The start of a new year is often a time of motivation and goal setting. Sadly, few New Year’s resolutions survive through January, let alone the rest of the year. But this doesn’t have to be the case. To create a goal that will lead to lasting change, all you need is to make it SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Here’s how to create SMART financial goals that will transform your finances in 2020.
If you need assistance with your finances, work with a professional financial advisor from Good Life Financial Advisors of Mt. Pleasant. We’re ready to help create a personalized plan for your specific needs!
The biggest problem with most resolutions is that they lack specificity. If your goal is to “save money,” did you achieve your goal if you saved $50? You can’t reach a goal if there is no end to reach. That’s why the first step to creating a new financial goal should be making it concrete.
The beauty of financial goals is that, unlike some other resolutions, financial goals are easily quantifiable. Whether you want to earn $15,000 from your side gig this year, pay off your student loans, or have $1,000,000 saved for retirement, the first step is deciding on your concrete, specific goal. Only after you create a specific goal can you consider the other four elements of a SMART goal.
If your goal isn’t measurable, it’s not a goal—it’s a dream. Most specific financial goals tend to be measurable, but it’s a good idea to make sure you know exactly what that measurement is. For example, let’s say your goal is to pay off all your debt. You have $10,000 left on your car loan, $25,000 in student debt, and $5,000 in credit card debt. Individually, each of these may feel achievable. However, when you add them up and realize that’s $40,000, it may seem like far too much.
One of the biggest reasons that we need financial goals is because how we feel about finances and the reality of our finances don’t add up—we think that each purchase on its own is small, but these purchases add up to more than we can afford to spend. It always seems like we have no money at the end of the month to move to savings, but we eat out almost every night. We feel like we’re saving a lot for retirement, but we’re not on track to retire when we want to. The more you can understand the measurable reality of your financial situation, the more likely you are to achieve your goal.
This is one of the hardest parts of creating goals, and it requires you to be completely honest with yourself. You may feel motivated and determined now, but if you set an unattainable goal, you’ll only end up discouraged down the road. The opposite is also problematic. If you set a goal that’s far too easy, you’re not giving yourself the opportunity to reach your full potential.
Part of what makes creating an attainable goal so difficult is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. An attainable goal for one person may not be attainable for someone else, even if their financial circumstances are fairly similar. One way that can help you figure out whether or not a goal is attainable is to break it down into smaller pieces. If you have a side gig and your goal is to earn $20,000 from your side gig by the end of the year, that’s $1,666 per month. If you’re currently making about $500 per month, unless you have a concrete reason to believe that you can increase profits by over 300%, this goal is probably not attainable.
Once you have a specific, measurable goal that is attainable for you, you’ll need to create a realistic plan. Think of this step as the roadmap of how you’re getting from here to there. If you want to cut down your spending so that you can put an extra $10,000 towards retirement savings, you need to break it down. You’ll need to save an extra $833 per month, or if you’re paid every other week, $385 per pay period. Now, look at your spending. Figure out how much you currently spend and where you can cut back $833 per month.
This is one area where financial goals can be trickier than other types of goals. Often, financial goals are long-term goals, such as saving for retirement. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create a more short-term timeline. Break your goal down into more manageable pieces. With a New Year’s resolution, the end of the year is often the timeline that comes to mind, but you can also break it down further as well. Smaller goals can feel more manageable and they can also give you a sense of accomplishment as you grow closer to your overall goal.
Create Your Plan Today!
When you make SMART financial goals, you can create change that will stick in 2020. The final thing to keep in mind when creating goals is to aim for progress, not perfection. SMART goals give you a roadmap, but if you take a wrong turn, you don’t throw away the map and go home. You recalculate your route and keep going. If you’re still struggling to create a SMART financial goal, or have tried before with less success than you would have liked, work with a financial advisor from Good Life Financial Advisors of Mount Pleasant for professional guidance.