Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ring in new year with a financial wish list

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Happy New Year! I hope you get to celebrate the coming of 2013 the way you want, with the friends and family you treasure most.

Do your best to savour all the good things that have happened to you this past year, and all of the progress you have made toward your long-term goals. Make a list of the things for which you feel grateful.

For this exercise, you have permission to ignore any shortcomings or mistakes, and to simply use them as a learning tool. Do not dwell on them.

This approach opens up your brain (and your heart) to being receptive to new plans, stimulates creativity, ideas and strategies, and gives you a specific list of items on which to build.

For example, your goal might have been to pay off all debt. Let's say you didn't make it. Celebrate the progress you have made and use that as your starting point this coming year.

It's also possible you slid backwards on some things. If that's the truth, then acknowledge it, and also find the areas where you have moved forward. Make that list as long as you can, including all areas of your life, not just money.

Now, how do you make 2013 even more successful than 2012?

You start off by deciding what you really want to accomplish this year... and what you want to eliminate.

You might start with two lists:

1. Things I always wanted to do...

2. Things I never want to do again...

If you have a life partner, have that person complete these lists as well, and compare. Get excited about any areas of common ground and also get excited about your partner's unique hopes and dreams.

What did you find out that you didn't know? How can you help that person progress?

Now comes the fun part, freeing yourself to dream about what you want your life to be like in one, three and five years, and beyond.

Just start thinking and write things down as they come to you. Don't worry about being too structured; that can come later. The job right now is to make your future vision as real and compelling as you can. Add in lots of details to make it come alive.

What does your ideal future look like? How does it smell? How do you feel? What are your activities? Who is with you? Walk your future self through a perfect day and write down as much detail about it as you can.

When your future vision is sufficiently gripping and undeniable, it is time to turn it into specific, measurable and time-bound goals. These are the first steps and future milestones that will help you design your financial and life plan, and then allow you to measure your progress and success.

Writing down specific goals is vital for several reasons. When you write them down, your brain goes to work on them immediately in the subconscious, finding ways to accomplish them. Writing your goals down several times is that much more effective. So, re-write your list and your plans as often as you can, refining them each time.

Remember, it is the execution of the plan that will actually get you there.

Making your vision powerful and important to you is the most important step. The next is to write down a specific plan and the daily or weekly steps you need to make it happen.

Research suggests when you combine this detailed planning with writing down specific goals, your chance of success goes up to about 90 per cent from three per cent.

Getting specific also helps you set priorities because we all have to make choices. The key is to make the right ones for YOU.

Make your life a conscious decision. Write down what you want and craft your plan to get it. Then start today... and make 2013 your best year ever!

David Christianson is a financial planner and advisor in Winnipeg, and author of Managing the Bull -- A No-Nonsense Approach to Personal Finance.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 28, 2012 B13

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