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Reach for your goals

Experts share tips on how to keep your New Year’s resolutions for the mind, body and wallet
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal Staff Writer
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Body Suzanne Grace, a yoga teacher and Pilates trainer, believes there are plenty of ways to make positive changes, for the body and otherwise, in the new year. Just don’t call them resolutions. “One of the things we do in yoga, instead of resolutions, is setting intentions. We reflect in meditation on the past year,” she said. In doing so, participants are supposed to let the bad things go, making room for positive change in 2009. “You’re letting go and bringing in,” she said. “You kind of contemplate the last year and the things you’d like to let go of.” Setting goals for your body, such as developing a healthier diet, should be kept fairly easy to accomplish. In other words, don’t try to lose 10 pounds in 10 days or you’ll likely fail. “They’re healthy goals,” Grace said of obtainable change everyone can strive for in the new year. “It’s not unreachable, it’s not unreasonable. There are so many tools to get healthy these days. It’s a lot easier for people to take control of their health.” And Jan. 1 is as good a time as any to take better care of your body. “It’s an opportunity for a lot of people to start something new,” Grace said. “It’s Jan. 1 so people think, I’m going to start this new thing, this new habit. I always encourage people to keep moving forward, not looking back.” Start on the right foot: Suzanne Grace is holding a “Restore and Renew on the Eve” mindfulness yoga and meditation event for the community on Dec. 31, focusing on gentle yoga stretches and meditation as a way to release the old and welcome the new. The event will be held from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday at AHmbiance, in the Gold Country Mall at 884 Lincoln Way. Participants should bring a yoga mat and blanket, and are welcome to leave a love offering. Call (530) 637-5088 or e-mail Suzanne@graceyoga.com for more information. Mind It’s just as important to flex that mind muscle, and local educators think the new year is the perfect time for foothills residents to acquire new skills. “We know that the mind and the body are connected, and you have to keep both of them in shape,” said Judy McCoy, Placer School for Adults principal. Whether it’s to take knitting, complete a GED or learn a new computer program, the Placer School for Adults, based in Auburn, offers plenty of reasons to get back into the classroom. An uncertain economy offers further incentive, McCoy said. “People realize how important it is to revitalize their skills and make themselves more marketable,” McCoy said. “Finding jobs in a competitive job market, that’s one of the reasons to go to school now, not just for a New Year’s resolution but because the way the economy is.” Get your learn on: Here are some local resources to help you get into the classroom: Placer School for Adults opens Spring 2009 registration on Jan. 20, (530) 885-8585 or www.placeronline.org. Sierra College allows students to, among other things, tackle their general education requirements at a fraction of the cost when compared to four-year colleges and universities. www.sierracollege.edu. Sierra College Community Education provides short-term, not-for-credit classes covering everything from cake decorating to bookkeeping. www.sccommed.org. Wallet Finance affects everyone’s life. It’s up to you whether money has a positive, or negative, impact in 2009. “The finance area can put a lot of stressors in other parts of our lives,” said Bob Butera, a certified financial planner and owner of Butera Capital Management in Auburn. “Financial freedom equals freedom. That’s how it works.” So, what’s the first step to financial freedom? Getting out of debt. “If you were to make a list of the top priorities, probably number one at the top of the list is to take care of the debt side of the equation,” Butera said. “Any sort of consumer debt, credit cards, I’d try to get that off. There’s no benefit to it. These are the kind of things that block you from building wealth.” Why send checks to creditors each month when you can pay yourself instead? “ If you’re going to use a credit card — and people only need one — you need to pay it off monthly,” Butera said. Getting a handle on your budget goes hand in hand with demolishing debt, and is a practice that can continue even after the credit-card balance hits zero. “I know some people who stop by Starbucks one, two, three, four times a day,” Butera said. “Sometimes it’s the little things that accumulate that make a big difference in the budget.” Butera said having a good grasp on spending habits — what and where you’re spending — doesn’t take much. “Sometimes just sitting down and thinking about your spending habits can really open your eyes,” he said. Key to building wealth, aside from keeping your budget in check, is investing and taking full advantage of employers’ commitment to matching 401K and other retirement funds. Tighten the pursestrings: Paying down debt? Have multiple credit lines you’re trying to tackle? “You need to break it down,” Butera said. “Start with just one, pay it down, move on to the next.” Butera said he tells clients to start with the credit line that has either the highest interest rate or lowest balance — paying that initial account down is a great way to see results which can motivate you to move on to the next account, Butera said. Trying to keep a tighter budget? “We live in a world of instant gratification,” Butera said about spending. “You have to look at it — Is it reasonable? Do I need this, or could I be more creative and spend a little less?” Looking to beef up your accounts? Save first, and spend later. “Building wealth is not about one or two big things,” Butera said. “It’s about teeny, tiny decisions you make every day about where you’re going to spend, how you’re going to save money. It’s discipline, and it’s looking at every dollar you spend and how you’re spending.”