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Three P’s to fulfilling your financial New Year’s resolutions

Financial resolutions are notoriously difficult to keep. Thirty-one percent of Americans set a financial New Year's resolution each year and only about half of them are successful, according to a 2009 study by Bankrate.com.

So what separates those who succeed and those who don't? According to the November 2011 Merrill Edge Report, a survey of the financial priorities and concerns of 1,000 mass affluent Americans (a segment of 28 million Americans with between $50,000 and $250,000 in investable assets), there are a variety of tactics people use, but ultimately there are three big takeaways when trying to improve your financial situation.

1. Planning
Take an honest look at your personal financial situation and set reasonable goals for yourself. One way many Americans are doing this more is by seeking the guidance of a financial adviser. According to the Merrill Edge Report, it is the No. 1 factor mass affluent Americans say increases their confidence in their ability to meet their financial goals.

2. Prudence
The Merrill Edge Report shows much of America is in a similar tenuous situation with their finances as they were a year ago. But those who improved their financial situation in 2011 say it was because they eliminated unnecessary expenses, paid bills on time and stuck to a budget.

"In this uncertain economy, it's more important than ever to stay in control of your personal finances," says Dean Athanasia, preferred and small business executive at Bank of America. "While we cannot control what's going on around us, we can do little things like brown bag it to work, downgrade our cable package or buy in bulk to make small improvements."

Other ways you can prudently get into financial shape next year could be to start tracking and managing your money or paying down debt over the next year. Financial management is an area where the majority of Merrill Edge Report respondents said they would focus on in the next six months, including budgeting, balancing short-and long-term financial needs, and ensuring their portfolios are properly allocated.

3. Prioritizing
Retirement planning is often neglected when times are tight. Nearly half of non-retirees expect to retire later than they had planned a year ago. Prioritizing contributions to your 401(k) or retirement savings could help reduce financial stress in the long-term.

Prioritizing saving is another area where people are struggling. The Merrill Edge Report found 57 percent of respondents believe it will be harder to save for the long-term five years from now as compared to today, and 27 percent feel it will be equally as difficult. Finding a way to focus on saving can be financially beneficial in both the short- and long term.

With a wide variety of financial guidance and tools available, you can personalize how you manage your finances. Planning for the future, being prudent with your spending and prioritizing saving can help you do what works best for you and stay on track with your financial goals this year.

For more information on balancing your portfolio and retirement strategies visit merrilledge.com or speak with a Financial Solutions Advisor at the Merrill Edge Advisory center at (888) MER-EDGE (888-637-3343). Merrill Edge, available through Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (MLPF&S) consists of Merrill Edge Advisory Center (investment guidance) or self-directed online investing. MLPF&S is a registered broker-dealer, member SIPC and a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation. Remember, investing in securities involves risks, and investment products are not FDIC insured, are not bank guaranteed, and may lose value. Neither Merrill Edge nor its associates provide tax, accounting or legal advice. Banking products are provided by Bank of America, N.A. and affiliated banks, Members FDIC and wholly owned subsidiaries of Bank of America Corporation.

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