Setting & Reaching Them
Financial goals might not always be achieved but setting them and creating an action plan to reach them will certainly take you a long way in the right direction.
SETTING FINANCIAL GOALS
Ask yourself what your top three financial objectives are?
Your immediate answer might be to achieve financial security but what does that mean? Without really having a clear idea, your most important objectives will remain unfulfilled as you grapple to deal with the day-to-day stuff rather than looking at the bigger picture. You’ll also be unable to prioritise so when it comes to whether to save money for your kid’s education versus your retirement, you might be left with more questions and no answers.
To get started, make a list of all the things that you’d need to feel secure, happy or fulfilled. These can range from the weighty, such as getting out of debt to the luxurious, such as a Lamborghini. You don’t need to prioritise them quite yet.
Some common goals you may want to consider:
- Accumulating enough savings to handle an emergency situation
- Buying a house
- Getting out of debt – and staying out
- Ensuring that your parents are comfortable and well taken care of in their old age
- Paying for your children’s college education
- Amassing enough wealth to retire comfortably
To get what you want most then, you need to
1) decide which goals will take priority i.e. which are most important to you and
2) work toward the lesser goals only after the really important ones are well provided for
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN SETTING PRIORITIES
- Narrow your objectives: you probably won’t be able to achieve every financial goal you’ve ever dreamed of so decide which are most important and concentrate your efforts on what matters most.
- Focus first on the goals that matter: to accomplish primary goals, you will often need to put desirable but less important ones on the back burner.
- Be prepared for conflicts: even worthy goals may conflict with one another. Ask yourself: Will one of the conflicting goals benefit more people than the other? Which goal will cause the greater harm if it is deferred?
- Put time on your side: recognise that you have at least one ally in meeting your long-range goals and that’s time. Thanks to the power of compounding – the fact that even a small amount of money can earn interest, and that each year that interest gets applied to a growing sum of money. Your age is a big factor here – younger people (who have more time to build their nest egg) can invest differently than older ones. Generally, younger people can take greater risks than older people, given their longer investment horizon.
- Include family members: if you have a spouse or partner, make sure that person is part of the goal-setting process. Children, too, should have some say in goals that affect them.
- Sweat the big stuff: make a consistent effort to keep your spending on course. Whenever you make a large payment for anything, ask yourself: “Is this taking me nearer to my primary goals – or leading me further away from them?” If a big expense doesn’t get you closer to your goals, try to defer or reduce it.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff: of course, you should focus on big-ticket, long-range plans, but remember that most of life is lived in the here-and-now and most of what you spend will continue to be for daily expenses – including many that are simply for fun. And that’s OK so long as your long-range needs are taken into consideration.
- Be prepared for change: your needs and desires will change as you age, so you should probably reexamine your priorities at least every five years.
REACHING FINANCIAL GOALS
Your action plan to reaching your financial goals will be personal to you and depend on the nature of your individual goals and situation. You need to consider your goals and the time frame you can realistically reach them. Think SMART: specific / measurable / achievable / realistic / time-related. Work on an action plan that literally maps out what you need to do to get you from where you are now to where you want to be.
Let’s look at example. Your financial goal is to escape debt but in reality, you’re struggling to meet your credit-card payments every month and can see no end in sight. How do you tackle this? Tot up the total amount required to pay off your credit cards in a year and you’ll probably find that it works out far better and cheaper to consolidate the cards and take out a personal loan at a more attractive i.e. reduced interest rate. Your repayments will then go down as will the overall amount you end up paying back. Bear in mind that this kind of strategy works only if you also stop charging new items on your credit cards. As for the personal loan you now have, work out how you can streamline your ongoing costs to help with your repayments. Clearly put on paper what steps you need to take in curbing your spending and tightening your purse strings.
Of course, every individual’s situation is different so it may help to meet with an Independent Financial Advisor. Finally, remember that the goalposts will always change. Priorities evolve through our lives so don’t be too rigid in your thinking. Revisit your goals and action plan often and when required, tweak them as required.