A dream without a plan is a wish. If you want to actually accomplish your dreams, you need to start with a plan and set some goals. Whether you have a desire to be debt free, to save money for retirement, or to eliminate the stress of your financial situation, it starts with developing some solid financial goals. Not sure how to set financial goals? If you’re wondering, “What should my financial goals even be?!?” don’t worry- I’m here to give you some guidance! I’ll show you simples steps you can take to write financial goals that matter…goals that you will actually accomplish!
What should my financial goals be?
If you’re not sure where to start when determining how to set financial goals, check out our List of 28 Financial Goals and spark some ideas for your own financial goal setting. While you’re there, be sure to sign up for my free financial goal setting printables!
If you find yourself thinking, “What should my financial goals be?” here are some common financial goals you might start to tackle:
- Creating & sticking to a budget
- Paying off credit card debt
- Creating an emergency fund
- Saving a down payment for a house
- Putting away money for retirement
- Becoming debt free
- Setting aside money for your child’s education
How do you write a financial goal?
While there’s more than one path to learning how to set financial goals, I’m sharing a simple, easy to follow guide you can use to evaluate and set your short-term and long-term financial goals.
1. Identify your most important priorities when you write a financial goal.
Anything that’s important to you gets written down. Whether it’s a pressing financial issue that has to get handled right away or a pipe dream you have for your life that’s 30 years down the road, write it down!
2. Now that everything is written out in front of you, edit, inspect, and organize each goal
- Edit out items that don’t seem to line up with your long-term financial goals or life vision.
- Inspect and evaluate the significance of each item
- Take each written financial goal and organize it by the time it will take to accomplish the goal. Set short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals.
3. When you write a financial goal, be sure to make each one a S.M.A.R.T. goal (more on this in a minute)
- (S) Specific- What needs to be accomplished is clear
- (M) Measurable- a specific way to measure if the goal was achieved or not
- (A) Attainable- the goal is realistically able to be accomplished
- (R) Relevant- achieving this goal is a step to your long-term goals
- (T) Timely- set a deadline by which to accomplish the goal
4. Create a realistic budget.
Choose a budgeting strategy and follow it. If you aren’t sure which budget strategy might be right for you, check out these 6 different budget types and choose the one that appeals the most to you.
5. Now that you have written your financial goals, work your budget plan and monitor your progress
Regularly review your spending to ensure it’s staying within your budget guidelines. Tweak as necessary to ensure you are spending less than you make so that you can apply the difference to your short-term and long-term SMART goals.
How to set financial goals: developing a goal chart
Now that you know how to set financial goals, and you’ve figured out what your financial goals should be, download our goal chart printable and easily track your new SMART goals! Research shows you’re more likely to accomplish it if you write a financial goal down, so snag my free, goal tracker printable to help you outline and complete each financial goal on your list!
How to set financial goals: a step-by-step SMART goal example
1. Select one goal from your priorities list (step #1 above).
Write down a SMART goal to achieve this financial goal. Determine if the goal is short -term (less than one year to achieve), mid-term/intermediate (accomplished in a few years), or long-term (5 years or more) in nature.
- Example: My husband and I will pay off the balance of our mortgage by the end of September 2020.
Specific- the goal is to have no mortgage
Measurable- I can see if the principal balance is dropping each month
Attainable- I am returning to teaching so that we have two incomes to tackle this goal
Relevant- Accomplishing this goal is relevant to our future goals of living remotely and being totally debt free
Timely- there is a specific deadline we are working toward
2. Plan a sinking fund for your goal.
We will direct deposit my teaching salary + X amount of money into our mortgage account each month to accomplish this goal.
3. Brainstorm all the ways you can find the money to fund your sinking plan
- Consider ways to cut expenses
- Start a part-time job or side hustle
- Sell some stuff
4. Create your action steps
The last step when learning how to write a financial goal is to list out the specific, actionable steps you’ll take to accomplish this goal (based on your brainstorming session). Again, be sure to write your financial goal down and reference it regularly to increase your rate of success!
We will find additional money to accomplish this goal by sticking to our monthly budget, continuing to build my blogging income, and by selling unused items from around the house.
Our SMART, written financial goal example:
My husband and I will pay off the balance of our mortgage by the end of September 2020. We will accomplish this by setting aside my teaching salary each month. Additionally, we will stick to our monthly budget and sell some things to make extra cash. I will also continue to work on my blog as a side hustle.
The value of starting small when learning to write financial goals
If learning how to set financial goals sounds totally overwhelming, start small. Don’t focus on how far you have to go or all the obstacles that might arise. Instead, set a short-term, easy to achieve goal and get a quick win under your belt. Then, tackle another short-term financial goal.
As you set and accomplish your financial goals, you will build confidence and become motivated to tackle larger, more long-term financial goals. Before you know it, you’ll be a financial goal setting expert!