Goals, with them you can scale mountains. Without them you can fall off a cliff. Having goals is important in all aspects of your life, especially in the area of your finances.
Many people want “to be rich” or want to avoid “worrying about money all the time.” Just imagine…”a life free of money concerns.” But what does “being rich” look like? Can worrying about money be healthy at times? Is “a life free of money concerns” 24-7 completely realistic? The answers to these questions will differ from person to person.
We all know of people who want to, but just can’t seem to afford to take that annual vacation, pay down that credit card or save for college tuition. There may be other factors involved, but the main factor is the absence of well constructed goals. Indeed, one of the keys to successful goal writing is constructing goals in a way that prompts action.
This paper will focus on SMART goals and the impact properly stated goals can have in helping someone achieve financial success. SMART goals are commonly used by human resources personnel when developing employee performance appraisals but can easily be adapted to a person’s financial life.
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Goals should be specific. In fact, many people never attain their goals because they are vaguely written. A vaguely stated task would be “Will keep track of money.” A clearer statement would be “Will write down every penny spent in a notebook for a period of four weeks.” This second goal clearly describes the behavior required to achieve the goal. For goals to be of any value, they must be clearly expressed and defined.
They should be measurable. You are held accountable when your progress can be measured. Instead of a goal to “Save some money from each paycheck for vacation,” A measurable goal would be “Will put $200 from each paycheck in a savings account entitled ‘vacation fund” every month for a period of 10 months.” A person can track this goal each pay period to measure progress and make any adjustments needed to attain that goal.
Goals need to be realistic or attainable. One should ask, “Is this a goal over which I have control?” For example, “To win the lottery in three years” is probably not realistic or even attainable in most cases.
Relevancy is another characteristic of an effective goal. Each statement should be related to the work at hand. It is good to have short-term, intermediate and long-term plans. Consequently one should work on the short-term goals first as they will be the building blocks for achieving the intermediate and long-term goals.
Finally, goals should be time-based. The person setting the goal should be able to track progress by specified target dates and predetermined timeframes. An example of this would be “Will save $6,000 to purchase a used car by taking $500 out of each paycheck and depositing it into a savings account for the next 12 months.” This goal clearly states the funds will be available after a year of saving.
Setting effective goals is both an art and a science. The whole process of developing goals can be a daunting task, at least initially. But having well-constructed goals is crucial to a person’s success. For those who feel overwhelmed by the process of writing goals there are resources available. One resource is a Money Coach. Money Coaches are trained to assist clients in writing solid financial goals and will also hold clients accountable for attaining the goals. As priorities shift or change, a Money Coach can help “reframe” the issues at hand and can help a client rework the goals.
Evidence suggests a person has a 95 percent chance of achieving goals if they are written down in a SMART manner and there is someone holding them accountable for attaining the goals. Wow! Your financial success truly is “just a goal away!”