It's time to make your New Year's financial resolutions for 2006.

We can all hope Federal Reserve Chairman-elect Ben Bernanke makes a resolution to use his book "Essays on the Great Depression" as a blueprint for avoiding one rather than starting one.

The Bush administration would be smart to vow never to fiddle with Social Security again.

Donald Trump, star of "The Apprentice," we hope has promised not to voice the dreaded words "you're fired" to anyone outside of a television show.

We could all pray that oil companies will resolve not to boost prices at the pump again, but let's try to keep these realistic.

Whatever your personal peccadillo, you still have time as the year winds down to bolster your willpower. Reinforce yourself with good intentions to avoid financial traps and hang-ups in the coming year.

Here are worthy New Year's financial resolutions to keep:

I will get my credit card debt under control.

Higher gas prices have put a financial strain on families, but this is the time of year when Americans binge on credit card debt no matter what. Net worth of U.S. households rose 2.6 percent in the third quarter, but those same households helped to boost U.S. non-financial debt by 9.1 percent. Total bankruptcy filings grew to a record high in fiscal year 2005, and the American Bankers Association reported credit card delinquencies hit a record quarterly high of 4.81 percent.

Variable credit card rates are rising, so track credit spending carefully and stay in line with your budget. Don't carry all your cards when you shop. Make lists in advance to avoid impulse buying. Discard unsolicited short-term low-rate card offers.

Shop for cards. Avoid any affinity (those tied to special organizations and causes) and retailer cards that may have exceptionally high rates and fees. According to CardWeb.com, the best low-rate national cards recently were offered by Wells Fargo Prime-Rate at 800-642-4720; Pulaski Bank at 800-980-2265; First Tennessee Classic Visa at 800-234-2840; and Amalgamated Bank Gold Plus at 800-365-6464.

Leaders in no-fee cards included Target Visa at 888-755-5852 and Citi AT&T Universal at 866-230-5360.

I will use real estate mostly as a place to live.

Because the housing market has slowed in many parts of the country, be careful about aggressive moves like flipping or house hopping so you don't get stuck making payments long term on that alleged gold mine. Property values go up over the long haul, and there will always be real estate speculation, but you don't always make a killing. A wrong move with money you don't really have takes a bite out of family finances.

Using your home as a cash cow through home equity loans also can potentially get you in trouble. Even the majority of new mortgage loans are higher than the actual mortgage balances, as homeowners take out money for a variety of reasons. Remember that it isn't funny money and you must pay it back.

I will set money aside for a rainy day.

Despite talk about an improving economy, millions of Americans are in industries drastically cutting back work forces. One of the more ominous strategies Ford Motor Co. is considering could cut as many as 30,000 hourly workers from 2008 to 2011. An expected rash of mergers across a number of industries in 2006 also means cuts.

Have three to six months in salary set aside for emergencies. Make a reasonable budget, stick with it and save regularly. Even if you opt to go out on your own to conduct business, it will take money to get started. Contribute the maximum amount to company 401(k) plans and other retirement vehicles, and then avoid borrowing from them because it increases the chance of coming up short when you need money the most.

I will set a careful course for the current investment climate.

Go over your personal portfolio now to see if certain portions have become more heavily weighted than in the past and rebalance accordingly. The Standard & Poor's 500 index and Nasdaq composite index each have gained about 4 percent for 2005, while the Wilshire Small Growth index has risen about 11 percent. Mid-caps, utilities, energy and some foreign markets have been especially strong, but differences in the various segments underscore the importance of diversity in your mix.

Change is underway, with the average yield on taxable money-market funds up sharply from a year ago, according to iMoneyNet, and fixed-rate choices are gaining popularity. Decide how aggressive or conservative you wish to be in your selections.

I will stick with my financial strategies.

Don't cross your fingers when making this resolution. Millions of Americans with good intentions make plans each year but never follow through. Map out a financial strategy, and if you need professional help to do so, get it. Learn who'd help most by talking to friends, and arrange an initial meeting with the planner. Examine the professional designations, track record and references of your adviser.

Make sure your family is well aware of overall financial circumstances, and keep an up-to-date will in a safe place. The less you leave to chance, the more secure you and your family will be in 2006 and beyond.


Andrew Leckey answers questions only through the column. Address questions to Andrew Leckey, "Successful Investing," P.M.B. 184, 369-B Third St., San Rafael, Calif. 94901-3581, or by e-mail at andrewinv@aol.com.