Imagine taking a trip. You don’t simply get in the car and start driving. You need a destination and Google maps to guide you. Otherwise, how do you know when you’ve arrived? Having clear set financial goals will guide you to your financial destination.
I’m going to walk you through a step by step process of setting clear financial goals. This is one of the first things I do when I meet with a new client.
I talk about financial goals first because they need to know where they’re going. Their knowledge of personal finance is apparent from the beginning because I can tell how much they’ve thought about their finances.
Newbies sit for a minute and struggle to come up with a financial goal. It’s something they’ve never thought about. They may say something like, “I just want to be debt-free or I’d like to travel more.”
Others who’ve given it more thought have goals on their mind that they’ve wanted to accomplish for years. They may say something like, “I have a credit card balance I would like paid off before the end of the year,” or “We’d like to buy a house in two years and need to save more for a down payment.” Better but still somewhat vague.
Financial Goals Are At The Center of Everything
When it comes to financial planning and coaching, goals are at the center of everything we do. Personal finance is PERSONAL. So take the time to set goals specific to your situation.
One client said to me after discussing their goals that no one had ever asked them what their financial goals were and that it was nice to discuss them out loud and have someone listen.
When I ask someone what their goals are, 9 times out of 10 they are very vague. Goals such as, I want to make more money or I’d like to save a down payment for a house lack clarity. These are wants and we all have them.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Each Financial Goal Needs Two Things: A Date and A Number
When I help people set goals we spend a few extra minutes making them specific. One way to make sure each goal is specific, it needs two things: a date and a number.
For example, if your goal is to travel more, when do you want to travel and how much do you need to save?
If your goal is to save a down payment on a house. Your goal may look like this: Save $20,000 in my savings account by April 2020.
By being specific and putting the goal in writing you’re 40% more likely to reach your goal.
Limit the number of goals you’re working towards. It’s overwhelming listing 20 financial goals you would like to do this year. Keep the list to three to six top goals and prioritize what’s most important.
Here’s a list of financial goals my clients have set to help you get started.
- Pay off $22,000 of credit card debt by December 2020
- Save $20,000 for a down payment on a house by April 2020
- Get my full match and save $300 a month for retirement starting today
- Track all of my spending for three months
- Save up $2,000 for a trip to Iceland in the summer of 2020
- Build up $5,000 to move out of my parent’s house in May of 2018
- Save $400 a month starting this month
- Pay off my car loan of $13,000 in one year from today
- Build up a net worth of $850,000 in 10 years in order to be financially independent
- Max out my Health Savings Account ($6,900) in 2019 in order to have a kid next year
- Pay $5,000 in cash for a used car in 6 months
- Save $50 a month into my child’s 529 college savings plan
- Throw a party for my 50th birthday. Save $2,000
- Build up a $1,000 emergency savings in 3 months
- Ask for a 20% raise at work this week
Going A Little Deeper
Each goal has an amount they’d like to save or pay off and a time frame to accomplish it.
After goal setting, think about this question. “If money wasn’t an issue, what would you like your life to be like?” When I ask that question, I can see their face light up. It’s not a question they’re asked often, but it’s something we think about. They describe their ideal life and I can see a different side to what they’re trying to accomplish and why they want to reach their financial goals.
While it’s fresh on their mind, I give them an assignment. Go to futureme.org and write a letter to your future self. Futureme.org will send the letter in an email to you one year from now. When they get their letter, they reach out to me and tell me how their progress is coming and what an experience it is to get that letter because they have forgotten they wrote it.
So much can change in one year. One year from now your goals probably won’t be the same. That’s why you continually scrutinize and change your goals as your life and priorities change.
Your goals don’t have to be perfect and honestly, they will change frequently. Now, I’m going to ask you to do something. 90% of you reading this aren’t going to do anything but I want you to be the one person that does. Promise me you’ll do this?
Your Assignment Is to Set Financial Goals
Write your top three short, medium and long-term financial goals down on a place you can refer back to them and write a letter to yourself with those goals that will be sent to you in one year. Will you do that? In one year you may be way off or realize that you actually accomplished each goal.
Get started by downloading the free PDF I put together to help you set your top financial goals.
I hope this helps you get clear on where you’re trying to go. Otherwise, you’re going to look back 10 years from now and wish you had taken your finances a little more seriously. I want to help you avoid feeling like that at some point in the future. It’s time to take action!