February 2020

Don’t Make Resolutions. Create Good Habits!

At the start of each year, some people set New Year’s resolutions and there is a lot of media coverage about them. Common resolutions are healthier eating, increased physical activity, saving money, decreased debt, improved personal relationships, quitting smoking, learning a new hobby or skill, and reading more.

Other people avoid making resolutions completely because they never produce the desired results. Statements like “I always break my resolutions” and “I always give up by mid-January” are commonplace.

One reason that New Year’s resolutions are so difficult to keep is that they require people to change their behavior. Examples of behavior changes include eating less or exercising more to lose weight, and decreasing spending or earning more income to reduce debt or save money.

Change is hard and people tend to resist it because it requires a lot of mental energy, willpower, and motivation to do things differently. It is much easier to stick with the status quo, especially if you do not have a clearly defined action plan with detailed steps for how to go about changing.

Whether you call your personal goals New Year’s resolutions or not, there is a better way to achieve them: create good habits. When an action becomes a habit, you do not have to remember when, where, why, or how to do it. It gets done because it becomes part of your daily routine.

Are you trying to change your behavior or that of clients? Below is some useful information about habits that is summarized from the book Transform Your Habits by James Clear:

  • Personal habits—good or bad—are the result of many small decisions that people make over time
  • Our lives today (e.g., finances, health, career achievements) are a reflection of our past habits
  • To make personal changes, focus on habits and routines rather than events or success metrics
  • Decide who you want to be and prove it to yourself every day (e.g., lose 30 pounds by walking more)
  • Set schedules, not deadlines (e.g., designated times for physical activity and financial check-up activities)

There are three steps to effective habit change called the 3 R’s: reminder, routine, and reward:

  1. Reminders are “triggers” that can initiate behaviors (e.g., walking laps when you arrive at work)
  2. Routines are behaviors, or the actions that people take (e.g., setting up payroll savings deductions)
  3. Rewards are the benefits gained from changed behaviors (e.g., positive self talk about achievements)

Another strategy for successfully achieving goals is “habit stacking”—incorporating a desired behavior into something that you already do. Health-related examples are going to a gym on the way to work and flossing your teeth after brushing them. Financial examples are dropping loose change into a jar when you walk in the door from work or doing errands and depositing the tallied up loose change into a savings account.

Do you want to improve some aspect of your life in 2020? Create good habits. Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and financially secure year in 2020.

Written by: Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®

February Webinars – RSVP today!

    • Understanding Long-term Care: Basics and VA Aid & Attendance 
      This webinar begins with a discussion of the basics of Long Term Care insurance options, facilitated by Dr. Michael Gutter. Then Mr. Kevin Friel of the VA Aid & Assistance office covers the long-term care support programs available to Veterans. 
    • Exploring the Research on Fad Diets 
      In this interactive webinar we take a closer look at popular diets, discuss resources for staying current, and develop an evidence-based response to the question, “What’s the best diet for weight loss?”.
    • An Overview of the Branch Out Parenting Program and Other THRIVE Resources 
      This webinar highlights the development behind Branch Out and what the program will look like. Additionally, the presenters cover the newly designed Thrive website and show participants how to access resources and learning modules.
    • Special Needs Trusts & ABLE Accounts
      This presentation provides an overview of the different types of special needs trusts (self-settled, third-party, and pooled trusts) and explains the circumstances under which each type of trust could be beneficial.

Webinar Spotlight!

Moral Injury and Killing in Combat: Research and Clinical Implications

This presentation begins by defining moral injury and describing a theoretical model that highlights some of the key aspects of moral injury. Differences between killing trauma and PTSD-related trauma are described as well as the differences between moral injury and PTSD.

Here’s what participants were saying about this webinar:

  • “Thank you for a very down-to-earth helpful presentation. Will continue to watch for additional opportunities for training.”
  • “Great job and very informative.”
  • “I really liked the depth of learning in this webinar.”

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Military Families and Disaster Preparedness
Disaster preparedness is a crucial part of any community, but for military families, preparing for a disaster can look differently compared to the civilian population. Here is a highlight of some resources for our service providers that can be of great significance to military families no matter where they are located in the case that a disaster strikes.

Kinship Caregiving & Military Families
Military deployments offer a concrete example of temporary kinship care and highlight the importance of establishing a family care plan before departing.For those involved in kinship care, the challenges can be great but so to can be the rewards. Visit this blog post to learn more about Kinship Caregiving. 

Estate Planning Tips for Service Members
Estate planning should, ideally, be started in young adulthood. This blog posts offers five estate planning tips to share with service members. Check it out!

Planning for Children with Special Needs: Managing Routines During Times of Change
Routines at home and school help children with special needs feel safe and secure. However, special attention needs to be paid to consistently implement the rules during holidays, travel, and school breaks. This post is a compilation of resources to provide guidance on how to do this.

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PSC Caregiving | Ep. 4: Responding to Grief

Responding to Grief is the fourth episode in our PCS Caregiving podcast series where we discuss a variety of family caregiver issues and how helping professionals can better serve military families as they PCS from their role as a spouse, friend, partner, or loved one to a caregiver.

Any kind of loss can make us feel grief. We often only think about grief as a response to death; but, gains and losses happen throughout our lives, in a variety of different situations, and the losses often trigger some form of grief.

Tune in as guest speaker Andrew Crocker talks about how caregivers can respond to grief. While grieving a loss—or better, losses—is an inevitable part of life, there are ways to help cope with the pain, come to terms with grief, and eventually, find a way to move forward.


MoneyTalk: 2019 Personal Finance Year in Review

In this episode Dr. Barbara O’Neill shares the 5 biggest highlights from the 2019 Personal Finance Year in Review webinar’ One topic that is addressed is some of the interesting 2019 financial trends and events.