Wellness and Wealth Run Neck-and-Neck on New Year's Resolutions Lists

woman with cookies trying to lose weight - new years resolutionsYep -- it's that time again, time to start pondering what life changes you'd like to tackle next year. And few things inspire more resolution setting among Americans than their desire to have more money -- and less weight.

Allianz Life insurance Company recently revealed the results of its second annual New Year's Resolution Survey, in which roughly the same number of Americans said they were the most likely to keep their resolutions to manage their money better (39%) as those who expressed confidence that they would meet their New Year's exercise and diet goals (40%).Due to high unemployment and declining home values, among other things, many individual consumer's year-end personal finances resemble the national economy (i.e., broke). So, it's great that money resolutions rank up there with the perennial weight loss goals. In fact, when it came to which of these goals they would rather get professional help with, many more of the Allianz survey respondents wanted expert help with their fiscal, rather than their physical, fitness. About 44% of those surveyed said they would most like to work with a financial professional in 2011, while only 26% hankered for a personal trainer. Maybe they were thinking they'd need the money maven to help them be able to afford the trainer, or perhaps people perceive losing weight as something that's easier to DIY than money management and financial planning.

But when it got to the logistics of pulling their money goals off, survey says: problems. While 44% of people seem to want a money pro's help, only 33% said they would actually be including a financial plan of some sort in their list of New Year's resolutions for 2011. Allianz followed up by asking the other 67% why they won't be attacking a financial plan next year, and the overwhelming top answer was alarming: 34% said they "don't make enough money to worry about it."

And that's not good. Whether they're cash strapped due to debt or income interruption, it is those who are living paycheck-to-paycheck who most need to put a plan in place to course correct their finances.

"People who don't believe they make enough money to plan for their financial futures are potentially jeopardizing their financial safety and security," said Katie Libbe, director of Consumer Insights for Allianz Life. "Regardless of income level, sound financial planning helps ensure that individuals are prepared for life's events and challenges -- and can reduce the uncertainty that surrounds retirement."

What else did people say was stopping them from financial planning for 2011? Just 6% said money matters were too complex, and only 4% said they were too scary, but I'd hazard a guess that many more actually feel this way, and are simply not aware or comfortable saying so.

If you know you need to work on your finances, but think you don't have the cash to do it or are intimidated at the prospect, take a baby step. All the saving and planning in the world is pretty meaningless if you're deep in debt. Set a goal to pay down or off one or more credit cards or other consumer debt in 2011, rather than coming up with a complicated and hard-to-meet plan. Cancel cable or figure out how else you can scrape up an extra $100 per month, and decide which bill you'll apply that toward. If you don't have credit cards, decide to put your savings away, into a high-interest online savings account or your retirement account.

The confidence you'll generate from successfully eliminating even one bill or saving even $1,000 can easily snowball into a full-fledged assault on your remaining money dysfunctions and the moxie to put a more holistic financial plan in place.

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