The start of a new year is truly magical. It’s a fresh start when we get to put the past year behind us –mistakes and all –and create a whole new path for ourselves. It provides us an opportunity for reflection and to assess how far we’ve come over the last 12 months, ask some hard questions, set new goals, and let the glimmer of hope grow and inspire us to do more, be better.
If you don’t quite know where to even begin, no stress. You’re not the first person to want to start but not have a clue where the maze even begins. Let’s knock down some walls by identifying the 3 main steps of setting financial goals to make that maze a little easier to navigate.
• STEP1: Prioritize Your Goals.
• STEP2: Define Your Goals.
• STEP3: Map Out Your Goals.
STEP 1: PRIORITIZE YOUR GOALS
It’s great that you have a lot of things you want to accomplish, but the reality is that life is a tricky little sucker, and you might not check every single box. Prioritizing goals gives you the opportunity to look at all the things you want to accomplish and put them in order of importance to you.
Some may be time-sensitive, some may just make you feel your best, some may require a lot of planning. Make a list of all of your financial goals this year, and decide which ones are crucial to your financial well-being.
STEP 2: DEFINE YOUR GOALS
Now that you have your goals prioritized, you’ll want to define them fully so you know exactly what it’s going to take to achieve them. Defining your financial goals helps you fully understand what it is you want to get out of them and keeps you on target. Here are 3 major tips for defining your goals and an example for each:
make them positive
You may hate your job, but instead of saying “I want to quit my crappy job,” phrase it in a way where you’re focusing on the positive, and ditch the “I want” for “I will”. Setting goals from a positive perspective is more motivating which will make you want to keep up with them.
Try This: I will update my resume over the next 2 weeks and apply for positions in my field at companies that better align with my personal beliefs, pay competitively, and will make me feel more fulfilled.
make them personal
The best goals are the ones that go deeper than surface level to help you envision what you’re gaining by achieving them. Simply saying “I want to save $5,000,” doesn’t give you any emotional entanglement, but tying your goal to something that would shatter your heart in a million pieces to miss out on makes it a little easier to keep going.
Try This: I will save $450 per month by not eating out more than twice a month and only buying new clothes when I have to replace an item, and I’ll put that money I saved towards my dream trip to Greece for the middle of next year.
make them realistic
Trying to reach the sun with wax wings only leads to a melted crash back to Earth. Take a tip from Icarus, and don’t try to fly too high before you’re ready. If there’s no way you can afford to save $450 each month without going broke, don’t set that as your goal. You’ll end up constantly moving that money for bills, and not only is this wildly demotivating, it creates poor savings habits that are an absolute nightmare to break.
Try This: I have $300 leftover each month after my bills are accounted for, so I will save $200 of this each month and increase the amount as my pay increases or my bills decrease.
STEP 3: MAP OUT YOUR GOALS
Now it’s your turn to be a cartographer and start mapping out your goals. This step takes a little more time, but it is sooooo worth it because you’ll know exactly what you need and how to reach those financial goals you’ve set for yourself. Knowing is half the battle, and with all your soldiers in place, you’ll have already won the war. Planning out how to achieve your goals really comes down to 2 major things: Time & Resources.
how long will it take you to reach this goal?
Be honest about how much time you need. Break it down by month, week, even day if it helps you stay on pace. If your goal is to save $10,000 this year toward a down payment on a home, divide that amount by how many times you get paid in the year, and you’ll know how much from each paycheck you need to put in savings.
If your goal is to find a new job with higher pay, set a time limit for how long you need in order to update your resume, how long to research and compare companies, and how much time to allot for the application and interview process. Setting a time frame keeps you from procrastinating by breaking down big goals.
what resources will it take to reach this goal?
We’re talking about income, access to online banking to move money easily, transportation, support from others, etc. Figure out what systems and other resources you need in place and set them up. Having everything easily accessible, scheduled and ready to go when you are is a surefire way to make your goals more attainable.
The last, and maybe most important, tip to remember is that things are always changing, always evolving. Don’t just set your money goals on New Year’s Eve and think that’s enough. Constantly take stock of where your financial situation is and make adjustments to your savings and spending styles as needed. If you find that you cut down your spending on ordering out, and you’re really enjoying cooking at home, invest in those skills and resources to keep yourself motivated.
On the flipside of that, if you’re cooking at home and wasting money on groceries that seem to end up burnt and in the trash each night, reach out to friends, family, or the good ol’ internet for help honing your culinary skills, and don’t beat yourself up for a setback.
Don’t be afraid to adjust your goals to fit your situation. Income fluctuates, economies change, and goals may change along with that. As the wildly successful, wise Dolly Parton once said, “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” Set your course, venture out into that sea of hope, and adjust the sails as needed.
Don’t let last year’s debt keep you from achieving this year’s goals. Apply online for a SunWest Personal Loan to help you start the year on the right track.
Published by SunWest Credit Union
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