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Here's a great conversation starter: Sometime around Feb. 1, ask people how their New Year's resolutions are coming. You may not get many smiles; chances are good that only a few of the people you ask will still be working toward their goals. Most of them will reluctantly admit that they're not doing so well, but hope to do better.

Usually, it's not because the resolution was unattainable. Often the lack of success stems from misunderstanding the resolution or from poor planning and execution. If you're among those who are already falling behind on their New Year's financial resolutions, though, don't despair. You can still achieve your goals.

Consider these questions and how many of them relate to you and your resolution. Then take the action suggested to put yourself back on the track to success:

Do you know why accomplishing this resolution is important to you? It could be that the goal you've set for yourself isn't important, and failure is no big deal. But if the goal does matter to you, knowing why is important, too. Understanding how following through on a resolution could change your life is a huge motivator.

Did you map out your strategy? Unless your financial resolution was a simple one, such as keeping a coin jar on the kitchen counter, you'll need to plan out how to achieve it. Developing a plan will also help you gain a better understanding of your goal.

Have you considered how your personality affects the resolution? Typically, if you have some bad financial habits, there's a reason for them. You could be making up for some childhood deficiency or current psychological need. Take some time to study the habit you want to change and why you've persisted in the habit. If you skip this step, your resolution could be doomed to failure.

Did you create specific steps to reach your goal? Saving $1,000 by the end of the year is a great goal, but you're more likely to achieve success by vowing to bring your lunch to work three days a week and put the money you didn't' spend into a savings account. We need ways to measure our progress on a regular, frequent basis. Such successes can be celebrated, thus keeping us motivated.

Did you create small, reachable steps? Not only do tasks need to be specific, they also need to be small enough to be accomplished. Your resolution may be to set up and put money in an individual retirement account. The first step is to research potential custodians for the account and their advantages and disadvantages. That's a task you can complete in a week or two. Move on from there to the next small step.

Do you have a way of tracking your progress? A resolution without any way of measuring progress is really just a wish. Concrete measures like dollars or days are better than how you "feel" about something.

Did you decide in advance not to let one failure end your quest? It's easy to get discouraged when you fail, but missing one target or deadline doesn't mean you should give up on your resolution. Perhaps you manage to save only $950 for the year instead of the $1,000 you were aiming for. If you can put failure behind you and renew your efforts, you will continue to move closer to your goal.

Did you build in any accountability? No one likes to admit failure -- and that can sometimes work to the person's advantage. If you haven't already, tell a close friend about your resolution and the individual steps you plan to take to get there. Give your confidant permission to ask about your progress; just knowing that you'll be asked about your progress can help stiffen your determination.

Have you decided how to reward yourself for success? Many resolutions have a built-in reward, such as saving enough to buy a new car. But others, like saving for retirement or paying down debt, don't have such tangible rewards. Treating yourself to an inexpensive reward can be a good way to keep your motivation.

If you ask yourself the questions and take the actions suggested above, you'll increase your odds of success. 

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