Just like any goal we create -whether it be financial, health-related, education driven, or job-related, the most important thing about creating a goal is just that: creating it.
Setting goals forces us to focus on what’s important; without them, it’s hard to say what determines success for you.
Creating financial goals is no different. The first step is thinking about what you want your financial end result to be and then using the basic S.M.A.R.T guidelines to further determine the specifics of your goal and to help you achieve it.
What are S.M.A.R.T goals?
S.M.A.R.T is an acronym used for determining goals, it stands for: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely.
Specific means identifying exactly what you want to accomplish. Vague, non-specific goals look like this: “I want to get out of debt” or “I want to save for retirement”. Some examples of specific goals include “I want to pay off $15,345 of my credit card debt by November 2016” or “I want to contribute $450 per month to my Roth IRA.”
Make it so that your goal can be measured. This way, you know exactly when you hit your goal and where you stand along the way. For example, a measurable goal may be “I want to save $5,000 by December 31, 2016” or “I will save 10% of my paycheck per pay period.”A good rule of thumb in making a goal measurable is to assign a number or a percentage to it.
Every goal you make should start with an action verb i.e. “start” or “save” rather than a “to-be” verb like “am” or “have.” For example, rather than saying “I want to be more consistent with saving money” change it to “I will save $100 per week.”
A good goal should stretch you past your comfort-zone, but be careful that the goal you set is actually attainable. For example, a goal that isn’t realistic is “I want to become a millionaire this month.” A better goal, more realistic goal is “I want to allocate $500 per month of the money I earn to my vacation fund.”
Every goal needs to have a deadline, or a time when you would like the goal to be accomplished by. A goal without a date is just a dream! An example of a goal with a deadline is, “I want to save $2,000 for my vacation by June 1st.” Deadlines create a sense of urgency.
Here are some examples of S.M.A.R.T, effective financial goals:
- Save $1000 in an emergency fund by June 2016
- Save $50,000 over the next 5 years to use as a down payment on a house
- Pay off $12,345 of credit card debt by December 2017
- Save 10% of my income in my 401k in 2016
Keep these questions in mind when starting to set goals:
- What are obstacles that keep you from setting your financial goals?
- What additional resources would you say you needed to feel qualified to begin setting your financial goals?
- What are the personal benefits of setting and accomplishing your financial goals?
It’s important to review your financial goals periodically. Finances are not static. As everyone goes through different stages of life, some goals may change or need to be altered for life events. That’s okay. What’s important is that you are managing your finances with some sort of goal in mind.
Set S.M.A.R.T goals, stay dedicated and experience financial success
By setting S.M.A.R.T goals you are creating a roadmap to financial success. Just like any goal we have in our life–running a marathon or losing weight–the most important thing in creating a goal is to create it and have the self-drive and resilience to make it happen.
Setting a goal forces us to focus on what is important; without goals, it’s hard to determine what success if for you. Talk with a financial advisor to learn what steps you need to take to make your financial goals comes to life.
If there was one thing you could change about your financial reality, what would it be? Write it down in the form of a S.M.A.R.T. goal.