We’re two weeks into a new year that’s still “fresh, with no mistakes in it” (at least, not too many), as Anne of Green Gables said. And that’s exhilarating and motivating, giving us a chance to take a look at who we are, where we are and where we’d like to go in 2013. To help us figure these things out, Working Mother conducted a survey of goals and resolutions, which drew more than 800 respondents—mostly full-time working moms who are career-oriented and family-focused. The findings of the survey, sponsored by Chase Slate credit card, are telling in today’s wavering economic and social climate. Sure, working moms strive to eat more healthfully and exercise this year, but along with these perennial to-dos are those rooted in motherhood, money and career.
It’s well known that women wield tremendous purchasing power: They’re responsible for nearly three-quarters of all household spending, according to the Boston Consulting Group. What’s less well-understood: They’re also managing the family money. In our survey, a hefty 59 percent say they’re in charge of household finances, while 30 percent share the task with their partner. And most feel like they’re doing a pretty good job (just 24 percent say their finances aren’t well-managed).
But this year working moms want to do more. Though 79 percent are confident they’ll be better off in 2013 (making more money is a top financial goal for more than half of the survey respondents), they don’t want to fritter away any financial boons that come their way. Instead, they’re planning to preserve and grow them. A full 56 percent want to save more than last year, often for a specific reason: to buy a house (20 percent) or renovate one (15 percent) or to purchase a car (14 percent). They also hope to put money aside for their own retirement (24 percent) and, perhaps most importantly, for their kids’ college education (36 percent).
Notice that the biggest savings goal is child-related? While our respondents are strongly career-oriented—getting a raise, promotion or a job with better pay and more responsibility are top work priorities—they’re especially committed to being better mothers (85 percent). So it’s no surprise that 94 percent feel it’s critically important to help their children learn to manage money. Most have already started the process and want to double-down on it this year (63 percent), educating their kids about bargain-hunting (64 percent), the basics of investment (50 percent) and budgeting (49 percent), as well as giving them incentives to save (47 percent), such as matching every dollar they set aside.
The Balancing Act
Along with their commitment to improving their family’s fiscal health, our respondents are also dedicated to finding a semblance of the oft-elusive work/family equilibrium. More than half (55 percent) are seeking to be both a better mom and a better employee in 2013, but just about the same number feel that balancing work and family will be their top challenge this year. Other big 2013 tests for balance seekers: paying off debt (46 percent), finding more “me time” (42 percent) and maintaining the relationship with their spouse or partner (34 percent).
No surprise that our moms’ top career goal is getting a raise. More surprising, perhaps, is that when offered the option of a year off from work or a 20 percent raise, nearly two-thirds opted for the raise. Still, their biggest family wish is spending more time together.
Making It Happen
Like most people, only a minority of our survey takers say they made progress toward their big goals and resolutions in 2012. In one study from the University of Scranton, fewer than half of subjects who made resolutions last year were still pursuing them by July, and more than a third had dropped out in January.
There are ways to boost your odds for success, however, according to the authors of two recent books that focus on the new science behind the old-fashioned virtue of willpower: The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, PhD, and Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy Baumeister, PhD, and John Tierney. We’ve gleaned four of their best tips.
- Shred the resolution list. Just commit to one thing. When multiple goals compete for our attention, it drains us of the energy we need to accomplish any of them.
- Break your goal into small, specific steps. And tackle one action at a time.
- Back away from that halo. Doing well gives us tacit permission to be a little bit bad (“I saved so much money on groceries, I deserve to splurge on a latte”), and that can sabotage our progress.
- Track your progress—but keep your eye on the prize. Focusing too much on what you’ve done instead of what you still need to do can slow your momentum.
For that last step, tools like the no-annual-fee Chase Slate’s Blueprint, a program that allows you to easily design a plan to pay for purchases, follow your progress and save when you pay off your bill quickly—can be invaluable. Hey, we’re all for anyting that saves us both time and money—two forever goals of working mothers.