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Setting Goals

The lull between Christmas and New Year’s is the ideal time to step back and focus on what you want to accomplish in 2006.

List of suggestions

• Spotlight what’s important and create a compelling purpose. For example, if you are in sales and want to reach a certain goal within a week, promise your spouse you’ll celebrate your accomplishment together. This way, following through becomes a priority.

• Be financially prepared for any disaster by storing enough cash in the house for a weekend away. Keep $50 in one-dollar bills on hand because stores might not be able to make change or accept credit cards if the electricity is off.

• Pull together copies of policies for homeowners’ or renters’ coverage, vehicles, medical, life, and other insurance.

• Make copies for your spouse of the banking and investment accounts; make a computer backup disc.

• Update your will, living will, health-care proxy, and power of attorney. Unless, of course, you plan to live forever.

• Polish your résumé, and create a second one. Use the first, emphasizing professional accomplishments, for jobs with requirements that closely match your background. Use the other, focusing more on relevant personal attributes such as work style, for interesting jobs that don’t match your experience as directly.

• Consider buying a used car instead of a new one, and let someone else pay for the depreciation. In a car’s first year, the value lost averages 30 percent, according to Edmunds.com.

• Pick up a “setback” thermostat for about $100 at the hardware store. When you are sleeping or at work, it will automatically adjust the heat (or air conditioning). A 10-degree drop can knock as much as 15 percent off your utility bill.

• Buy a crosscut paper shredder for $50 or so. When it comes to identity theft, real-world thieves are a bigger threat than Internet hackers.

• Buy either Quicken or Microsoft Money software to help track spending, view your portfolio allocations, or estimate next year’s tax bill.

• Quit filing homeowners’ insurance claims for minor bills that exceed your deductible by a couple hundred dollars. You’ll just wind up paying more in premiums the next year.

• Change your habits. If you dump unopened mail in a corner where it stays for weeks, start opening the mail over the trashcan. Immediately dump in the junk mail, and file the other mail in an “immediate” slot or “pending” slot.

• Get a grip on e-mail messages. Limit the number of times a day you check new mail, promptly stop e-mail subscriptions you no longer want, and print out long e-mails so you can read them at a more convenient time.

• Treat your space as if your mother were standing over you.

Add your own goals to the list and have a prosperous 2006.

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