In this article we will discuss how to effectively set financial goals and show you a tool to help you use goals to prioritize how you use your money effectively.
Float Finance is a series of accessible articles, tools, and resources designed to empower early career employees and students to navigate their financial journey.
Why do goals matter?
Think about what kind of future you want for yourself and the important people in your life. How would you like your life to look and feel in the next few months? How about the next five years, ten years, and twenty? These imaginings of your ideal future are your hopes and dreams which help you define your goals. Goals are your desired results and developing a plan can help you visualize how you can reach your goals. Setting goals also helps you prioritize how you use your money so it goes towards what matters most to you. Finally, setting goals can also help you track and measure your progress towards achieving those desires.
Some goals are short-term and can take a just a week, a month, or even a few months to obtains. Other goals are long-term that may take many months or years to reach. Either way, these are important to and track.
There are many different frameworks available to use when setting goals, but we highly recommend using the SMART method to start. SMART is an acronym for: Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Reachable, and Time-bound.
Ask yourself: “What do I want to accomplish? Why is this important to me? Is this something I really want or is it just ‘nice to have’?”. Defining your goal as much as possible will give you a better chance of meeting it because you have something concrete to reach for. Your goals are more likely to be successful if the rooted in your values. Set goals that matter to you and are a priority in your life. This makes it more likely you will continue to work towards your goals.
Ask yourself: “How much? How many? How will I know when I’ve met the goal? Can a set a number to it?”. Quantifying or setting a number to your goal helps you track progress towards meeting your goal and will help keep you on track.
Ask yourself: “What specific actions or activities do I need to complete to meet this goal?” This might include actions like changing an existing spending habit, setting up a new savings account, or checking your credit card balance.
Ask yourself: “Is this goal something I can actually reach or achieve?”. Your goals don’t need to be easy, but they should be realistic based on your situation. If you have lots of credit card debt a good short term goal might be “make at least the minimum payments on time” whereas “save $10,000” might be a bit less realistic for a short term goal (but might be a great long-term goal!)
Ask yourself: “When will I reach this goal? How long will it take?” Goals should have a clearly defined time frame. This helps you make sure you’re on track and stay accountable.
Example of Setting Smart Goals
Let’s walk through a quick example of how you can use SMART Goals
Imagine it is almost summer and Bridget wants to start planning for the next school year. She knows that she’ll need extra funds for school supplies and clothing when her kids start school in August, about 15 weeks away.
Each year she tries to pull together money a week or two before she needs it; this makes her very stressed out. She starts by trying to pick up extra shifts at her job but they aren’t always available. Bridget remembers that spending about $300 last year on school supplies and clothes. She divides $300 by 15 to discover that’s about $20 a week until school starts. Maria makes $10/hr at her job.
What type of smart goals could Maria set?
Maria’s goal could be: “I will pick up an extra 2 hours shift so I can save $20 each week for the next 15 weeks to pay for school supplies for my kids.”