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How to Stick to Your New Year Financial Resolution

By Hal M. Bundrick

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) You want to save more in the New Year, while your significant other wants to pay off debt. So, which way will those dollars be headed: to the savings account or to the credit cards? A new Fidelity study shows that 44% of individuals say they tend to make financial resolutions by themselves, with only 29% making them as a couple. That's most likely heading down a path for another year of losing resolutions.

Couples wishing to start the year with a money makeover should put their heads together for the best chance of success.

"The number one piece of advice long-time couples had was to make all financial plans together," says Ken Hevert, vice president of retirement products, Fidelity Investments. "This is smart advice, because joint accountability can be a powerful way to achieve financial success. At a minimum, it can help avoid unwanted surprises."

In fact, a record number of Americans (54%) are considering a financial resolution for the New Year -- and at the top of the list is saving more money (54%).

While more than one quarter (26%) of those surveyed say they are in better financial shape this year, they are also making plans to pay off debt (24%) and spend less (19%). Debt reduction has steadily risen as a New Year priority since the Fidelity study began and has tripled in importance since 2010.

"These findings suggest individuals are taking more control over financial matters, leading them to feel better about their personal situations, which is a great way to ring in the New Year," says Hevert. "Making financial resolutions, such as saving more and paying off debt can have a tremendous impact on the financial and emotional well-being of a household, so it's encouraging to see that so many Americans intend to build a stronger financial foundation in the year ahead."

Of those surveyed who are planning on saving more, most are targeting short-term goals rather than retirement or college savings. Resolutions were more centered on building an emergency fund or saving for big ticket purchases.

"The financial crisis of five years ago forced many people to wake up to the importance of preparing for whatever may come their way," says Hevert. "This year's findings suggest people are increasingly recognizing the importance of achieving a balance between meeting near-term financial goals and planning for the long term. Hopefully, this means that some important lessons have been learned, including avoiding costly moves such as tapping into a retirement nest egg simply to lower debt payments and have short-term cash on hand."

Nevertheless, New Year financial resolutions are hard to stick to, with nearly one-third (29%) admitting failure in past years. When asked what would help them make and/or stick to their resolutions, respondents said: 1) being able to calculate the benefits, 2) getting a reward once the financial goal was reached and 3) breaking the overall goal into more achievable ones.