Creating and prioritizing your financial goals can prove to be difficult sometimes. There are many moving parts to your personal finances and choosing what to do might not always be that obvious.
And, everyone’s financial goals vary, because your situation will be different from the next person. But as you look to improve your finances, you must create goals that you’ll want to stick with and create a plan to achieve them.
There is a lot of different advice out there, what is one to do?
Follow Ladders on Flipboard!
I can’t tell you what exact goals you should create for yourself, but you will get the basics, the types of financial goals, and tips to ensure you are successful below.
Before we jump into specific financial goals, there are a few things to check off your list first.Ideally, these will help shape goals you might have in mind or will help guide your decisions.
Below are some things you should know before getting started:
- Know How Much Money You Have – Look at how much cash you have, between any savings accounts, checking, brokerage or retirement accounts, etc.
- Know Your Net Worth – Calculate your net worth, which is the value of all your assets minus any liabilities you have. If you don’t want to do the math, you can use Personal Capitalwhich automatically does the work for you and helps keep you on track.
- Know Your Expenses – Just like knowing how much money you have, you should have a pretty exact number of your monthly expenses. This gives you the big picture and can help shape what financial goals you might want to focus on.
- Create A Budget – With the above information, start creating a simple budget that can be used within your goals. You can use a spreadsheet or if you need more financial help, you can check out YNAB.
Get The Basic Financial Goals Started
While I will go more in-depth about specific financial goal creation further down, there are three key areas to start with.
If you have not started on any of these three below, I recommend starting here as you move towards working on more specific goals. If you do have these three started or consistently being worked on, feel free to jump on to the next section.
So what are the main three financial goals to start with?
- Life Happens Fund
- Paying Your Debt
- Investing for Retirement
Life Happens Fund: Better known as your emergency fund (Not everything is exactly an “emergency” so I call it the “life happens” fund). But, you should be saving money away for things that come up in everyday life, usually unexpected expenses. Could be repairs, medical bills, job loss, whatever the case may be. One of your first financial goals is to ensure you have this emergency fund stacked up to 6 months of expenses or more.
Paying Your Debt: Not everyone has debt and also the level of debt varies from person to person.While you can make it a goal to pay it all off as fast as possible, you should be paying your debt and have a good plan in place. For me, it was knocking out my car loan and consistently paying my student loans. I did not pay off my student debt completely yet, but I had consistent extra payments set up.
Investing for Retirement: Another basic goal you should begin doing is investing for your future retirement. That can be contributing to your company’s 401k plan or contributing to your own Roth IRA/Traditional IRA. Of course, the more you can contribute the better, but just getting started as soon as possible is going to be beneficial.
These three may not be very exciting financial goals, but these basic concepts are great places to start if you are at the very beginning stages of working on your finances.
Related: Looking for some investing help? Check out my post, Investing Money for Beginners: What You Need to Know First
What are the three different types of financial goals?
Once you have some of the basics of your personal finances organized and started, it’s time to start setting additional financial goals.
These can be broken down into three different types first.
- Short-term financial goals: These are goals that are fairly easy and attainable within a quick period of time. These small wins can be financial confidence boosters and get you set-up for even bigger goals. Think of things like: spending X hours a week reading about finances, paying off some specific credit card debt, or saving money for an upcoming trip.
- Medium-term financial goals: These goals can be a bit more challenging, but act as a nice bridge between your short-term and long-term goals. Examples would be paying off a car loan within a year or crushing your student loans. These goals won’t happen in a week or two, but could happen in a few months or in a year+.
- Long-term financial goals: These are financial goals that will take awhile and you might even run into challenges. But, these are still important to set and think about to ensure you’re in a good place in the future. A big one here is saving and investing enough for retirement. Some others include saving up to buy a house, increase your savings rates to big percentages, etc.
Creating Financial Goals: Tips for Success
When you are creating your financial goals, you’ll probably have a good balance of the three types listed above. Sometimes the real challenge is sticking to your goals, even if the goals don’t go exactly as planned.
To ensure you stick with your financial goals, here are a few tips for success. You may have some additional things in mind to keep you on the right path, but hopefully these help you a bit too.
The first thing you have to do is get inspired!
Maybe a bit corny, but without feeling inspiration or motivation, you financial goals will most likely be doomed from the start.
You need to think about what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how it can change your life.
The inspiration for my financial goals was to have more travel freedom, less money stress, and create financial stability. These were enough to kick-me into high gear, but you’ll need to find what pumps you about your finances.
Treat yourself when a goal is reached
Personal finance gurus and writers often discuss minimalism and frugality, but I find it important to still treat yourself. Meaning, don’t feel guilty about buying yourself things in moderation.
Setting goals doesn’t have to feel like a chore or a tedious part of your life. Reward yourself for making progress and completing objectives. This can help you work harder and stay motivated to reach your next goals.
Focus on the steps, not just the end goal
When it comes to goal setting, a lot of times it is in our nature to focus on just the end goal. But the real priority needs to be on the steps needed to actually achieve your goal(s) successfully.
Your goals require a plan, which is where writing down detailed steps becomes clutch.
For example, my one financial goal was to achieve a savings rate of over 60%. Underneath this goal, I wrote where I’m at now, what I can cut back, where I can pay myself more, and how I can make more money. Each one of those steps had their own little action plan as well.
But that was key in ensuring I could achieve my goal not only in a timely manner, but that I would successfully get there.
Goals are nothing without actionable steps.
Be realistic with your goal setting
There is certainly nothing wrong with an aggressive and challenging financial goal. It can make you work hard and motivate you to that next level. But, you also want to set some realistic expectations when it comes to your money goals.
For example, one of my long-term financial goals is to become a millionaire in ten years.Challenging? You bet! But based on my trajectory and current process with my finances, it is very much attainable. However, saying billionaire would not be that realistic and the odds are very slim.
I think having goals that might be more of a dream are okay to have, but ensure that the vast majority of your goals are more realistic to your situation.
It’s important to remember it’s okay if a goal is not reached in your exact timeframe.
Life happens, the economy fluctuates, and you can’t predict how goals will go that have longer timelines. But, you can be prepared and put an actionable plan in place with the above tips.
Also, mistakes happen and good financial habits can be broken. The important aspect is to catch it and make sure you pivot back in the right direction.
It might be frustrating at first if you are off track, but don’t let your frustration win because it will knock you off from achieving your ultimate financial goals.
This article originally appeared on Invested Wallet.