Today, we welcome Amy Nickson, professional content writer from Oak View Law Group where she shares her expertise on personal finance field. This article is her take on how to set, prioritize and track financial goals like a pro.
Some people think, worrying about tomorrow will spoil the goodness of today. But, the reality is, financial planning is as important as eating food. If you want to enjoy a stable and healthy financial life, then you need to set proper planning.
The problem is, when it comes to planning for the financial future, many people fail to understand where to start. A major part of Americans set up financial goals in the beginning of the year, but just 8% of them can achieve their goal successfully. What is the reason behind this poor result? The reason is, many people don’t know which goal to prioritize and how to achieve it.
How can you set financial goals?
The golden rule is – set a plan and follow that plan.
Here are 9 basic plans you can follow:
1. Formulating a budget and sticking to it
Most experts agree that budgeting is useful and it comes first as a financial goal. It helps to track your expenses and to get a clear understanding where the money is going. By planning a budget, you can meet your necessary expenses while saving a certain portion of your income regularly. However, you have to create a realistic budget and stick to it and revise it from time to time.
2. Paying off financial obligations
This is considered as one of the top financial goals. Allen Wohlwend, a CPA and certified financial planner in St. Petersburg, Florida said, “the interest charges (on credit card accounts) eat up so much of the cash flow that could be used for other objectives”. So, paying off debt should be your first priority.
Make sure you pay off the owed amount on time. Consider lifestyle changes to save more money to use it for paying off the debts. Once you pay off the debts, you can easily manage your financial situation effortlessly. However, if you feel the debt burden is unmanageable, then it is advisable to seek professional help.
3. Saving money into a savings account
Saving money into a savings account should be a part of your financial goal. When you are planning, make sure you start saving a stipulated amount each month into the savings account. The experts always recommend to save at least 10% of what you make in a month to build a savings fund. Irrespective of the amount you make in a month, you should save this amount to secure your financial future.
The money will provide you a sense of confidence to achieve a bigger goal.
4. Spend less than what you earn in a month
Make a list of the income that you make in a month, from your day job and other sources of income, like the investment assets. Then make another list of what you spend in a particular month on all the items that you need and those that you want. Check out the amount whether or not your expenses are more than your income. If they are, you need to take some solid steps to curb your expenses and always keep them less than what you make in a month; lest you fall in a deep financial mess.
To do it successfully, you need to fill your wallet with cash instead of credit cards. Thus, you can avoid pushing yourself further into the credit card debt hole. When you can’t afford to buy something with cash today, you should postpone purchasing that thing.
5. Building an emergency fund
When you have an emergency fund, you can avoid taking out a loan during a financial crisis. You can use your emergency fund for paying off the unexpected expenses as well. According to the experts, in a fragile job market, and uncertain economic crisis, an emergency fund is a life saver. So, saving a considerable amount in an emergency fund should be one of your financial goals.
6. Securing retirement life
Annamaria Lusardi, the world’s foremost experts on debt management, said,
“Everything around us is a push to buy, a push to consume. We need to make saving — particularly retirement saving — as exciting as consumption”.
Yes, you should prepare for your post-retirement life, therefore, you need to have a proper investment plan so that you have a smooth financial life after retirement. Is your workplace providing you with a retirement account? If answered yes, are you contributing a portion of your monthly income? Though a matched contribution from the employer seems like a boost, you shouldn’t delay your contributions just because you’re not getting a matched contribution from your employer. This should act as an emergency fund and you shouldn’t withdraw money before your retirement age so as to avoid any kind of unnecessary fees.
7. Paying off the mortgage loan
Buying a home is certainly the most significant purchase for most of the people. However, saving a down payment is advisable. Remember, the bigger the down payment, the more flexibility for the life of the loan. However, you should pay your mortgage loan; otherwise, you might lose your house. Remember, paying your home loan is equally important as saving for your retirement. Though paying your mortgage loan can delay your other financial planning, yet make sure you repay your obligations as it is also a part of your financial goals.
8. Review your insurance policies
It has often been seen that there are many borrowers who often pay more on their insurance coverage as they pay for the coverage that they don’t need. You must review your auto insurance policy and your health insurance policy and check whether or not you need all the coverage that you’ve taken. If you can cancel any of them, do so by speaking with your insurer, and save money on your insurance premiums.
9. How can you prioritize your goal?
The golden rule is – Categorize and prioritize.
You need to decide what goals to reach depending on the amount and how long it will take to become fulfilled.
Not every goals is same. Some are far reaching while others are easy to achieve. So, you need to categorize your goals properly.
Renovating the home, replacing the thermostat, or planning a vacation – all are short-term financial goals that usually take around one year to achieve.
Whereas, buying your dream home, building a fat retirement fund, investing money, or saving money for child’s education fall under long -term financial goals. These financial goals usually take around 5-10 years to achieve.
But, few goals are very tricky.
Purchasing a car or paying off debts (credit card debts, student loan debts, payday loan) are called mid-term financial goals. If you take too many years to achieve your mid term goals, then achieving your short-term goals will take long time and long-term goals even longer. Also, your financial life will suffer in the long run.
So, whenever you plan to buy a car, give priority to your affordability. Don’t purchase a high-end car that consumes all your monthly salary to fund the maintenance cost. Also, purchase insurance for your car.
Also using credit cards randomly and not making payment results in massive credit card debts that affect your credit score negatively. And a bad credit score creates every possible barrier from achieving any potential financial goal.
How can you be focused toward your financial goals?
Many people set financial goals, but very few remain focused. Most of the people fail to achieve their financial goals because they lose their interest soon.
To remain focused toward your financial goal, you need to:
- Write down one goal at a time in detail. The goal should be realistic, achievable.
- Fix a timeline for the goal and decide if it is a short term, a long term, or a mid term one.
- Revise your budget and make necessary changes as per your planning to achieve the goal.
- Consider some room for your fun. Self rewarding is very important to remain inspired.
- It is advisable to set the easy and short-term goal first. Accomplishing the easiest goal boosts a sense of confidence in you.
- If achieving the goal requires some lifestyle changes, then take it positively. You may need to cut unnecessary expenses, save aggressively, or earn some extra. Think positively, otherwise you may not be able to stick to your plan. All these may sound daunting, but not impossible.
Tips to Set your Financial Goals Smoothly
Keeping track of your goal is very important. If you set a number of goals and don’t keep a track, you will be stuck in the middle.
- Affix a note of your goal to the door or wall for a visual stimulus.
- Mark on the calendar.
- Take advantage of apps that make tracking goals much easier.
Lastly, there is no other option but to set monetary goals when you want to lead a peaceful financial life. If you don’t know the right path, walking randomly will not help you to reach the right destination. I will conclude the article with a great question of Allen Wohlwend, “the ones who look ahead and have some concept of what they’re looking to do with their money, the ones who put a plan into motion and establish some good habits, those people are golden.’’
Author’s Bio: Amy Nickson is a web enthusiast. She completed her graduation from Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia. She works as a financial writer and she shares her expertise through her crisp and well researched articles based on money management, money saving ideas, debt, and so on. You can follow her on Oak View Law Group where she shares her expertise on personal finance field.
Readers: what financial goals are you focused on for the second half of 2017?