New Year's resolutions are all welland good, but you'll never reachyour goals if you don't bring personaland economic order to your life. Whilemost happy people have goals anddreams, identifying and workingtoward them is what makes for ameaningful life. Doctors should considerthe following happiness resolutionsfor 2005:
• Save at least 15% of your annualincome. If there's one golden rule tofinancial security and satisfaction, it'sto be sure to pay yourself first. Formost physicians, that means savingmore than $25,000 per year.
•Draft or update a will. Most doctorsdon't even have the protection ofa basic will. For those who do, mostare outdated. When it comes to yourfamily and finances, never let anyoneelse have the last word. Act now, theremight not be a tomorrow.
•Develop a financial strategy.You'll never reach your destination ifyou don't know where you're going.Most physicians don't even have a fundamentalwealth-building plan. Sitdown with a pen and paper and makea beginning. No one knows yourwants and needs better than you.
•Discuss money issues with yourspouse at least monthly. Whenaddressing money issues with aspouse, just getting started is thehardest part. If you're like most couples,you each bring your own uniquestrengths and weaknesses to the planningprocess. You sink orswim together.
•Pay off all credit card debt. Theaverage American has nearly $10,000in credit card debt. Since doctors mirrorsociety, it's reasonable to assumethat they're in the same boat—andperhaps worse off due to their profession-specific financial pressures.No investment can top the returnequaled by eliminating 20% interestrate charges.
•Instruct children on money matters.Far too many of today's childrenand adults are close to being financiallyilliterate. Thoughtful parentshave the power to alter that condition.The endeavor really isn't thatintimidating. As always, the fundamentalsshould rule.
•Say "no" to the next great investmentidea. Too many busy doctorstry to get rid of stock tipsters by sendingthem a check. Be sure to sendthem packing instead.