Setting and achieving financial goals in the New Year [Column]

If the start of 2023 has inspired you to take a healthier approach to your finances, you may be wondering how to do it and where to start.

Should you focus on curbing your spending habits? Earn more? Smart investment? All of the above? Here are some practical suggestions to help you improve your financial outlook this year and the years to come.

Imagine your future

Setting financial goals involves brainstorming. Take the time to think about what you want your financial future to look like and what it will take to get there. Your goals will come from the life you want to create for yourself.

Be specific

It is difficult to act on goals that are too broad or vague. You need to know the dollar amounts. For example, if you’re hoping to trade in an older car, put a zero on the price of your next vehicle. Or if you’re looking to buy a first (or second) home, identify how much you need for a down payment and what monthly payments you can afford. With these specifics in hand, you can calculate how much you need to save each month to reach your set goal.

Set priorities

Choose the number of goals to work towards. It is better to start small and build on your successes. You can sort goals into lists of short-term achievable goals, five-year goals, and long-term long-term goals. The order of achieving a goal often comes naturally. For example, common sense suggests building your emergency fund and paying off high-interest debt before contributing to a college fund.

Attach timelines

Setting goals is meaningless without milestones and target dates. Set deadlines that are reasonable and achievable.

Document your goals

You’ll want a visual reminder of your goals so you can make them part of your routine. Make a spreadsheet, put pen to paper, or — ideally — work with a financial advisor who can help you map out your goals and document your progress toward them. Set a reminder on your phone to review your goals on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. That way, you’ll stay focused on the responsibility of achieving them.

Match your goals with your budget

Realistic financial goals live within a budget. Ideally, your budget will provide guidelines and hedges for earning, spending and saving — the key to successful financial goal setting.

Retrain your brain

Goal setting can seem like deprivation if you only look at it as cutting back on spending. Reframe your thinking to overcome mental obstacles. See the rewards of investing time and energy in actions that move your financial life. You can give yourself a psychological boost by doing something nice for yourself during or after your goal setting activity. Over time, your mind will associate the two activities so that you find pleasure in both.

Be flexible

Goals are not static. If something changes in your circumstances, you can adjust your goals. If you need to cut your investment budget while paying for a much-needed home repair, that’s life. Don’t let failure derail you. Simply adjust and move on.

Set yourself up for success

When you make the effort to set achievable financial goals, you’re halfway there. When you start tackling each of your financial goals, you’ll be inspired to do more. Feelings of financial uncertainty will fade as you take your future into your own hands.

Get expert guidance

An experienced financial advisor can help you set financial goals. When it comes to implementing strategies to save and invest for your future, their advice is invaluable.

Bronwyn L. Martin is a financial advisor and chartered financial consultant with Martin’s Financial Consulting Group, the financial wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services LLC. in Kennett Square and Havre de Grace, MD. She specializes in financial planning and fee-based asset management strategies and has been in practice for over 22 years. To contact her:

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