The start of each new year is a time we regularly commit ourselves to new habits, new goals, and ofttimes, new dreams. With January behind us, how are you doing with your goals? Will they last longer or be more successful than last year? Are you setting up your financial plans for success? This article is not intended to revisit how we often fall short of achieving these well-intentioned resolutions, but rather provide an idea or two that will keep you and your investment goals moving in the right direction.
As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, I find great joy helping individuals and families take complex investment strategies and break them down into simple, actionable steps. Through my method, clients are better able to map out their financial aspirations by being mindful of what they hope to achieve with their finances now, in retirement and even after they pass on. I would like to share a few ideas that I implement with clients and in my own personal financial goal setting.
I always start with a purpose when it comes to any financial goal setting. Having a specific purpose and direction for your financial progress can be the single most important factor in achieving financial goals. Numerous financial experts throughout the years have reinforced the idea that behavior alone is responsible for 80% of the success in personal finance. If this is accurate, which I believe it is, it only magnifies the importance of tying your financial goals to specific desires and purposes.
We need to adjust our mindset from the generic goal of, “I want to save more” to a specific, trackable, purpose-driven statement. With additional context or purpose, the generic goal “I want to save more,” can transform into any of the following:
· Increasing my savings will provide more opportunities to build wealth and become financially independent.
· Saving will provide me peace of mind by having a sizable emergency fund to face any unknown that life may throw my way.
· Increasing my savings will give me freedom to pursue a dream career or new business opportunity.
· I want to save specifically for (insert major purchase) which will provide our family opportunities to spend more time together and make lasting memories.
· Saving a greater percentage of our income will allow us to leave a legacy for our family and benefit our future generations.
I have found that establishing a well-defined purpose for a financial ambition creates more immediate action and enhances the pace at which clients achieve their goals. Once that purpose-driven statement is defined, it should be paired with a SMART goal. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Any financial goal you set for yourself needs to include and encompass all 5 aspects. Remember our example of “I want to save more?” Although this is an admirable goal, it should be enhanced in the following manner.
My goal is to save an additional $10,000 into my savings account by July 1st.
· This goal is Specific and Timely. I know exactly how much I plan to save and by what date.
· Measurable – I will track my progress each time I receive a paycheck (twice a month).
· Achievable – This goal spans the next 5 months. If I really put my head down and get after it, I may even be able to complete it sooner.
· Realistic – I have reviewed my monthly budget and income and determined I am able to save at least $2,000 per month towards my goal.
4 Tips for Creating Healthy Purpose-Driven Financial Goals
Be on the same page – For married individuals it is vital to communicate financial goals and ultimately make joint decisions. If not, a financial tug of war may prevail, and you will look back year after year to realize your desired progress is falling short of its potential.
For individuals or those living on their own, sharing your goals and vision with a friend or family member is a great way to help hold yourself accountable. Surround yourself with people who are striving to make similar improvements in their own lives.
Write things down, review, track progress– I have always held the strong belief that until a goal makes its way onto paper (Word, iPad, etc.) it is no more than a hope or dream. Writing your goals down is a necessary step to taking action and seeing results.
Once you have defined the path ahead and committed yourself to achieving that goal, you must also decide how often you will circle back to track your progress. I have found great success in doing this monthly or in some cases even bi-monthly.
Big & Small – I suggest having financial goals both big and small. These goals should range from items you can check off in the next 3 months to more complex goals that will take you 30 years or longer to achieve. The sky is the limit, but you must start today in formulating your purpose-driven goals.
Take the first step. Do not get overwhelmed with long-term concerns such as, “How am I ever going to retire?” Although that is an important concern to address at some point, I find that too much focus on long-term goals often leads to inaction and makes it difficult to get off the starting line.
Seek balance and enjoy the present – Finally, I encourage you to strive for balance in life. Do not let a financial goal consume you to the point that it negatively impacts your health, relationships, hobbies or anything else that makes your life amazing and enjoyable. (HINT: The SMART Goal Method is perfect for improving these areas of your life as well.) Do not lose sight of why you are striving for financial success in the first place. Having a strong purpose behind anything we do creates hope. This hope is what inspires us to make change and improve. Time and time again I have seen clients transform lofty financial goals into real life success by shifting their mindset to focus on the underlying purpose of their goal. Goals take time and often require revision but establishing purpose-driven statements and matching SMART goals can keep you grounded when life changes and things get tough.
Now is the time. What are your current financial goals? Are they written down? Are they purpose-driven? Could you alter these goals to make them more meaningful to your life? I strongly encourage you to take the time to re-evaluate your financial ambitions and commit to the purpose-driven mindset. I assure you it will provide you better direction and enhance your ability to succeed in all your financial endeavors.
Riley Crosbie, CFP®, CPA, NSSA®
To learn more about the author of this article Riley Crosbie, CFP®, CPA, NSSA visit: https://www.adamswealthadvisors.com/riley-crosbie-profile or connect with him on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/riley-s-crosbie-cfp%C2%AE-cpa-00b91893/