MONEY second acts

Surprising Secrets of Successful Second-Act Career Changers

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A new report dashes stereotypes about older workers and their ability to find rewarding jobs.

Some upbeat news for older workers looking for a fresh start: It may be easier than you think to launch a second act—if you make the right moves.

Most older workers who seek career changes are successful, especially if they use skills from their previous careers, according to a new report out Thursday from the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), a nonprofit organization dedicated to economic literacy. In the survey of 2,000 people, a career change was defined as a change in jobs that involves a new role with either the same or a different employer, in either the same or a different field.

According to the report, 82% of people 47 and older who tried to transition to new careers in the last two years were successful. Nearly 70% of successful changers saw their pay either stay the same (18%) or increase (50%), while 31% took a pay cut. As for job satisfaction, 87% of successful changers said they were happy with their change, and 65% felt less stress at work.

The findings fly in the face of stereotypes about older workers and their ability to find new jobs. It’s true that when older workers lose their jobs, it takes longer to find one. But many older people are in fact fully employed. The unemployment rate for workers 55 and older is less than 3.7%, compared with 5.5% for the national average.

And the number of older people working is growing: The percentage of people 55 and older in the labor force is more than 40%, up from 29% in 1993, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Still, the report is encouraging because an increasing number of older workers say they want to or need to work past traditional retirement age, but they don’t want to continue to do the same thing. Many are looking for a change and a new challenge, as well as less stress.

“Our research shows that older workers are finding rewarding careers, not just new jobs, later in life,” says Stephen Adams, AIER president.

The findings back up another recent survey by the AARP Public Policy Institute that was positive about older workers’ ability to make a career change, even those who had been unemployed for a while. The survey focused on workers 45 to 70 who had been jobless at some point in the last five years. Almost two-thirds of reemployed older workers found jobs in an entirely new occupation.

Of course, some of the unemployed didn’t choose to switch occupations; they were forced to do so by layoffs or changes in their industry. But for others, the change was a decision to do work that was more personally rewarding and interesting, or just less demanding with fewer hours.

It makes sense that pursuing a new career is a viable option for older workers, says Adams. “Older workers tend to have more experience and stronger networks, which they can leverage to make that transition.”

The AIER research found distinct patterns among those career changers who were successful compared with those who tried but didn’t make the leap into a new field or occupation. In some cases, workers remained at the same company but in a new role. For others, they changed where they worked, their occupation. and/or their field. Here are some lessons from the successful career changers.

Identify and capitalize on your transferable skills. The people who were successful assessed their skills and figured out how their job experience could apply to a new occupation. In some cases, changers took courses or additional training to hone those skills or develop new ones. But additional education wasn’t necessarily a hallmark of successful career changers. Many people become trainers in their field, consultants to their old firms, or teachers in their field of expertise. Others used their knowledge to launch a business. In one case, a medical school administrator left academia after 22 years and started his own business of freestanding clinics. In another, a truck mechanic who already had much of the required licensing started his own hauling business after taking seminars on relevant regulations.

Be realistic. People who weren’t successful tended to be those who wanted to leap into an entirely different line of work. It sounds great to open a restaurant or buy a vineyard, but it’s much harder to pull off. It’s a bigger risk financially, and your network of contacts will be less relevant. “The notion of ‘follow your dream’ is a wonderful sentiment, but you have to have a clear-eyed vision of what you bring to the table for your employer or a new venture,” says Adams.

It’s not good to be a lifer. Successful job seekers spent fewer years at the same employer and worked in a variety of roles for different companies over their lifetime. The longer you’ve been working, the more likely it is you’ve held several jobs, so the job-changing experience isn’t so new. But if you’ve been stuck in one job a long time, it’s going to be harder to make a transition.

Enlist family and friends. The most successful career changers said family support was important. That means having encouragement from friends and relatives, and a willingness for family to change their lifestyle to accommodate a different career. Successful career changers also asked for feedback from colleagues, friends, and family members about their aspirations. “People who were successful had encouragement and honest feedback from people who knew them well,” Adams says.

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

Google HR Executive: It Doesn’t Matter Where Candidates Went to College

A Google logo is seen at the garage where the company was founded in Menlo Park, Calif., on Sept. 26, 2013.
Stephen Lam—Reuters A Google logo is seen at the garage where the company was founded in Menlo Park, Calif., on Sept. 26, 2013.

Choosing candidates based on graduating colleges "turned out to be a deeply flawed strategy"

In its early days, Google’s HR department prioritized candidates from Ivy League schools — mostly because it was efficient from a procedural perspective. But it also turned out to be a deeply flawed strategy, says the search giant’s senior vice president of people operations, Laszlo Bock, whose responsibilities include “attracting, developing, retaining and delighting ‘Googlers.’”

“There’s exceptional kids at the Cal state schools, at the University of New York system, and all these other places who have grit and determination and really fought to get there,” Bock told CNN.

Another factor that Google doesn’t weigh so heavily is college grades. “Your grades are somewhat predictive of your performance for your first two years of your career,” said Bock. “They’re helpful as a signal, but after that it doesn’t matter at all.”

Related: NFL Names 41-Year-Old Mother of Three Its First Full-Time Female Referee

And, as grads are clearly clamoring for a gig at Google — which was named last year’s best workplace in the world — Bock says he’s encountered his fair share of gimmicky applicants. One candidate tucked his resume inside a shoe “to get their foot in the door,” he says, and another mailed a robot that had completely shattered upon its arrival.

“Just put your best work on your resume,” Bock says. “We’ll take a look at it.”

Bock, who just released a book entitled Work Rules! (Hachette, 2015), added that Google seeks four key qualities in new hires. These include: cognitive ability, or basic problem-solving skills; emergent leadership, meaning a willingness to step up and back as needed; “Googleyness” — the company’s term for a cultural fit; and intellectual humility.

“The least important thing,” Bock says, “is actually ‘do you know how to do the job?’”

Related: For These Entrepreneurs, the Dream Job Was Finding Jobs for Others

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

TIME leadership

3 Books Every Leader Should Read to Be Successful

Frank Gehry has selected personal favorites for his 'Curated Bookshelf' at Louis Vuitton's London flagship. The shelf is located in the first-floor librarie.
Jessica Klingelfuss

Teachings from the best in the business world

As an employee, you function mostly as a solitary unit. You do your part, produce your “output,” and the work is done. But as a manager (or more precisely, a leader—managers manage tasks, leaders lead people), everything changes. Your success is no longer about your own output, it’s about other people’s — the most important work you do is often what enables other people to do their jobs. But finding your way can be difficult. So in honor of National Book Month, here are three books that every leader should read to succeed.

High Output Management by Andy Grove

Key points: Grove’s book, reflecting on his time as Intel CEO in the 1970s, remains relevant today because of the basic principles it outlines: As a leader, you are an enabler of others. Your team’s performance, not your own output, is what you are judged on. Grove also shares five key things that should inform and govern your time: decision making, information gathering, information sharing, nudging and role modeling. If you are spending significant time doing things outside of those five key areas, it might be worth rethinking your schedule.

Best quote: “The art of management lies in the capacity to select from the many activities of seemingly comparable significance the one or two or three that provide leverage well beyond the others and concentrate on them.”

Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround by Lou Gerstner

Key points: Compared to High Output Management, which can read a little like a textbook, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? is practically a thriller. Gerstner’s well-known memoir about the turnaround of IBM is a vibrant book on leadership during a challenging time. It’s about transformation. Gerstner touches on the importance of speed and a clearly communicated set of principles—especially across a company as large as IBM was at the time. Gerstner also talks about the issues big companies run into with mid-level talent: “People do what you inspect, not what you expect.”

Best quote: “I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.”

The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company by John Rossman

Key points: This is by far the easiest read of the three in this post, but it’s also the most effective at providing prescriptive and actionable leadership advice. Rossman, a former Amazon executive, decodes a lot of the behind the scenes at Amazon and points to what is most important at a company that complex: decision making and ownership. The owner of a project or product doesn’t have to be the most senior person at the organization. In fact, it can be a very junior person. But this person is the sole person responsible for the project’s outcome.

Best quote: “Amazon.com employees quickly learn that the phrase ‘That’s not my job’ is an express ticket to an exit interview.”

Have your own favorite leadership books? I’d love to hear them—tweet at me @cschweitz.

Read next: 4 Biggest Myths About Being a Great Leader

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TIME Careers & Workplace

The One Crucial Trait All Successful People Possess

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Often other people make it difficult to maintain this trait, but that's why you need it even more

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Anyone can succeed without capital, without a business plan, without a marketing plan, and even without a great idea.

But no one can succeed without one essential ingredient.

Think about the keys to business success: plenty of capital; a comprehensive business plan; a thorough market analysis; remarkable employees.

Each is definitely important. But there is one trait every successful entrepreneur possesses:

Irrational optimism.

Why? To be successful you must embrace belief, which means pushing aside all those self-doubts: Feeling you aren’t smart enough, dedicated enough, adaptable enough, or simply that, in spite of your best intentions and best efforts, you won’t succeed.

Often other people make it even harder to maintain that belief. Family and friends tend to shoot multiple holes in your ideas, not because they want to bring you down but because they care about you and don’t want to see you fail.

That’s why people rarely say, “Hey, that’s a great idea. You should go for it!” Most people aren’t wired that way. Most people—myself definitely included—are a lot better at identifying and listing potential problems. We like to play devil’s advocate because that makes us seem smart.

And that’s why you need to be irrationally optimistic: Not because the odds are stacked against success, but because irrational optimism helps you succeed in ways capital, business plans, and marketing savvy can’t.

Of course you can take irrational optimism too far—but then again, maybe you can’t.

Think about sports, the ultimate zero-sum game. Only one individual or one team can win, but great athletes still go into every game believing they will win—because if they don’t believe they can win, they’ve already lost.

Is complete self-belief irrational? Sure. Is it also a requirement for high-level athletic success? Absolutely. Great athletes push aside doubt and disbelief.

So do great entrepreneurs.

If you listen to the naysayers you’ll never start a business, never expand, never work and struggle and overcome—and never succeed. If you don’t believe in yourself, however irrationally, you will not succeed.

Although no amount of self-belief is enough to ensure success, the smallest bit of doubt can ruin your chances.

In Bounce, Matthew Syed quotes Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, one of the most successful football (soccer) coaches in the English Premier League, on how athletes must approach competition:

To perform to your maximum you have to teach yourself to believe with an intensity that goes way beyond logical justification. No top performer has lacked this capacity for irrational optimism; no sportsman has played to his potential without the ability to remove doubt from his mind.

The same is true for entrepreneurs—and, really, for everyone. Be smart, be logical, be rational and calculating, and never stop trying to improve your skills. But most important, be irrationally optimistic.

Belief in yourself will take you to places no external forces ever can.

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Scientifically Proven Ways to Achieve Better Success in Life

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Hard work alone won't get you there

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Success is a subjective notion, if there ever was one. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume the higher you are on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the better you’re doing. In case you don’t remember the levels from Psych 101, essentially, people can’t be their best possible selves (self-actualization) until lower-level needs are met first. In other words, you can’t be an ideal version of yourself if you don’t have enough food and money to pay the bills, or enough love and esteem to feel good about your value as a human being. So, what can you do to move yourself up the pyramid?

Check out the findings from several studies, which shine a light on what it takes to achieve more in life.

Increase your confidence by taking action.

Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of The Confidence Code, wrote a stellar article for The Atlantic on this subject. Highlighting scads of studies that have found that a wide confidence gap exists between the sexes, they point out that success is just as dependent on confidence as it is on competence. Their conclusion? Low confidence results in inaction. “[T]aking action bolsters one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed,” they write. “So confidence accumulates–through hard work, through success, and even through failure.”

Broaden your definition of authenticity.

Authenticity is a much sought-after leadership trait, with the prevailing idea being that the best leaders are those who self-disclose, are true to themselves, and who make decisions based on their values. Yet in a recent Harvard Business Review article titled “The Authenticity Paradox,” Insead professor Herminia Ibarra discusses interesting research on the subject and tells the cautionary tale of a newly promoted general manager who admitted to subordinates that she felt scared in her expanded role, asking them to help her succeed. “Her candor backfired,” Ibarra writes. “She lost credibility with people who wanted and needed a confident leader to take charge.” So know this: Play-acting to emulate the qualities of successful leaders doesn’t make you a fake. It merely means you’re a work in progress.

Improve your social skills.

According to research conducted by University of California Santa Barbara economist Catherine Weinberger, the most successful business people excel in both cognitive ability and social skills, something that hasn’t always been true. She crunched data linking adolescent skills in 1972 and 1992 with adult outcomes, and found that in 1980, having both skills didn’t correlate with better success, whereas today the combination does. “The people who are both smart and socially adept earn more in today’s work force than similarly endowed workers in 1980,” she says.

Train yourself to delay gratification.

The classic Marshmallow Experiment of 1972 involved placing a marshmallow in front of a young child, with the promise of a second marshmallow if he or she could refrain from eating the squishy blob while a researcher stepped out of the room for 15 minutes. Follow-up studies over the next 40 years found that the children who were able to resist the temptation to eat the marshmallow grew up to be people with better social skills, higher test scores, and lower incidence of substance abuse. They also turned out to be less obese and better able to deal with stress. But how to improve your ability to delay things like eating junk food when healthy alternatives aren’t available, or to remain on the treadmill when you’d rather just stop?

Writer James Clear suggests starting small, choosing one thing to improve incrementally every day, and committing to not pushing off things that take less than two minutes to do, such as washing the dishes after a meal or eating a piece of fruit to work toward the goal of eating healthier. Committing to doing something every single day works too. “Top performers in every field–athletes, musicians, CEOs, artists–they are all more consistent than their peers,” he writes. “They show up and deliver day after day while everyone else gets bogged down with the urgencies of daily life and fights a constant battle between procrastination and motivation.”

Demonstrate passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

Psychologist Angela Duckworth has spent years studying kids and adults, and found that one characteristic is a significant predictor of success: grit. “Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality,” she said in a TED talk on the subject. “Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Embrace a “growth mindset.”

According to research conducted by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, how people view their personality affects their capacity for happiness and success. Those with a “fixed mindset” believe things like character, intelligence, and creativity are unchangeable, and avoiding failure is a way of proving skill and smarts. People with a “growth mindset,” however, see failure as a way to grow and therefore embrace challenges, persevere against setbacks, learn from criticism, and reach higher levels of achievement. “Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training,” she writes.

Invest in your relationships.

After following the lives of 268 Harvard undergraduate males from the classes of 1938 to 1940 for decades, psychiatrist George Vaillant concluded something you probably already know: Love is the key to happiness. Even if a man succeeded in work, amassed piles of money, and experienced good health, without loving relationships he wouldn’t be happy, Vaillant found. The longitudinal study showed happiness depends on two things: “One is love,” he wrote. “The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

TIME Business

10 Things Successful People Do Before Going to Sleep

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The actual routine starts an hour or two before going to bed

Everyone is obsessed with how successful people start their day. And if you’ve decided to do something about the quality of your life, you’ll start working on developing a morning routine and trying different versions of it.

But we seem to have forgotten that what productive people — those who work each day to achieve what they want and who have hacked so many areas of their lives — do before they go to bed is just as important.

The evening routine is one of the most underestimated habits, and yet it’s an absolute must when it comes down to changing how your day goes and whether you want to get stuff done.

A nighttime ritual affects your sleep and the mood you’ll be in when you get up, and thus becomes the foundation of your whole day.

It’s a wind down period, and there are many things you can do at that time.

The actual routine starts an hour or two before going to bed, and you must turn it into a regular thing done at a certain time if you want to see changes in your energy level, productivity, mood and motivation.

Here’s what you can include in it:

1. A walk

Go for a short walk in the evening. It will help you leave everything behind and stop thinking about the workday.

It will be quiet time for yourself, without any distractions. And you can use it to reflect on different things that interest you or to just empty your mind and enjoy the silence.

2. Assess your day

Every single night Benjamin Franklin took the time to make an examination of his day. And it helped him stay focused on what he was doing, see if he was making progress, understand where he needed to improve and whether or not he was happy with the results.

It’s a great thing to do at the end of the day as a part of your evening routine.

It takes 5-10 minutes but helps you evaluate your day’s work and have control over your goals, tasks and progress.

3. Read

Many great people read right before they go to sleep.

It’s a good thing to do at the end of your ritual, and even in bed. The reading process itself will help you fall asleep faster, if you struggle with that.

What your book will be about is your choice. But it’s important to leave the digital devices for tomorrow and have the company of a real book now.

Also, this can be another opportunity to learn new stuff, get inspired, generate ideas or challenge your mind with some philosophical topics.

4. Meditate

A short meditation session is a great thing to include in your morning routine, but it has an even greater effect when done twice a day.

So set aside a few minutes and just sit still. Let your thoughts flow naturally and don’t try to focus on some or ignore others.

Then try to let go of all that. Because it’s in the past now. You need to empty your mind and eliminate those regrets and worries for the past day if you want to go to sleep in peace and start the next day fresh.

5. Unplug

Turn off everything around you. You only need your alarm.

A good nighttime ritual’s purpose is to let you sleep well, and that means no notifications, sounds, lights or other interruptions.

6. Affirmations

Another powerful moment of the day, when your mind is as susceptible as in the morning, is before going to sleep. So add some mantras.

These positive affirmations (which you can say in the mirror for a better result) will stay in your mind when you sleep and will influence your confidence, belief in yourself, goals and dreams, and how dedicated you are to them.

So let yourself know one more time before you go to bed that you can achieve whatever it is that you put your mind to, that each day you’re getting closer to your dreams, that you’re staying focused on what’s important and aren’t allowing others to direct your life.

7. Journal

Why can’t the morning pages be done in the evening too?

Share what’s bothering you on a piece of paper, write down everything important that happened throughout the day and analyze how it affected you. Think about how you felt and whether you completed your tasks for the day.

Or just write about the things that come to your mind, positive thoughts, big plans for the next few weeks, etc.

8. Plan your next day

That’s a simple and quick thing many leaders do each night. It helps them to get ready for the next day and know what they have to do right after they wake up, so that they won’t waste any time and can just start working.

So spare a few minutes to make a to-do list and think of all the tasks – big or small – you need to get done tomorrow, even the non-essential ones.

This way you won’t need to remember anything and will know exactly how the next day will go.

9. MIT’s

Now decide what the 3 most important tasks are.

They must be things that are urgent, that are connected to your goals and that you really want to accomplish and will affect you as a person and your future.

Now try to break them into smaller tasks, then figure out what you need to do first and make it easy and simple. This way you won’t have an excuse not to go all the way and complete them.

And then, if you’re really motivated to succeed, you’ll get up early, do your morning routine and start working on these 3 right away.

10. Thank

Now that the day’s over and you’re headed to bed, take a minute to say thank you.

Go through all the opportunities you had, the nice people you met, the work you did and the goals you worked on, the nice meals you had and the great chats you had time for in that day, and be grateful.

Now you’re ready to move on to the next day, where even more beautiful things will be waiting for you.

Lidiya Kesarovska is a writer and blogger in the fields of self-improvement, life hacking, human potential and minimalism. She’s the creator of Let’s Reach Success, where her mission is to motivate and inspire and think of creative and unusual ways to overcome fear, procrastination, insecurity, clutter, failure, overthinking, discontent and much more.

This article originally appeared on Pick The Brain.

Read more from Lidiya Kesarovska:

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s the Only Secret to Being Truly Successful

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Your significant other has a huge impact on your success. Science says so

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Your customers are hugely important. And your key employees. As well as the industry you’ve chosen, politics, macroeconomics, and education.

And luck.

While all those are important factors in the success of your business (or career) and your earning power, here’s one factor you probably haven’t considered:

Your spouse.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that people with relatively prudent and reliable partners tend to perform better at work, earning more promotions, making more money, and feeling more satisfied with their jobs.

That’s true for men and women: “Partner conscientiousness” predicted future job satisfaction, income, and likelihood of promotion (even after factoring in the participants’ level of conscientiousness.)

According to the researchers, “conscientious” partners perform more household tasks, exhibit more pragmatic behaviors that their spouses are likely to emulate, and promote a more satisfying home life, all of which enables their spouse to focus more on work.

As one researcher said, “These results demonstrate that the dispositional characteristics of the person one marries influence important aspects of one’s professional life.” (In nonresearch terms, a good partner both sets a good example and makes it possible for you to be a better you.)

I know that’s true for me. My wife is the most organized person I know. She juggles family, multiple jobs, multiple interests—she’s a goal-achieving machine. Her “conscientiousness” used to get on my nerves, until I realized the only reason it bugged me was because her level of focus implicitly challenged my inherent laziness.

I finally realized the best way to get more done was to actually get more done, and she definitely helps me do that.

And I try to do the same for her. Since my daily commute is two flights of stairs, I take care of most of the house stuff: laundry, groceries, cleaning (I don’t do all the cleaning, but I make sure it gets done), etc., so when she comes home she can just behome.

So, while she’s still much more conscientious and organized than I am, she’s definitely rubbed off on me in a very positive way.

Which of course makes sense: As Jim Rohn says, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with—and that’s particularly true where our significant others are concerned.

Bad habits rub off. Poor tendencies rub off. We all know that. But good habits and good tendencies rub off too.

Plus, if one person is extremely organized and keeps your household train running on time, that frees the other up to focus more on work. (Of course, in a perfect world, both people would more or less equally share train-engineer duties so that both can better focus on their careers, whether those careers are in the home or outside.)

Keep in mind, I’m not recommending you choose your significant other solely on the basis of criteria like conscientiousness and prudence. As the researchers say, “Marrying a conscientious partner could at first sound like a recipe for a rigid and lackluster lifestyle.”

Nor am I suggesting you end a relationship if you feel your partner is lacking in those areas.

But it does appear that having a conscientious and prudent partner is part of the recipe for a better and more rewarding career.

So instead of expecting your partner to change, think about what you can do to be more supportive of your significant other. Maybe you can take on managing your finances, or take care of more household chores, or repairs, maintenance, or schedules.

After all, the best way to lead is by example, and in time you may find that you and your significant other make an outstanding—and mutually supportive—team.

How awesome does that sound?

TIME psychology

These Types of People End Up More Successful and Make More Money

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY

4 Surefire Ways to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

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Sarina Finkelstein

Aiming to make positive changes in 2015? It's easier than you think to reach your goals.

If you’re like most people, this is the time of year when you pledge to shed bad habits and improve your life. About half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions each January, according to research by the University of Scranton.

It’s no surprise that people set intentions. What is surprising is how much the failure rate of resolutions is hyped. In fact, a good number of people do make goals with staying power: 59% of people who made resolutions for 2014 say they kept them, a Marist poll found. The University of Scranton’s researchers found that 46% of resolvers maintained their pledge past the six-month mark.

Money-related goals are one of the most popular, making up one-third of resolutions that people set for the coming year. More good news here: When it comes money, financial resolutions seem to be easier to achieve than other popular self-improvement vows.

According to a recent survey by Fidelity Investments, 42% of people find it easier to pay down debt and save more for retirement than to, say, lose weight or give up smoking. Among those who made a financial resolution last year, 29% reached their goal, and 73% got at least halfway there, Fidelity found. Only 12% of resolutions having to do with things like fitness and health do not end in failure, other research shows.

Unfortunately, the booming stock market and improved jobs picture may be making people a little too confident about their finances. Just 31% of people are considering a financial resolution this year, down from 43% last year. But the top goals remain the same: Save more (55%), pay off debt (20%), and spend less (17%), according to Fidelity.

No matter what kind of changes you are pledging to make in 2015, here are four ways to improve your odds of success.

1. Resolve to resolve. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t articulate a goal, according to another University of Scranton study by professor John Norcross. After six months, 46% of people who wanted to change their behavior and made a resolution to do so were successful, vs. just 4% of people who desired to make a change but didn’t put it in resolution form.

2. Be specific. People who make vague goals are much more likely to fail. Set a well-defined goal and write down a plan of attack. For example, vowing to save more is too broad. Instead, make a plan to research savings accounts with higher than average rates, pick one by Feb. 1, and aim to save $3,000 a year, putting away $250 a month to get there. (For help, check out our annual list of the Best Banks and accounts.)

3. Keep a log. One key to sticking to your New Year’s pledge: track your progress. Two-thirds of those who set a goal find progress to be motivating, according to the Fidelity survey, and a study from the University of Washington found that the more that you monitor your performance, the better you’ll do at sticking to your goals. Use an app such as SavingsGoals to see how close you are coming to your savings target or DailyCosts to track your spending and see where you can cut back.

4. Enlist a buddy. Research from Dominican University of California psychology professor Gail Matthews found that people who shared their goals with a friend were 33% more successful than those who didn’t. So if you’re already contributing to your 401(k) but haven’t boosted the amount you’re saving in years, tell someone who is important to you that you’re going to do it. Then ask that person to call you in a week to see if you followed through. Make a pact to help your friend with his or her own goal, and you’ll both be more likely to achieve your resolutions in 2015.

Have you had success with your New Year’s resolutions? Write me with your tips and advice at drosato@moneymail.com, and I’ll share the best ideas in an upcoming post.

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