When pursuing short-term or long-term financial goals, it’s natural to find yourself frustrated by the various obstacles that arise. Perhaps your debt is getting in the way of your dream house, your plans are too vague, or you aren’t sure where to begin.
In this guide, we will review how to set attainable financial goals, best practices, and strategies you can use.
Setting SMART financial goals
The SMART framework serves as a popular structure that facilitates the creation of financial goals. Many experts recommend this framework for personal financial management, as well as business planning. Setting SMART goals can greatly boost your chances of successfully achieving your desired outcomes. The acronym stands for:
Your goal should be specific and answer the question of what are you saving money for? Having a defined, clear goal in mind often helps people feel more motivated to save money and avoid impulse purchases that disrupt the plan.
Here are some examples of goals that satisfy the element of specificity:
- I’m putting money into an emergency fund
- I’m saving up for a new car
- I plan to finance a home
- I’m saving up for my startup
In addition to having a specific goal, you should also come up with a quantifiable goal. This means that there is a measurable objective, such as the amount of money you want to save.
Here are some example goals that are measurable:
- $15,000 for an emergency fund
- $1,000 for a new computer
- $200 for new clothes
A measurable goal enables you to easily track how far along your financial plan you are and celebrate milestones.
It’s important to plan out a goal that is attainable. There is no problem if your visions are ambitious, but the more realistic the goal is in relation to your capabilities and circumstances, the more likely you will achieve it.
A financial goal should ideally be one that can be reached through patience, commitment, and effort.
Once you have outlined what you’re saving money for, you should ask yourself if the goal is relevant to your needs and desires. Of course, everyone has their own priorities, dreams, and way of assessing what is important. Your SMART financial goal should be meaningful to you while also having a positive impact on your life.
Timebound refers to how much time you estimate it will take to reach your goal. You can also set milestones to divide up your overarching goal into smaller, more manageable chunks.
For example, someone’s timebound elements of their goals might look like this:
- I want to save enough for a house within the next 5 years
- I plan to buy these toy presents for my children for the upcoming holidays
Prioritizing financial goals
If you have more than one goal in mind at a time, it’s a good idea to prioritize them. Here are some steps to help you effectively prioritize your goals and also understand that financial planning should have a certain degree of dynamic adjustments.
1. Make a comprehensive list
The first step should be to list out all of your financial goals, no matter the timeline for each. Include your short-term, long-term, and even medium-term goals.
Your list might look something like this:
- Buy a home
- Save for retirement
- Upgrade a car
- Save up for vacation
- Pay off personal loan
- Build up an emergency fund
2. Evaluate the urgency of each goal
Some financial obligations are more pressing than others. If you have any high-interest debt, you might want to prioritize paying the debt off since it is more time-sensitive. Note down beside your financial goals how urgent each one is.
3. Assess the relevance of each goal
Try to align the priority of your goals with your life values and aspirations. For example, some people might want to become debt-free before even thinking of going on a vacation, whereas others feel better saving up for debt repayment if they get to relax and spend money freely once in a while.
4. Adjust and adapt regularly
While it is a good idea to stick to your plans and commit to achieving your financial goals, there are many benefits that can come with making adjustments as needed. Be flexible enough in your financial goals so that you can adapt to new circumstances and hardships.
Creating a timeline for achieving financial goals
A timeline is essential if you want to not just dream about big goals, but also turn them into reality. To create a timeline, you will need to know relevant details about your situation, such as your income, expenses, savings, and more.
As you create a timeline, add estimated time frames for smaller goals. Evaluate your circumstances and try to be realistic. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this time frame align with my income and capacity to save?
- Are my savings and investments stable?
- What are some other priorities that might interfere with this timeline?
- Are there any deadlines I can set to bring more discipline to my plan?
Breaking down long-term goals into short-term goals
Timebound long-term goals are wonderful in that you can see what you are working toward. However, progress can sometimes feel like you are trudging through mud if you don’t celebrate smaller achievements.
A good way to manage your long-term aspirations is to break them down into more digestible, short-term goals. After you have defined your SMART long-term financial goal, create milestones that are more easily achievable in the grand scheme of things. These milestones should have specific savings targets so that you know when you can pat yourself on the back and celebrate these small but meaningful successes.
Tracking progress toward financial goals
To ensure you stay committed to your financial goals, it is a good idea to track your progress. This can be done by setting measurable milestones, such as targeted amounts of savings.
For example, you might want to note down every time you reach a thousand dollars in savings toward your goal, or celebrate whenever you successfully pay off debt.
Adjusting goals as financial circumstances change
Unexpected expenses and circumstances in life can result in the need to adjust your plans. You might not necessarily need to abandon your goals altogether–but flexibility may be required. Your financial goals and timelines should serve as a framework that structures your actions and provides motivation. However, make sure you are regularly reviewing your budget, progress, and your spending patterns so you can make changes to your financial plan as needed.
Balancing multiple financial goals
It’s common to simultaneously work toward numerous financial goals. They may differ in terms of how long they are projected to take, the effort and resources required to achieve them, and their urgency level. Ideally, you want to achieve harmony among your goals so they do not strain you excessively.
Here are some best practices to consider when balancing multiple financial goals at once:
- Prioritize goals based on urgency and relevance
- Assign a specific budget for each goal
- Create realistic timelines for each goal
- Allocate windfall income thoughtfully so that the income boost aligns with your overall goals
- Don’t forget about any bills and debt you might have
- Periodically review and adjust your goals
- Seek advice from a finance planning professional
Identifying potential obstacles to achieving financial goals
Some obstacles are more tangible and obvious than others. If you can recognize what is keeping you from successfully attaining your goal, it becomes easier to overcome these challenges. Here are some common obstacles that people face when saving up for their financial goals.
- Inadequate emergency fund: This can lead to your savings being depleted when there is an unexpected emergency, which might hinder your goal achievement
- Heavy debt burden: You might want to consider consolidating your debt and negotiate more favorable repayment terms if you have a heavy debt burden that diverts your savings away from your goals.
- Inconsistent budgeting and spending: Consistency can go a long way in helping you achieve your goals. Slow and steady is often more reliable for realistic goal achievement.
- Unexpected life events: Major events such as unemployment, illness, death, or other emergencies can disrupt your path toward your goals. Flexibility and contingencies could help you more easily handle these events.
Celebrating milestones on the way to achieving financial goals
Many people overlook the need for celebrating milestones when in the pursuit of financial goals, particularly long-term ones that require years of savings. To help you remain focused and committed to your goals, it is often a good idea to periodically acknowledge your progress and celebrate important milestones.
Milestones come in various forms, such as successfully paying off debt or saving up to reach a certain target. Whatever your chosen milestone type, make sure that it is measurable, specific, and manageable. That way, you can look forward to celebrating each milestone without feeling the excessive pressure of a daunting challenge.
Seeking professional advice to help achieve financial goals
Expert financial advisors can provide you with indispensable counsel. If you find yourself uncertain about how to manage your savings and attain your goals, you can seek professional advice. The main advantages of obtaining professional advice include:
- Receiving tailored guidance
- Getting a new, objective perspective
- Learning debt and financial management skills that you can use throughout your life
- Improving your financial literacy
- Obtaining help with balancing risk with reward
- Saving time by letting the financial advisor handle time-consuming, complex planning
- Dealing with major life events that can benefit from expert guidance
When you approach a financial advisor for their insight, you will be asked to share relevant information about yourself. Gather important details such as your income, assets, and expenditures.
How personal loans help achieve financial goals
Personal loans can be an invaluable way for you to reach your objectives. Here are the main ways you can use personal loans to help you meet your goals:
- Consolidate debt
- Avoid dipping into your savings for emergencies
- Finance large purchases
- Fund dream vacations or experiences
- Help you establish a strong credit profile
Before deciding to take out a personal loan, consider your risk tolerance and individual situation. If you have already saved a certain amount of money and need an additional surge of funds to reach the ultimate objective, a personal loan may be a good way to help you meet your goal. Another situation in which you might benefit from a personal loan is that it can help you finance something expensive, such as a car or a wedding, allowing you to save your hard-earned money for other priorities and needs.
Personal loans could bring you unparalleled value in terms of attaining your financial goals, short-term or long-term. However, it is essential to keep in mind that good financial planning and debt management are key when it comes to taking out a personal loan for funding your goals.
What if I have bad credit?
If you have a low credit score, your loan options and financial opportunities may be limited. However, that does not mean you are barred from seeking personal loans. You can still benefit from obtaining a personal loan if you carefully review your loan terms and have a clear end use in mind for the funds. A personal loan helps you in a pinch if you find yourself facing challenges that would deplete your emergency savings or are too expensive for you to manage.
Secured personal loans are easier to obtain because borrowers need to back them with collateral. If you default on a secured loan, the collateral asset can be repossessed by the lender. If you have poor credit, you may want to shop around for secured personal loans so that you are more likely to be approved.
Some lenders also grant loan funds to borrowers without needing to perform a credit check. However, be prudent before committing to a personal loan if the interest rates are too high or if the terms seem too good to be true.
Well-managed personal loan funds can greatly help you achieve your financial goals by bridging the gap between your savings and the ultimate cost of your goal. They can also help you deal with costly, unforeseen circumstances so that your SMART financial goals do not get too heavily disrupted.
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