Market Watch: Resolve to watch less TV, spend less and set goals

Published by Market Watch

For many working parents, the daily day-care drop-off can be fraught not only with the imminent anxieties of the day — will I make it to work on time? Will my child cry when I leave? Is that runny nose bad enough that I should keep her home? — but also with fears about the long-term effects of leaving one’s child to be cared for by others for long chunks of the day.

Turns out, according to a new meta-analysis of almost 70 studies conducted over a 50-year period, the differences in academic achievement and behavior problems between kids of stay-at-home moms and those with working mothers are negligible. (The research focused on mothers’ employment.) Read our story on parenting and children for more.

Meanwhile, New Year’s Eve is nigh. Have you made your resolutions for 2011? I got an email from a certified financial planner, one Brad Fortier of Fortier Financial in New Orleans, with three simple but somewhat intriguing ideas to consider as you drum up promises to make yourself for 2011.

1) Assess your goals for the future. As Fortier says, if you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you’re there. “Carefully articulate your financial goals, assess the level of risk you are comfortable with and then make a plan that you are capable of following,” he said. In other words, where do you want to be in 10 or 20 years, and how do you plan to get there?

2) Don’t buy so much stuff. Fortier says it more elegantly, but that’s the basic idea. “We all know that material possessions do not correspond [with] happiness, and yet we continue to buy things we do not need,” he wrote. “Follow the same strategy that successful corporations use to survive tough times; live more efficiently and reduce waste. … Think about whether you really need that fancy new gadget or designer handbag before you pull out the credit card next time.”

3) Turn off the TV. That’s an interesting New Year’s resolution, to my mind. Here’s what Fortier said: “Avoid being lured into the 24-hour Armageddon of media coverage. A pundit’s job is to keep you watching day after day, and they often rely on scare tactics to do it. Tune out the screaming heads and you will stop making emotionally charged investment decisions. Set goals for the future, periodically monitor your progress and then relax.”

Not bad advice.

Andrea Coombes, Personal Finance editor