The telephone survey covered 2,005 adults.
Of course, if those are the same three goals as previous years, maybe we are not very good at keeping them. Not so, according to the survey!
Of those who had a financial resolution for 2018, a whopping 74 percent of them reported that they stuck with it. They could be fibbing, of course, so don't feel bad about yourself if you were not among those who succeeded with your goals.
The three top resolutions share something in common: They require that you actually understand how much money is coming into your household and the amount that you spend.
Before you stop reading, I am not going to tell you to create a budget. With that out of the way, here's more good news: Technology makes it much easier to track your money.
Of the free apps, Intuit's Mint allows you to see everything in one place, from bank account balances, to credit card bills, to retirement accounts. Mint also comes with a free credit score. Another free choice is Marcus by Goldman Sachs' Clarity Money, a personal financial management tool that helps organize your financial life and uncover unwanted spending so you can redirect those funds elsewhere.
In addition to the free app world, many users of You Need a Budget report that the $6.99/month cost (after an initial free 34-day trial) is worth it. The service is free for 12 months for students.
If this sounds about as much fun as having root canal and you are inclined to blow it off, here's the problem: If you don't know how the cash is coming in and out of your household, it's hard to make informed decisions about your financial life.
For example, how much money is really available to pay down your outstanding debt? Can you afford to push a little bit more toward your emergency reserve fund, so you have that comfy six to 12 months of living expenses socked away? Ditto for your retirement plan or college funding.
If you already have the cash flow nailed and want to resolve to make 2019 the year of firmer financial footing, here are other ideas worth considering.
Consider buying a $149 subscription to ES-Planner's software. Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff developed it to help people conduct their own planning. The service uses technology to "do lifetime budgeting, calculating how much to spend, save and insure each year to maintain your family's living standard."
As Cher said to Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck: “Snap out of it”; once and for all, schedule an appointment with a CFP professional, a CPA-PFS or a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Make sure that any professional you engage adheres to the fiduciary standard, where they put their clients' interests first at all times. Jill Schlesinger, CFP, is a CBS News business analyst. A former options trader and CIO of an investment advisory firm, she welcomes comments and questions at [email protected]lonmoney.com.
In 2018, I interviewed leaders from a variety of fields for my “Office Hours” podcast. I talked with NFL quarterback Russell Wilson, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and many other fascinating people.
Now that 2019 is here, I want to share some of the most important leadership lessons I learned last year that can make a difference in this new year.
Revisit founding principles
Satya Nadella and I spoke about refreshing the company culture of a 43year-old household name: Microsoft. Bill Gates' goal was to have “a computer on every desk and in every home.” Nadella turned to the history of the company for inspiration for the future.
Its first product was an interpreter to the BASIC programming language, which made computing more accessible to hobbyists. In other words, it enabled them to do more.
By returning to first principles, Nadella realized that the true mission of Microsoft wasn't about a computer on every desk, it was about empowering people and organizations to achieve more. This led to bold moves: launching Microsoft Office on Apple's competing iOS platform and adding support for Linux, both of which have paid off.
Nadella reminded me that there's power in returning to the founding principles of your company, especially when you need to hit refresh.
Great leaders are self-aware
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson emphasized that a motivated team starts with a self-aware leader. Leaders need to harness their own mental toughness, staying focused on the vision and outlining the steps to get there.
It's about remaining zen under pressure and focusing on what you can control.
While Wilson's and my day-to-day roles are very different, we face similar challenges as leaders. We're both responsible for the motivation and performance of our teams, and we both want to win.
Wilson reminded me that my own mindset and how I communicate the vision are just as important as the tactical choices we make on the field or in the office.
Give permission to disengage
A leader can't always be on, nor can your employees. Writer and businesswoman Arianna Huffington discussed the importance of disconnecting and giving your employees permission to do the same.
“Stress and burnout have become global epidemics wherever you are in the world,” she told me. “It is unnecessary suffer- ing.”
Leaders have a responsibility to encourage downtime through benefits, policies and individual actions. As leaders, we set the tone for the culture and expectations of employees.
If I'm sending emails late at night, I might be sending a message to my direct reports that they need to be on at all hours of the day too.
If I never take vacation, my employees won't feel they can either. Downtime prevents burnout, so it's something I'll continue to prioritize and emphasize this year.
Empathy fuels innovation
Cindy Whitehead is a trailblazer. She's the entrepreneur behind the first FDA-approved drug to treat low sexual desire in women, and she's built two businesses from the ground up.
My conversation with her reinforced a deeply held belief of mine: that empathy drives innovation.
When Whitehead started her career, she saw something she couldn't reconcile. Despite a ton of scientific research, not one sexual-health drug for women existed on the market. This wasn't a research problem, it was an empathy problem.
When we're unaware of or can't relate to a population's experience, companies and entire industries stagnate.
A diverse set of people in positions of power is critical to fostering empathy. As leaders, we need to double down on diversity efforts in 2019. It's the right thing to do, and it's one of the keys to building an innovative company.
Focus on equity and belonging
I greatly enjoyed my conversations with CNN's Van Jones and Bloomberg journalist and “Brotopia” author Emily Chang. Both have a lot to teach leaders about creating cultures that empower and include people from underrepresented communities.
Jones said something that stood out to me: “Genius is uniformly spread out, but opportunity is not.” As leaders, we need to tap into genius everywhere by managing our own biases and expanding where we look for talent. Chang reminded me that once people are in the door, you have to make sure they're engaged and feel they belong.
Establishing employee resource groups and starting candid conversations to bring everyone into the dialogue is a great step in that direction. But there's more work all of us can do. Spencer Rascoff is the CEO of Zillow Group and the host of “Office Hours,” a monthly podcast.
Jill on Money