What do you want to achieve in 2016? What does your ideal life look like? This month’s video blog is a how-to guide for financial goal setting. If there’s anything at all you want to achieve this year, there’s no better time to start than today, January 1st, 2016.
MyBudget MoneyTalks Blog
MyBudget MoneyTalks Blog
Every year around this time, I start asking the question “what are your goals for next year?”. Goal setting is one of the most important components to succeeding in life and one of the biggest keys to achieving financial fitness. Not surprisingly, people who have goals are more likely to achieve their dreams than those who don’t.
I’ve been posting this goal setting guide every year since 2013 and the feedback is always positive. It’s designed to be a simple process that any person can do. Combined with your personal or household budget, it helps create a map for achieving your financial goals over the next 12 months and beyond.
What a year it has been! If yours has been anything like mine, it’s been one of change, challenges and adventure. The highlight for me was the arrival of a baby girl in August. She has added yet another layer of love and logistics to the constant challenge of balancing life’s demands.
As the year draws to an end, this is a good opportunity to reflect on your achievements in 2014. It only takes a few minutes to take stock of life’s blessings—everything from the food in your fridge to the people you care about. What did you achieve? What did you learn? What are your goals for next year?
Happy New Year! As the current year draws to a close, it’s time to start focusing on your goals for 2014. What do you want to achieve with your finances next year? It’s an important question because without a destination in mind it can be easy to go nowhere.
Goal setting is a vital component to success in life as much as in personal finance. Goals provide us with focus, motivation and a blueprint for making our dreams come true.
Wishing everyone a great Australia Day! I hope you’re looking forward to a fun, relaxing day with friends and family.
Have you set your goals for the year? In my January vlog I talk about achieving your financial goals in 2013 by establishing new habits. Don’t forget that we also have a Review and Planning Officer to help with goal setting. If you’re on top of your debts and bills and starting to wonder about future goals, the Review and Planning Officer can help you.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing about goal setting and how it applies to personal finance. Here’s a link to my articles on the importance of goal setting and a step-by-step guide to goal setting for money management.
So what are the keys to staying on target? Why do some people achieve so much with so little, while others never seem to get ahead?
Here are my top 20 tips to goal achievement. These principles have worked for me when it comes to money, work and life in general. I hope they work for you, too. They are in no particular order.
1. Give yourself permission to be excited and passionate about your life and finances.
2. Keep your goals somewhere you can see them regularly: on the fridge, behind the toilet door, in your office, taped to your bedside table…
3. Create a symbol or talisman to represent your goals, and keep it close. This could be something as simple as a red dot stuck inside your wallet.
4. If you’re frightened of failing, acknowledge the fear and do it anyway.
5. Keep your goals to yourself if you think others would not respect or understand them.
6. Visualise the outcome of your goals regularly. Feels good, doesn’t it?
7. Take one step at a time. Break big goals into a series of smaller ones. One MyBudget client says she writes her big goals in the centre of a paper flower and the mini-goals on petals around the outside. Every time she completes a milestone, she gets to remove a petal!
8. Stay positive. If you find yourself focusing on negative thoughts, spend 10 minutes writing down all the reasons you can achieve your goals.
9. Do something goal-minded every day. (Bring your lunch from home, buy nothing new, walk instead of drive…)
10. Focus on the behaviours and actions (practical things) that will move you towards your goals.
11. Embrace change and learn from your mistakes.
12. Graciously accept assistance and advice from others if you think it could be helpful.
13. Graciously decline assistance and advice from others if you think it could be unhelpful.
14. Keep your goals simple. If they feel complicated, difficult or boring, redefine them.
15. Don’t let your goals become a monster. You control them; they don’t control you.
16. Balance your financial goals with other goals in life.
17. Adopt a warrior attitude. Fiercely defend your goals from the enemies of temptation and distraction.
18. Flow like a river. If an obstacle blocks your path, go around it, over it, under it.
19. Keep going. If you miss a milestone this week/month/year and stay focused, you’ll get it next time.
20. Call MyBudget and speak with our customer service team. We’re here to help!
The aim is that by the end of this five-step process, your goals (combined with your MyBudget budget) will represent a money map for the year ahead and beyond.
Step 1: Visualise your goals
What does your ideal life look like? Visualise where you’d like your money to take you and start jotting down some ideas. Does it include being debt-free? Perhaps there are places you’d like to visit, concerts you’d like to attend, sports or hobbies you’d like to try. You might see yourself driving a new car or a boat or renovating your home. Your dream could be to send your kids to a different school or take them on a holiday.
Think big and small. Your goals do not have to be long-term or complicated to be worthwhile. In fact, it’s important to have a mix of goals. This is your life and your financial goals are yours for the choosing!
Step 2: Get practical about your goals
I. Avoid goals that are unattainable
As you review your list, you’ll probably notice that some goals are going to take more effort and time than others. In goal setting language, those goals that are the hardest to achieve are called “stretch targets.” Stretch targets can be great for changing unwanted behaviours or breaking out of negative thought patterns, but having too many of them in your goal list can be demotivating. It’s better to have goals that are realistic and achievable.
II. Avoid goals that are too general
Goals need to be specific and actionable. For example, if your goal is to be debt-free, specify exactly which debts you’re going to reduce this year and by how much. If your goal is to have savings, specify how much you’re going to save and how often.
III. Avoid goals that are outside of your control
Avoid goals that rely on factors outside of your control (eg. winning the lottery). Focus only on outcomes you can directly influence by your own actions. For example, if your goal is to find a higher paying job, focus on the behaviours required to get the job you desire. You could rewrite your resume, send it to 20 top companies and follow-up with phone calls.
IV. Prioritise your goals in order of importance
Ask yourself: What goals can I start working towards immediately and what goals will have to wait? It would be nice to be able to achieve all of your goals simultaneously, but life isn’t like that. The reality is that you have to attack your goals in order of priority.
V. Break big goals into smaller, more manageable goals
Big goals are great, but smaller goals are easier to measure and keep on track — and you get to celebrate achieving milestones more often! For example, if your goal this year is to save a $1,500 for a new fridge, break it into 12 monthly saving goals of $125.
Step 3: Write down your S.M.A.R.T. goals
What is a SMART goal? A SMART goal is one that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. The idea behind a SMART goal is that it should capture the behaviours and actions that will lead to the outcome you desire.
S = Specific (What do I want to accomplish? Why? When? Who with?)
M = Measurable (What will the outcome look like when it’s complete? What are the milestones along the way?)
A = Attainable (Is this goal achievable/affordable?)
R = Relevant (Is this what I should be focusing on?)
T = Time-bound (How long will it take? What is the timeframe and target date?)
General goal: To have savings in the bank.
SMART goal: I am saving $100 from each pay for my emergency fund. By the end of this year, I will have $2,400 in my emergency sub account.
General goal: To cut back my social spending after the New Year.
SMART goal: For January and February: I am taking my lunch to work three days a week; budgeting $80 a week for going out which I will pay myself in cash every Friday; going to after-work drinks only once a month; taking my credit card out of my wallet and using only cash.
General goal: To save $5,000 for an overseas holiday
SMART goal: I am saving $100 per pay into my ‘holiday’ sub account so that I have $5,000 for my Bali trip in [month and date]: This year’s goal: $600 by April; $1,200 by July; $1,800 by October; $2,400 by Dec 31.
How many goals do you need?
The number of goals you set yourself is up to you. Some people will only write down their big goals, others will prefer to write down every little goal that comes to mind. Either approach is great. The most important thing is to not let the goal setting process become overwhelming or so difficult that you give up.
Start with little victories and watch them add up
If you’ve been discouraged about goal setting in the past, keep it really simple this time. Pick just one small goal to start with — perhaps taking your lunch to work for a week. Remember that financial fitness is just like physical fitness – if your aim were to run a marathon, your first training sessions would be over shorter, more manageable distances. The same principle applies to your money – little, regular steps will quickly add up.
Step 4: Review your goals often
Review your goals regularly. Are you on track? Do you need to tweak your plan? Are you progressing faster than you expected? Are there obstacles you didn’t plan for?
It’s okay to make adjustments. Your plan needs to be flexible to accommodate life’s changes. You might get a pay rise that boosts your budget and shortens your timeframes. On the other hand, your car might need costly repairs that eat into your savings. The great thing about goal setting is that plans may change, but you still have a clear target to aim for.
Step 5: Recognise your achievements
As you’re setting your goals and milestones, give some thought to how you will reward yourself along the way. You deserve to feel happy, motivated and excited about your achievements. Make room in your budget for an affordable celebration every time you achieve a milestone.
How to stay focused
Having a goals list will help you to resist distractions and overcome obstacles. It will also help you to stay focused if you think about your goals often. Keep your goals list somewhere you can read them once a day.
Need help with goal setting?
MyBudget clients are welcome to speak with MyBudget’s customer service team at any time about their financial goals. Readers who are not MyBudget clients are welcome to attend a free budget consultation. We’re always here to help.
For many people, money management feels like stumbling through a dark forest. They find themselves navigating without a map in unfamiliar territory. Part of the problem is that most people don’t have a clear destination in mind. With no specific purpose they might wander for years, covering a lot of ground but never really getting ahead. It’s a fact that only a small portion of the population live on a budget.
MyBudget clients know that budgeting cuts a clearer path through the money jungle. With a budget in place, you know where you’re heading and how you’re going to get there.
But even MyBudget clients can sometimes get distracted, especially when they find that their debts are being paid off more quickly than they expected. After years of struggling to make ends meet, they suddenly have savings and surplus funds to play with. What comes next? An investment property? A private school for the kids? Topping up super? An overseas holiday?
The solution is goal setting
Goal setting is a vital component to success in life as much as in personal finance. The statesman Henry Kissinger once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.” Managing your money without specific goals is like going on a road trip without a destination. There’s a good chance that your route will be pitted with detours and back roads.
The benefits of goal setting
Goals provide focus. You move towards the things you focus on. Have you ever ridden a bicycle through an obstacle course? The surest way to collide with the witches hats is to focus on them. On the other hand, if you keep your head up and eyes focused on a point in the distance, you’ll find that you weave through the hats quite effortlessly. The same principle applies to your finances: you can let your focus wander or you can set your sights on a target.
Goals provide a map. The more specific a goal is, the more powerful it is. A goal should not only describe the endpoint, it should also detail how you will get there. Perhaps it’s your goal to buy a new car. That’s a great start, now get specific. What make and model is the car? How much does it cost? When will you buy the car? How much do you need to save from each pay packet?
That’s not to say that your plan can’t be flexible. Your old car may break down and need costly repairs or your best friend may invite you to their wedding in Fiji. That’s ok — plans can be adjusted to move with life. The plan may change, but the goal remains the same!
Goals keep you motivated. Problems, challenges and distractions are inevitable, but they’re much easier to overcome when you have a goal to focus on. Sacrifices feel less painful, temptations are less attractive, and obstacles shrink in the face of focus and determination.
Goals turn ideas into action. When you commit to a goal and decide on a course of action to achieve it, it’s like hoisting a sail into the wind. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you start achieving your goals once you get set your mind to it.
Let’s get started…
Visualisation exercise: What does your ideal life look like? Visualise where you’d like your money to take you and start jotting down some notes.
Does it include being debt-free? Perhaps there are places you’d like to visit, concerts you’d like to attend, sports or hobbies you’d like to be involved in. Maybe you see yourself owning a car, or a boat or renovating your home. You might want to send your kids to a different school or take them on a holiday.
Think big and small. Your goals do not have to be grand or complicated to be worthwhile. In fact, it’s important to have a mix of big and small goals.
This is your life and your financial destinations are yours for the choosing!
Start thinking about where you’d like your money to take you and next week we’ll get into the nitty-gritty with a step-by-step guide to goal setting.
In my December vlog I talk about reflecting on your achievements in 2012 and setting your sights towards new goals in 2013. Even if you’ve only recently joined MyBudget, that’s a huge achievement in itself. Deciding to take control of your money is an excellent accomplishment.