Jeanne Sahadi Commentary:
Everyday Money by Jeanne Sahadi Column archive
Financial flaws: So you're lame. So what.
Ten bucks says you're probably not going to get rid of all your bad financial habits. But you might be able to work around them.
By Jeanne Sahadi, CNNMoney.com senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - So many bad habits, so little energy to change them.

At some point in life, you reach the flaws-and-all years. You accept yourself as you are, complete with sins and shortcomings.

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Sure, some improvement is possible. But those of us who sip from the fountain of reality realize the changes won't be fast and furious in coming.

That's as true of our bad financial habits as anything else. I'm not talking about crippling problems like compulsive gambling, but more everyday behaviors like procrastination and sheer neglect.

Still, just because you're not likely to reform your ways doesn't mean you can't sidestep them. At least I hope so, since my personal list of bad tendencies is long and dog-eared.

So, here are some ways to outwit your bad self if you're a:

Piler-filer drawer stuffer: The thicker your stack of bills, statements and other financial detritus, the more reasons you'll find to clean the bathroom.

When it comes to organizing files, forget perfect. Think simple.

Keep a single file by your front door, suggests Ruth Hayden, author of "Your Money Life." Throw into it every bill and financial document you get in the mail. Then deal with the contents once or twice a month. You might even do so during your lunch hour at work.

For filing things you need to keep, Hayden recommends a three-ring binder with built-in folders or dividers, each of which represents a part of your financial life. For instance, label one "insurance" and put your policies in it. Label another "retirement" and file your investment account statements.

If you're an erratic bill payer, not for lack of funds just lack of attention, sign up for an online bill-paying service with places like MyCheckFree.com or your bank, said certified financial planner Pat Jennerjohn.

Casual spendthrift: You don't have a debt problem. You just gasp a little when you see how much you charge every month buying things you don't really need or even want.

If that's the case, put your credit cards in a place where it's hard to retrieve them and use cash for purchases, Jennerjohn said.

But if you charge from home, hiding the plastic won't help since you probably can recite your account number and expiration date faster than your mother's birthday.

In that case, Hayden recommends that you only shop online, flip through catalogues or watch the home-shopping network during daylight hours when you're sitting at a desk. In other words, not late at night when you're lying on your couch muttering, "It sucks to be me."

Next, exercise the 3-day rule. Write down what you want and then wait three days before buying it. By that point, you may decide to keep your money instead, Hayden said.

List-making procrastinator: You organize all the financial stuff you need to do on one list. Exhausted, you take a break ... for weeks. Then you realize you have to add to the list.

To take the "sting" out of confronting all your to-dos, Rita Emmett, author of "The Procrastinator's Handbook," suggests that you:

  • Select just one thing to do.
  • Time yourself. Give yourself an hour to finish the task.
  • Ignore everything during that hour.
  • No breaks, no phone calls, no checking email.
  • Give yourself a reward. Do something you love, but rarely have time to do.

Saver in need of a lock: You're good about putting money away, but bad about holding on to your savings. So don't set up automatic transfers between your checking and savings accounts, Hayden said. "Do something that stalls you from moving the money out. It should be a hassle."

One option is to open an online savings account with ING, which offers higher-than-average interest rates, Jennerjohn said. To further boost your savings, you can set up an automatic deduction from your paycheck to funnel money into the account.

Parent who plans to plan: You swear you'll get around to writing a will and naming legal guardians for your kids. But first, you've got to buy school supplies for your 4th grader.

Yes, it's unpleasant to contemplate your world without you. But there can be an upside: by formalizing your instructions, you can celebrate what a good and noble parent you are, Hayden said.

That's how she and her husband got through it. Their celebration took the form of a weekend getaway (sans children) immediately after signing all the papers.

Accidental investor: You figure a chimp could do as good a job as you managing your portfolio. In any case, he'd certainly do it with more enthusiasm.

So keep your investments simple: no individual stocks or bonds, just as few mutual funds as possible.

Jennerjohn recommends a low-cost lifecycle fund or a balanced fund which provides diversification and maintains asset allocation for you.

Among her recommendations:

The Vanguard STAR Fund (VGSTX), which maintains a balance of roughly 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds and cash.

T. Rowe Price Personal Strategy Balanced Fund (TRPBX), which invests in roughly 65 percent stocks and 35 percent bonds and cash.

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For other simple filing solutions, click here.

For a look at which financial records you should keep and which you can toss, click here.

Jeanne Sahadi writes about personal finance for CNNMoney.com. For comments on this column or suggestions for future ones, please e-mail her at everydaymoney@cnnmoney.com. Top of page

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.