Anti-Resolutions: Guaranteed Not to Work

Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Won’t Work Out
Making a huge change in your life is hard. So go small in 2019.
Bloomberg, December 31, 2018




It’s the most horrible time of the year. The inter-tubes [i] are filled with god-awful suggestions of ways to improve your life. The lists, so many damned lists: Stocks to buy, books to read, explanatories as to why the bad choices you made last year will work out better next year. And, the forecasts, the terrible forecasts.

Worst of all: New Year’s resolutions[ii]

So instead of making promises to myself that will lead to eventual self-loathing when they don’t happen, I have taken a different approach. Rather than my usual finger wagging, let’s take a page from the Charlie Munger playbook, and invert.

What follows is my list of anti-resolutions of those things we say we want to do, but in reality, we really don’t.

Thus, a list of resolutions that neither you nor I will be able to keep:

New Year’s Anti-Resolutions:

1. Save more money: This is the year around the Ritholtz household where we will tighten our belts, stick to budget, and save some money for a rainy day.

Out: going to expensive restaurants, vacation travel, shows on Broadway, music concerts and stand up comedy. No more 2-day delivery for stuff I don’t really need from Amazon. The expensive car lease, the boat and marina fees, the front of the plane travel – all gone. Oh, and no more Starbucks lattes. [iii]

In: Streaming, cooking at home, borrowing books from the library, staycations.[iv]

This is the year we make a budget, and stay with it — no matter what. [v]

2. Spend more time with the family: How hard can it be to carve out an extra 10 hours a week to spend with the fam? Schedule a date night or three each week with the spouse, go to your kids’ games and recitals, invite the in-laws over for brunch, read bedtime stories to your children. See, this resolution stuff is easy.

3. Invest more: You already max out your 401k (including your employer’s matching contribution) but that does not mean you cannot scrape up some more money for further retirement savings or other investment goals. Put together a few themed investments – say, Cannabis companies, or Emerging Market Small Cap Value – throw some money into that each month. Also, any time the market drops 10%, ignore your own panic and throw a few bucks into an S&P 500 index fund. How hard could that be?

4. Lose weight / Eat better: I mean, really, how hard is it to eat less and better? Cut out the sweets and fat, reduce your portions by half, don’t eat after 8. Add more fresh fruits and vegetables, eat less processed foods. (You’ve already stopped going out to restaurants). Oh, and limit yourself to one glass of Red wine per day – no more spirits or beer. The weight will just fall off…

5. Read more books: The United States publishes about 300,000 new titles per year,[vi] surely you can find some time to read a few of them? Cut out a television show (or some of that family time you just regained) to pick up a few hours of you time. Then pick a few books each month to read – I’ll give you a start with a list twice a year, as well as this longer list. You will be smarter before you know it!

6. Get to the gym: We all know the health benefits of exercise. Do some free weights, hit the speed bag for a while, jump rope, work up a sweat. Buy yourself a rowing machine, stepper or elliptical, and start sweating. You’ll live longer – and better. [vii]

7. Get more sleep: Gawd, why didn’t I think of this before?! I will just sleep 2 hours longer each day. WhyTF was I not doing this before? So easy to get to bed earlier, catch more Zzzs, stay in bed longer. This one will be the easiest resolution to keep ever!  [viii]

8. Stop multi-tasking: Don’t respond instantly to every email and text. Pick 2 times a day to read/respond to incoming emails (e.g., 11am and 4pm). Stop twitching a response every 37 seconds. Also, learn to Meditate and be more present every day. Almost instantly, you will be present in the moment.

9. Reinvent yourself: Learn a new language, start a new hobby, volunteer for charity. You have enough time that you can surely squeeze in another few hours a week to completely reinvent yourself, despite decades of habits and ingrained preferences. Also, spend less time on social media and learn to control your emotions. Become more creative and let go of negative things from the past. How hard can completely reinventing yourself be?

10. Stop procrastinating / being late all the time: Just because I wrote this on December 31st does not mean I am any less committed to stopping my procrastination. If I can do it, so can you.  [ix]

One last thing: If you really want to effect change, do so incrementally. Make small, achievable changes towards a set of measurable goals with a clearly defined objective that has a positive feedback loop. That’s a resolution I can get behind.



[i] The Internet is, in fact, a series of tubes.

[ii] They are horrible for reasons you already intuit, but most of all its their absurd lack of realistically achievable goals.

[iii] If your budget is dependent on whether or not you consume a $4 coffee beverage daily you are already truly, deeply, and royally screwed.

[iv] I support capital punishment for whoever came up with the word “Staycation.”

[v]  “Der mentsh trakht un got lakht,” translated from Yiddish: “Man plans and God laughs.”

[vi] Plus, some 700,000 self-published books, most of which are unreadable.

[vii] There is somewhat of a science as to why exercise resolutions fail; see e.g., Daniel Shaw.

[viii] See Sleep Health Foundation as to why.

[ix] See, Psychology Today.



I originally published this at Bloomberg, December 31, 2018. All of my Bloomberg columns can be found here and here




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