A Step-by-Step Guide To Setting Good Financial Goals And Achieving Them
Is anxiety your first reaction to your finances? Are you worried that you will soon be drowning in debt? Or, are you convinced that you are never going to save enough money to enjoy the good things in life?
A lot of us wait for our finances to hit rock-bottom to actually take a look at what’s going wrong. No wonder then that studies prove over and again that financial uncertainty is the top cause of stress for people everywhere.
What’s the first step to achieving financial success?
Most people would answer that knowing your current financial situation, how much money you have and what you spend it on is the first step. But we would say there’s something you need to do even before taking stock of what you have.
You need to know what you want your money to do. Or, in short, you should set some good financial goals.
Taking out time to think about the future means you’re not stressing out about all the things you can’t afford now or are restricted from doing because you fall short of money. You’re taking out the negative thoughts and are focussing on positive things by looking ahead.
Ask yourself what is it you want money for? What is the lifestyle you aim to achieve in the next few years? Where do you see yourself personally and professionally in the time to come? What all do you see yourself owning, enjoying or experiencing?
Thinking of all what you want to achieve with your money means that you are planning towards your goals and not restricting your lifestyle and desires depending on the money you’re making now.
Do this now: Take a piece of paper and brainstorm a bit about where you see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years. Write all that comes to your mind down as a list.
Next, take a reality check
The next crucial step is to know where you stand. And, tracking your money is the best way to do that. This will give you a clear idea of what you’re working with. Tracking is a diagnostic step in your financial journey. It indicates problem areas to you and reveals to you what is standing between you and your goals.
A minimum of two weeks to 3 months can give you an idea of what’s going on with your finances. Using an app like Wallet means that your effort in this whole process reduces to about 5%. You can connect your bank to Wallet and let it auto sync and categorise all your transactions or you could try inputting them manually.
Or, you would use some of the features like Smart Assistant and One-Click Tracking if you need some nudging to stay on track.
Do this now: Set up a system to track your money and find out problem areas in your finances.
Now, prioritise your list
Go back to the list you made and sort them into things that can be achieved in the next one year, in the next three years and in the next 5 to 10 years. These are your short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. But it’s not that easy, we know.
For instance, your short-term goal might be to build an emergency fund, then your mid-term goal may be to pay off your debt and your long-term goal may be to have enough money to retire within the next 10 years.
What you need to understand here is that each person has a different goal they’re saving towards. Just like no two people are the same, neither are the ways they manage their money, and what they spend on and save for.
So don’t try to follow someone else’s plan. Make your own based on what really matters to you.
For someone, paying off their debt may be more important than building a savings fund for emergencies. Or, you may be saving to travel, while some other person may be saving to finance their education. So the key is to rank your goals according to priority and the time frame you want to achieve them by.
Do this now: Choose at least three goals from your list. Preferably two short-term goals and a mid-term or long-term one.
Make your goals count
Studies say that approximately 80% of people never set goals for themselves. Even more surprising is that, of the 20% who do, almost 70% fail to achieve these goals. So how can we be so sure of something that has such less chances of being successful?
Go back to your list now and look at it. Are your goals specific?
For a goal to be specific, it has to answer the crucial when, what, how questions.
What exactly do you want to accomplish, by when do you want to do it and how do you plan to achieve this?
This is where Wallet can come in handy. Ideally we should have the answers to all these questions, but in reality, it is possible that we may not. Then, what?
Wallet is both smart and simple, and it is designed to deconstruct your problem and suggest a plan that should work for you. And, it works for you even if you don’t already know all possible details about what you want in the future.
Suppose you know that you have to save up a particular amount of money within a given time, Wallet will forecast the exact amount you should be saving in the given time period to achieve your goal.
Or, if you know you can save a certain sum of money every month, Wallet motivates you by showing how long you’ll have to save to get to your savings goals.
And, thirdly, if you don’t know how much to save for a particular goal, Wallet will come to your rescue by predicting the expected balance you’ll end up with by the end of your desired period, based on your savings trend.
Do this now: Set up at least two short-term goals and one mid-term or long-term goal on Wallet. It could be the ones you had prioritised in the last step. Input the details you know and wait for Wallet to help you out with the rest.
Devise a plan and stick to it
Now that Wallet has suggested the amount you should be saving to get to your goal or how long you should be saving to achieve what you set out to, you have a clear roadmap to work towards. Read this together with the data you collected by tracking your money.
What would you have to do to save a particular amount? What can you cut down on? Where can you make some extra money?
Budgets are the best way to help you plan your way out to get to your goals.
We have spoken about the different ways you can budget earlier. So create a plan and be sure to stick to it.
Do this now: Create your budget and use a system like Wallet to help you stick to it.
Now, rinse and repeat
Change is the only constant. So there’s no point in setting a single plan and expecting it to work seamlessly. Let’s face it, there can be goof-ups or unforeseen events that are really out of our control.
This is the reason why we swear by flexibility around here.
A plan that isn’t flexible isn’t realistic.
So check up on your finances regularly and see what’s working and what’s not. You may need to adjust something to ensure that changes are accounted for and your plan adapts to them.
Do this now: Check your reports, charts, budgets and goals regularly. Wallet will also remind you to do so and alert you in case there are any suspicious activities. Make required adjustments and repeat periodically.
Ready to set your financial goals?
Some of us may feel that setting goals are almost like asking for too much or wishing beyond our means. But, in reality, if you don’t have something to work towards, it is quite possible that you’ll be lost, even if you’re working hard as ever.
Your goals should stop intimidating you, once you have a realistic plan for it and have a simple system that’ll help you achieve them. Being consistent and open to change is the key to achieving any goal.
Over to you
What are your tips to set good financial goals and achieve them? Let us know in the comments section below.
Also published on Medium.