Amy Miller, AFC®
In my last blog, we discussed that one of the ways to start fresh financially was to set goals. Goals give clear direction and help us focus on the things we want to achieve. The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland said it best – “if you don’t know where you are going then any road will get you there”. In other words, if you don’t have goals, your plan can be anything and you will be successful at achieving nothing.
So how do we know what direction we should be taking to get where we want to go? What road should we take to set goals this year? Most of us have probably heard that goals should be SMART……Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. With that in mind, I have put together a few steps to take that will hopefully help you set those “new year new financial you” goals and get on the path to achieving them.
What do you want to work toward?
Pinpoint what is most important to you financially. Goals must be beneficial, otherwise, you won’t achieve them. So, take the time to dig deep and examine what the most important areas of your life are that you want to improve and change for the better. What do you really want to work toward? An emergency fund (everyone needs one), a vacation, homeownership, paying off the car, kid’s college, retirement?
If you are truly committed, your goals must be quantifiable and be accompanied by an action plan. Write them down and then get to WORK! You must act if you want to achieve your goals. Determine a set amount of time each day (or week, month) that you feel is needed to focus on the goal and schedule it. Treat it like any other meeting or duty – an event you can’t miss.
You want to set goals that are attainable so be realistic! You don’t want to set yourself up for failure by setting a goal that you know isn’t possible. If you haven’t been able to save $100 over the past year, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll save $1000 per month this year. You should be able to reach your goals without too much difficulty. However, I also believe that they need to make you work for them a little – comfort has never gotten anyone anywhere – other than in a bigger pants size. Take a hard look at your spending and set a goal that stretches you a little but is achievable.
Goals should also be relevant. How will it make your life better? Peace of mind, less stress, happier retirement, tanned with an ice-cold margarita in your hand on a Mexican beach? Again, you must really want it for it to be a goal that you will work toward and not toss out with this year’s other resolutions in a few weeks.
How long do you want to set to achieve these goals? A month, a year, two years? Setting a timeline is very important. This will help keep you motivated and help to ensure that your goals are given importance and priority.
Lastly, if you are unsure about what steps to take to achieve your goal(s), consider a coach or counselor. Sometimes a little guidance or push in the right direction is just what you need to make your dreams become a reality. Accountability to someone other than yourself can be very motivating.
In the end, with all resolutions and goals, it really comes down to deciding to do it and making it happen.
Many people set goals at the beginning of the new year and forget about them within a few weeks.
I am hoping these steps will inspire you to set a few “stretch” goals and commit to working toward them this year.