Goals — we all have them, right? Sometimes we quietly keep our financial goals to ourselves, other times we hashtag the aspirational feats of others as #goals across social media.
I want you ignore social, forget about FOMO, and focus on yourself, OK? I want you to set your own money goals without comparing yourself to others, and then slay them on YOUR terms. The social hashtag announcement-thing after hitting your #goals is totally up to you. 🙂
Financial goals can address your immediate needs, your long term dreams, and everything in between. Perhaps your goal is to start an emergency fund so you’re not constantly stressed about work, maybe you want to pay down student debt, or maybe you’re looking ahead with the goal of saving for your first home. Oh heck, maybe you just want a vacation. These are YOUR goals, so no judgement here. They’re up to YOU.
Whether your goals are short-term or require a longer term commitment, everything is possible when you identify your personal financial goals and develop a plan to reach them. Go #goals.
Setting financial goals throughout your lifetime (and adjusting them) is also an important part of financial planning. What’s the saying? — “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Well, no wishy-washy here!
Goal setting works, and I’ve lived the reality. When I paid off my $17,000 student loan it wasn’t because of luck — it was because I had an actionable plan with achievable steps set to a timeline. Paying down my student debt had everything to do with setting the goal (slay my student loan), having the motivation to follow the debt reduction plan with actionable steps, and knowing the end was near ‘cause I wrote “STUDENT DEBT FREE DAY” on my calendar. Boom.
To show you this isn’t just wishful thinking, I’ve put together TWO Financial Goals Worksheets to help you identify your short term financial goals, set your long term goals, and achieve results through planning and goal tracking.
Here is my five-step process for slaying your #moneygoals:
Step 1: Get Inspired & SMART
Whether you’re building savings or reducing debt, your #goals should follow the SMART rule of thumb to succeed. SMART stands for: S-specific. M-measurable, motivational. A- achievable, action-oriented. R-realistic, rewarding. T-time-based, trackable.
Short term financial goals can fund immediate needs for today, increase cash reserves for next month, or build savings for a year from now. Longer term financial goals may take three years or longer to hit. Perhaps you’re saving for home down payment, aiming to pay off student debt, or starting a retirement savings plan. With specific longer term goals in mind you’re more likely to watch your cash in the shorter term and make better money decisions.
Here’s how to identify and nail down a short-term goal using SMART.
GOOD: I’d like to get rid of my credit card debt.
BETTER I’d like to pay off my $3,000 credit card this year.
BEST: I will pay off my $3,000 credit card balance by May, 15, 2019.
[Related: What Order Should I Pay Off My Credit Cards?]
This is a SMART #goal because it’s specific, measurable, achievable, and time-based. You may only get to the BETTER step at this point, ‘cause knowing timelines and money available for saving/debt repayment is another step. So list your short term AND long term goals and rework them as we move along.
Download: Set Your Money Goals Worksheet
Use the money #goals worksheet, like:
- List your short term (ST) and long term (LT) goals.
- Prioritize each. Rank each ST and LT goal.
- Pick a tentative target date.
- Give each goal an estimated dollar amount.
- Account for money already saved for each goal. Zero is OK!
This isn’t a super tricky task, it just takes some honest thinking to make each goal attainable and reachable. Maybe you need to cut back on something (dining out) or take an extra shift (bummer, I know) to fully fund your priority short term goals — but that’s totally up to you!
Step 2: Reality Check Your Financial Goals
How much money do you REALLY have available each month to meet your priority short term and long term goals? Dunno? No worries, but it’s a good idea to reality check your money situation so you don’t set yourself up for #goal failure at the outset. I want you to succeed, so let’s get to it!
Get the Money Tools
The Budget Bundle: Grab my free budget spreadsheet to see how your income and expenses add up. How much wiggle room do you have for your money goals? Figure out how much money you can set aside each paycheck.
Download: Budget Spreadsheet
The Debt Destroyer: If your goal is to get outta debt, get my free debt reduction spreadsheet to better visualize and account for the monthly repayments needed and to figure out how long it will take.
Download: Debt Reduction Spreadsheet
Now take a deep breath. You can do this!
Step 3: Do the Math
With your priority goals in focus and your reality check in place, here’s a strategy for figuring out how much time you’ll need to hit your target financial goals.
First, estimate the overall cost for a goal. Second, divide that amount by the total number of months to reach the goal.
GOAL COST / NUMBER OF MONTHS = $$$ TO SAVE PER MONTH
For example, let’s say your short-term goal is to pay off a $3,000 credit card balance in four months. Bottom line is you’ll need around $750 per month to fund this goal ($3,000 / 4 months = $750 per month, plus interest).
If your monthly number fails to make sense given your reality-checked budget, aim for a longer time period (maybe another month) to get outta debt. Whether you’re saving for a home down payment or aiming to reduce debt, don’t get discouraged if slaying your goals takes a bit longer to achieve than you hoped — having some money banked with a realistic timeline is going to feel amazing.
Step 4: Use Brain Science To Fund Your #Goals
We need to remove the pressure, anxiety, and brain energy needed to put money aside each month. The mental work needed to move money around and to fund each goal, every month can be exhausting. I know, because I’ve been there.
You are far more likely to slay your money goals and not impulsively spend your savings if you open a series of savings accounts — each specific to your savings goals — and then automatically move your money each month using your bank’s auto transfer tools.
If your bank offers a no-fee high interest savings account with no minimums required, then open an account for each goal. For example, open accounts for: HOME (your home down payment account), TRAVEL (your vacation savings account), EMERGENCY FUND (your ass-saving money account), etc. For longer term goals like retirement, go ahead and open an RRSP or TFSA (Canada) or 401K (America) to funnel your money into.
Making the decision to save ONCE and setting the money to transfer automatically is a lot less emotional than trying to resist the urge to splurge when your income rolls in.
Creating accounts tied to a specific savings goal is scientifically proven to work. Behavioral Economists call this phenomenon or bias, Mental Accounting — our tendency to treat money differently based on the source or the intent.
For example, due to mental accounting we’ll treat windfall money differently by spending it on impulse purchases but tend act more conservatively with our paycheck income.
By creating a physical account and an intention to fund each financial goal, you’ll also nudge yourself to mentally account for your savings goals and succeed. Yay, brain science!
Step 5: SLAY Your Financial Goals
Now that you’ve decided upon and adjusted financial goals, opened the accounts to hold the money, and set your savings or debt repayments to automatic, it’s time to track of your progress over time.
For this you’ll need to download the Slaying Goals Worksheet and mark off each milestone as you reach it!
Download: Slay Your Money Goals Worksheet
How to do it:
- Write out each goal
- At the end of each month, tally up and track your progress.
- Post in a visible place so you can track your progress.
You may just feel inspired by how fast these little drips of money can add up over time and help you reach your money goals sooner!
Love love love,