x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

For the year ahead, at least resolve to resolve

2013 is the year of savings funds, with one in five Americans planning to put money away for a rainy day.

Illustration by Gary Clement for The National
Illustration by Gary Clement for The National

What is it about us that makes us feel we have to make a New Year's resolution every year?

Is it guilt? Or is it simply wanting to start with a clean slate and perhaps try to fix the mistakes of previous years?

I've never been a fan of this annual rite that millions seem so resolute to be a part of.

A waste of time, I say, especially when those resolutions fly out the window just as quickly as they've been made.

Of course, I'm not the only one in the non-resolution corner. It's not that I think my life is perfect or there's nothing I can do to improve myself. It's just that I think the misery and guilt that is created by a failed resolution isn't worth it.

And I stumbled on some interesting statistics that back up my argument.

Well, kind of.

According to the United States-based website www.statisticbrain.com, which sourced the data from the University of Scranton's Journal of Clinical Psychology, the top five New Year resolutions made by Americans this year are as follows:

1. Lose weight;

2. Get organised;

3. Spend less, save more;

4. Enjoy life to the fullest;

5. Stay fit and healthy.

But what was more illuminating were the success/failure rates of resolutions. At least in the US. The website says 45 per cent of Americans usually make New Year's resolutions, while 38 per cent "absolutely" never make a New Year resolution. That would be my camp.

But here's what's interesting: just 8 per cent of people are successful in achieving their resolutions. And 24 per cent of people "never succeed and fail on their resolutions each year".

However, the website says people who "explicitly make resolutions" are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't "explicitly" make resolutions. Unfortunately, it doesn't explain the difference between an "explicit" resolution and one that's just your average garden variety. But perhaps that's more about the person and their mindset, rather than stating: "My explicit resolutions this year are: [fill in as you like here]."

Anyway, it seems that a lot of us have been making resolutions for 2013 (except for me, of course), if other recent surveys are anything to go by. And it doesn't matter where you are from.

The only difference this year is that many are making promises to fix their finances, pay off debts and save for a rainy day.

So forget welcoming in the Year of the Snake on February 10, the first day of the Chinese New Year.

Instead, we are celebrating the year of saving for a rainy day, with one in five Americans, for instance, planning to make an emergency fund their savings priority in 2013, according to a survey by TheStreet, a US-based digital financial media company, and GfK Custom Research North America.

"Whether it's Hurricane Sandy's aftermath or fiscal cliff fears, TheStreet study suggests 2013 may be the year of saving for a rainy day," it says in a press release.

"When asked what they will be most actively saving for in the coming year, the top response was an emergency fund for unexpected problems [19 per cent]. Not surprisingly, this response was most common among Americans with income less than US$20,000 [Dh73,462; 30 per cent] and $30,000 [25 per cent] per year.

"Saving for home improvements was the second-most common savings resolution [17 per cent], followed by children or grandchildren's education [16 per cent]."

Joseph Clark, a managing partner at Financial Enhancement Group who was quoted in The-Street's press release, believes the "devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy could be making people think about the unexpected".

"You don't borrow for an emergency fund ... you have to save," he says.

Across the pond in the UK, it's a similar trend.

A study by JPMorgan has found that one in 10 Britons plan to start saving on a regular basis in 2013. However, paying off debt comes out on top of their resolutions, with 29 per cent of respondents saying this is their number one goal for the New Year.

This is followed by regular saving (28 per cent), reviewing their financial situation (24 per cent), saving into an Individual Savings Account (23 per cent) and repaying a mortgage (16 per cent).

"Addressing your finances by tackling something for the first time can lift a real weight from your shoulders - especially as we emerge from an expensive festive period with the goal of being more financially savvy," says Keith Evins, the head of UK funds marketing at JPMorgan Asset Management.

"Repaying debts is a great place to start in the short term and offers a clean slate to then start thinking about the broader financial future such as building up rainy-day savings and planning for retirement."

I couldn't have said it better myself. Perhaps I should change my mind about a resolution this year. Either that, or just resolutely stick to my financial goals.