Well, today we’re going to come at the world of goal setting from a new angle: the financial angle.
More specifically, we’re are going to consider the 3 financial goals everyone should work toward, the difference between long and short-term financial goals, and how to stick with those goals no matter what.
So if you’re looking for strategies on how to set and achieve your financial goals, then you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s get started!
How to Set and Achieve Financial Goals
Like most areas of goal setting, everyone’s financial goals will look a little different. With that being said, no matter where you are financially, or what stage of life you’re in, there are three financial goals that everyone should have on their radar. And they include:
- Paying off debt.
- Establishing an emergency fund.
- Saving for Retirement
Let’s make sure we have our bases covered here first, shall we?
Establish an Emergency Fund
As we all know, stuff. just. happens.
Things break, items wear out, and surprise bills pop up. It’s just part of life. And while it’s inconvenient when these situations occur, it’s much less overwhelming when you’re financially prepared for them.
A general rule of thumb for an emergency fund is to have around 4-6 months worth of expenses saved. Of course, when you’re just starting out, this number can seem astronomical. But don’t get overwhelmed.
Remember, every little bit helps, and it happens step by step.
An easy way to reach this financial goal is to automate your savings. This simply means that the bank automatically puts a certain amount of your paycheck into your savings account with each deposit. This is my favorite strategy, as you don’t even realize you’re missing the money in the first place. No willpower needed.
Paying Off Debt
It goes without saying that paying off your debt is a critical component of working toward your financial goals.
Because each month of debt adds further interest charges, which is ultimately money you could have saved for other financial goals.
So take some time to really look at your debt, and decide what you want to pay off first.
Ideally, focus on paying off the highest interest rate items first. These are usually your credit card bills. And in fact, I would recommend getting that credit card debt to $0 before making any other (unnecessary) purchases.
Once you have your biggest interest rate item paid off, move to the next biggest on the list.
Saving for Retirement
Depending on where you are in life, this one might be difficult to wrap your head around. I’m embarrassed to admit, that it wasn’t until I finally finished grad school and had my first salaried position that retirement was even on my radar.
Oh well. Better late than never, right?
Most experts recommend saving at least 15% of your income each year, and if your employer matches your contributions, make sure to take full advantage of that offer. It’s free money after all!
Also, if you can set aside more than the recommended amount, I say go for it. As my dad often reminds me, “You will never say, ‘Gee, I wish I didn’t save so much money.’”
And if you’re looking for more tips on saving for retirement, be sure to check with your financial advisor. Additionally, nerd wallet has a great post that walks you through the process step by step.
Long Term and Short Term Goals
Woohoo! We got the financial “musts” out of the way. Now it’s time to talk about the fun stuff.
Why Should I Have Financial Goals?
Like all goals, creating financial goals is a great motivator. It pushes you to focus on your priorities and helps you achieve what you really want in life.
There are two general categories for goal setting: long-term goals and short-term goals.
While it’s great to work toward both simultaneously, don’t take on too much at once. If you spread yourself too thin, it will take far too long to reach any of your goals, which in turn, gets mighty discouraging.
Ryan and I have three long-term goals and one short-term goal at the moment. The biggest one falls under the financial “must” category, which is paying off our house. We are also saving up to add a garage and replace our siding.
For the short term, we are saving up to take a vacation to Minnesota over summer break. (So excited!)
Of course, your long term and short term goals might look a bit different. Perhaps some of the items on your list include:
- Buying a house (Learn more about what you can afford and how much you need to save for a deposit here.)
- Saving for college
- Buying a car
- Traveling to a new location
- Having an extravagant dinner and night on the town
- Saving for a weekly/biweekly babysitter
- Buying new wardrobe
How to Set and Achieve Financial Goals
So you have your list of short and long-term financial goals; how can you reach them?
First, find your why.
When setting any goal, financial or otherwise, finding your why is key to reaching those dreams.
In other words, you want to fully understand why these goals are important to you. When you connect a reason to your goals, it helps provide the motivation you need to stick with them. And this is especially helpful when the finish line seems laughably out of reach.
So ask yourself: Why is this goal so important to me?
[bctt tweet=”When setting any goal, finding your why is key to reaching those dreams. #goals #dreams #financialgoals” username=”BusyBeingPaula”]
Make them S.M.A.R.T.
If you’ve been following the goal setting series, you know my love of setting S.M.A.R.T goals. And (surprise!) this strategy is key for reaching your financial goals as well.
As a reminder, S.M.A.R.T. stands for:
So as you consider your financial goals, make sure that they meet the S.M.A.R.T. criteria.
For example, rather than saying:
“We are going to save money to take a vacation next winter.”
Get S.M.A.R.T. and say:
“We are going to save $1,500 for a vacation to California next January. This will allow us to take that much needed time for rest and relaxation. We will save at least $50 each week, which means we will reach our objective in 7 1/2 months or less.”
By getting specific, identifying our why, and making a clear ending point, we will have a much easier time reaching our financial goals and actually taking that dream vacation.
As I mentioned above, one of the best ways to reach your financial goals is to automate your savings.
Start by looking at your budget, and keep in mind the 50/30/20 rule.
The 50/30/20 rule means:
No more than 50% of your income should go toward living expenses: rent/mortgage, utilities, transportation, food etc.
No more than 30% of your income should go toward the “extra stuff”: going out to eat, clothes, subscriptions, etc.
No less than 20% should go to your retirement, emergency, and other savings.
Once you have your budget figured out, then it’s time to start automating those savings. Most of the time, you can set this up online in minutes. And when you do, your savings are essentially on autopilot. There’s no willpower or extra effort necessary; you’ll be reaching those goals before you know it.
So if you’re ready to start setting and reaching those financial goals, then give these strategies a try. And be sure to download my free 7-page workbook, which walks you through the process step by step.
What are your strategies to achieve financial goals? What financial goals are you working toward? What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Let me know below!
*Please note that I am sharing my own experiences, and I am not a financial advisor. My suggestions do not constitute legal or investment advice.