An important step towards achieving your dreams and getting to financial freedom, is turning your dreams into goals. Many of which are financial goals. For instance – home ownership is both a life event and one of the biggest financial investments you will make in your entire life.
It is important to be intentional and as detailed as possible. Effective goal setting cannot be vague, impersonal or inconsequential. Better still, healthy and attainable goals are rooted in your values and beliefs. All of these things together help that dream/goal come to fruition. That is why we like to make our goals SMART.
What are S.M.A.R.T. Financial Goals?
S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound.
Setting a goal with these parameters defines what you are trying to achieve and helps you measure and track your progress. After you’ve read through what it means to create a smart goal – try it for yourself!
Envision your goals in high definition and be specific as possible. Without a true vision of what accomplishing each goal looks like, you won’t know when you get there, or how far you have to go.
Example : “I want to save money.” is vague; “I’m going to start taking the bus to save money on gas and parking” is specific and actionable.
Questions to ask yourself : What will I achieve? Who will benefit from the goal? What specific things will I accomplish?
Making a goal measurable will help you know when you have reached it! You can even take it a step further and give yourself benchmarks to track your progress.
Example : “I want to save money.” is not specific or measurable; “I want to save $1,000” is both.
Questions to ask yourself : How much? How many? How will I know when I’ve accomplished my goal?
Set goals that are based in reality and are achievable, but not too easy. Your goal should be challenging, but not extreme or impossible. If the goal feels like too much, try breaking it down into smaller, more achievable goals.
Example : “I want to save a million dollars this year!” is likely unrealistic; “I want to max out my Roth IRA contributions this year.” is specific, measurable and achievable for many Americans if they put their minds to it.
Questions to ask yourself : Is this goal something that I can actually reach? Do I have the tools and support I need to accomplish this?
Set goals that matter to you and are a priority in your life. This makes it more likely you will prioritize the time and effort it takes to achieve them.
Example : “I want to save money so I can go gambling!” is not a high priority or relevant to the overarching goal of financial freedom; “I want to save money for a down payment on a home with room for my growing family.” is relevant for your life and financial journey.
Questions to ask yourself : Is this something that I really need? Is now the right time to do this? Why is this goal important?
Goals should have a clearly defined time frame, including a deadline date. This helps you ensure that steps are taken to reach the goal by the date you choose.
Example : “I want to save for retirement by maxing out my Roth IRA by the end of this year.”
Questions to ask yourself : When will I reach this goal? Is the time frame reasonable?
If you are still struggling to make your financial goals smart, try this template:
I want to (save / invest / pay off) ($ x, xxxx ) in (savings / retirement / debt) by( _ _ / _ _ / _ _ _ _ ) because…
After you’ve set your financial goals and started to take action, comes the second most important part –
Benchmarking Your Progress!
I would argue this might be the most critical step to reaching a goal, any goal! Without benchmarking you’re unable to determine if you’re on track, falling behind, or hopefully even ahead of plans! Each of which requires a follow-up…
If you’re on track
🙌 Double high five! Keep doing what you’re doing!!
If you’re behind
🤔 Ask yourself: What’s getting in my way? Was this goal realistic to begin with? What can I do to catch up? *𝗖𝗲𝗹𝗲𝗯𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗴𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘀*
If you’re ahead
🎉 Celebrate exceeding your own expectations! You’re a rockstar!
This is so important because even with the best of plans, life happens, motivation can waiver and attention dissipates.
This is especially true for goals that are less tangible or more difficult to track because they aren’t as easy to visualize as say your weight on a scale or physique in the mirror. So by benchmarking and adjusting as needed, you’ll be far more likely to reach your goals.