New year, new woman: Get fiscally fit with resolutions that stick

It’s that time of year again – when holiday excesses leave everyone feeling overstuffed and overextended. We say we’ll start fresh in the new year – we’ll exercise more, we’ll eat healthier, we’ll get more sleep. But how about making a resolution that’s just as beneficial, and may be a little easier to stick to – getting your finances in shape and being more fiscally fit?

Getting your finances in shape is especially vital for women – with longer life spans and a higher probability of taking time out from work to care for children or family, many women may have less time and resources to save for retirement. Studies show that the average working woman garners 60 percent of the retirement savings of the average male. There’s no time like now to maximize the opportunities you have to create a financially secure future.

“Women have more options to take control of their financial destinies than ever before,” says Linda Verba, TD Bank executive vice president of retail operations and service programs and chair of the bank’s Women in Leadership committee. “Financial success comes from working toward measurable objectives, so the sooner you start on a path toward defining and attaining your financial goals, the better off you will be.”

How can women work toward being financially secure and making smarter choices?

If you don’t already have one, take a manageable amount of money – say, $1,000 – and start your emergency fund. Keep your emergency fund separate from your regular checking and savings accounts. Set up an automatic transfer from your regular checking account to occur on paydays – even $25 a paycheck will help your emergency fund grow.

Studies show that women see being debt-free and able to pay their bills on time as signs of financial success. Work toward being debt-free by writing down any debt you may have – such as credit cards, student loans and car payments – with the amounts owed, from least to greatest. Knocking out a couple of the lower balances first can give you a sense of achievement and provide the motivation to continue paying down debt.

Curb your impulses. There’s hardly a woman alive who hasn’t seen a pair of shoes she must have now, or been tired after a long day at work and gotten takeout food for dinner. Finance guru Dave Ramsey suggests finding a money mentor – someone a little older and wiser who can offer you advice, and who you can authorize to hold you accountable to your budget and check with before making large purchases.

Like the old saying goes, knowledge is power. According to a recent poll, women are often less aware of the financial tools that may be available to them than their male counterparts. Get on the path to understanding your options by starting with your bank. Many financial institutions, like TD Bank, have programs to provide financial education to their customers, and offer various seminars and workshops.

Make a New Year’s resolution that will benefit you for years to come – 2012 can be the year you started toward a bright financial future.

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