9 Ways to Achieve Financial Success in 2017

These Simple Actions Lead to Greater Financial Success

High five after a great financial success.
Financial success is about taking simple actions. Martin Barraud/Getty Images

Like the everlasting quest to lose weight, financial success is something that almost always shows up as a New Year’s Resolution. That’s great that it’s a goal! But how do you turn your goal into a set of action steps that help you meet that goal?

Perhaps it doesn’t happen quite the way you think. For example, does following the stock market help you achieve more financial success? After all, sassy market headlines are exciting, aren’t they?

They get your emotions going. Think about it… how do you feel when you see headlines such as:

  • “Market Shaped for a Tumble in 2017”
  • “Dow Set for Best Annual Return in Three Years”
  • “6 Stocks Poised to Perform in 2017”

Some headlines cause concern, some make you think you’ve been missing out, and others make you wonder if there’s a way you could double your money this year! Headlines are designed to cause emotion. That’s what makes us read more.

But do any of the articles that follow these emotionally-laden headlines provide actionable advice that consistently helps you improve your financial situation? Probably not. Your personal habits and behavior contribute more to your financial success than anything else.

If you really want financial success in 2017, there are real actions you can take. They may not be exciting, but they work. Below are nine rather dull, but incredibly effective ways to start reaching your financial goals this year.

1. Make a Budget

One of the simplest and most effective things you can do to get control of your finances is to know where your money goes. Knowing how and where you spend is powerful stuff! I’ve been through several serious pay cuts in my life. I successfully navigated them because I had a budget and could easily pinpoint the areas where I could cut back.

In addition, I wasn’t emotionally attached to a lavish lifestyle. Saving for retirement is more important to me than driving a fast sports car, or having a designer purse.

2. Up Your Contributions to Your 401(k) Plan or IRA

Does your workplace offer a 401(k) plan? Be sure you are contributing enough to get the full amount of company match. If you don’t have a 401(k) then open an IRA. You can do this easily online through companies like Vanguard or T. Rowe Price.

If you already have a 401(k) plan, increase your contributions. Now. Even if you just increase them by 1 percent, that is progress toward your goals. And next time you get a raise, make sure you increase your 401(k) contribution a bit too.

3. Don’t Watch the Stock Market

The stock market is not a spectator sport. Invest for what your accounts will be worth in 20 years. Ignore what is happening right now. The market moves today are not relevant to your long-term goals. If you want the daily excitement of winning or losing, pick a few sports teams to follow.

4. Get Better at What You Do for a Living

The best way to have job security and make more money is to get good at what you do. Pay attention at work. Look for ways to contribute.

Be the one who gets things done. Find ways to collaborate with your co-workers. These actions pay off.

5. Learn How to Be a Boring Investor

One of my favorite quotes on investing comes from economist Paul Samuelson, who said “Investing should be like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement… go to Las Vegas.” He’s right. Pick a few index funds (low fee funds that own hundreds of stocks), put money into them regularly, and give your portfolio time. It shouldn’t be a surprise when the market goes down. It should be expected, like a drought. And during those times, you should just keep watering the grass.

Consistent actions will help you achieve financial success.

6. Skip the Free Dinner Seminars

Free dinner seminars on investing are usually offered by financial salespeople who will make a commission if you buy their product. Products and services marketed this way are not always the ones that are best for you. If you’re not sure what to invest in, skip the dinner seminar and hire a fee-only financial planner — which means someone who does not receive commissions for selling products.

7. Ignore Headlines Like “10 Stocks to Buy Now”

These types of headlines make good headlines, not good investments. Stock picking is not the way most people achieve financial success. Boring stuff, like saving a portion of every paycheck, matters far more than stock picking.

8. Take Responsibility

If it’s because of the government, your parents, your boss, your spouse, or your children, then you’re powerless. Excuses cause you to lose power. As soon as you take 100 percent responsibility for what you want in life, you’re back in the driver’s seat and you’ll see ways to make it happen. Next time you start to blame, pause, and think “How can I take responsibility for the outcome?”

9. Focus on the Future, Not the Past

Too many people invest by looking backwards. They look at last year’s results and put their money in things that did well last year. Although this is the worst way to pick investments, some of you will still do it. A better way to invest is to focus on where you want to be in the future, and what long-term strategy is most likely to get you there. Investing money across multiple asset classes, like large cap, small cap, international, emerging markets, real estate funds, etc., is much better than moving money into what did well last year.

The great thing about these nine ways to achieve greater financial success is they’re easy and anyone can do them! You don’t have to guess about the future, or take big risks with your money. All you have to do is take action.