How to Set SMART Financial Goals For Your Financial Future
“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.” — Andrew Carnegie
SMART Financial Goal-Setting
>>This is part of The Ultimate Financial Planning Guide.
Money can be very sneaky. Have you noticed? It can easily find a purpose if one is not set for it.
So it should come as no surprise that it is very difficult to be responsible with your money if you're not working toward set goals which can sound like anything from ‘Make a monthly budget’ to ‘Retire by 40’.
Goals are personal and highly individualized to reflect your core values, personal and family situation, needs, and wants. Once you identify your core values are and prioritize them as discussed previously, you can use your values to guide your life. And because money intersects with almost every part of our lives, you will have some financial goals tied to these values.
In all this, one thing is for sure.
Goal-setting is a big step towards achieving financial security - it's right at the core of proper financial planning.
So let’s jump right in and find out how to set money goals and just as importantly, stay motivated along the way.
SMART Goal Setting For Financial Success
Key Attributes of Goals
Like any other life goals, financial goals should help you focus your efforts and use your resources and time productively, but this is only possible if you set SMART goals.
SMART goals are very helpful in ensuring you have clear, time-boxed goals which you can hold yourself accountable to.
Your goal should be clear and as specific as possible to allow you focus your efforts. Ask yourself the 3 Ws to help you here.
What am I looking to achieve?
Why is this important?
Who is part of this goal?
My hubs and I aim to save $45,000 towards a downpayment for a house to save on our current rental costs.
Measurable goals allow you to track your progress easily, hit milestones, and stay motivated on your way to achieving your goals.
We will need to save $1250 a month for the next 36 months to reach $45,000 in 3 years.
Your goal needs to reflect your current and projected situation in order to be attainable. Don’t get me wrong - your goals can be stretch goals which push you further than you can currently imagine yourself going, but they should still remain possible. The big question to ask here is How - How can I accomplish this goal?
A motto to keep in mind here is slow and steady. Don’t go setting up goals that require overhauling your entire financial life and leave you burned out soon after, but one that is gradual and attainable in nature.
I can work overtime to earn more money and apply for a better paying job within a year aiming to make an additional $8000, and my husband will start a side hustle selling his art work. My husband and I can each direct our bonuses towards this goal and we will cut out eating out budget to save an additional $100 a month.
This step is about ensuring that your goal is realistic and in line with your other key goals, current income, how much time you can dedicate toward it, and how much you can drive it forward.
Some questions to think about are:
Is this the right time?
Is this in line with my other efforts/needs/goals?
Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment?
This goal is in line with our goal to cut our monthly eating-out budget by $100 where we have found that we tend to overspend.
Every good goal has a set timeframe. Time-based goals help to keep your goals in focus, and they help direct your everyday actions.
OK, so you might not want to pass on that 2nd happy hour for the week that you know will cost you another $50. But when you remind yourself that it will be another $50 toward that downpayment and that you will be a homeowner in another 2 years if you just keep at it, it will be easier to ask your friends to join you for some (more affordable) drinks at home.
A time-bound goal will usually answer the question When.
In 3 years, my husband and I want to be homeowners: In 1 year, we plan to save up 25% of toward our goal, in year 2, we plan to save up 35% toward our goal, in year 3, we plan to save up the remaining 40%.
Get this: You are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. It helps you visualize your future, understand the impact that your actions now can have on your future, and helps you prioritize.
Mark Victor Hansen couldn’t have said it any better, “By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands—your own.”
Setting financial goals is a great step to achieve financial security. It is the bedrock of any good financial plan.
If you are thinking about SMART financial goals, you are already way ahead of the curve. But don’t just stop there.
Start small - write one goal that you would like to achieve. Then whether a short-term financial goal or a long-term financial goal, make it a SMART financial goal and go from there.
In the next section, we will be covering financial goals that you should prioritize for financial success.
Sure, everyone's financial lives and priorities are different, but there are some SMART financial goals that can propel you forward faster and set you up for growth.
What are they? I thought you'd never ask! Dive into chapter 4 for short-term financial goals examples.
Feel free to use the free financial goal-setting worksheet below to set your SMART Financial Goals.
Chapter 1: What is a Financial Plan & What are its Components?
Chapter 2: What Are Your Core Values?
Chapter 3: How to Set SMART Financial Goals
Chapter 4: 7 Financial Goals to Help you Reach Financial Freedom Faster
Chapter 5: 10 Steps to Create a Solid Financial Plan