A Guide to Setting Strong Financial Goals (and How to Meet Them)

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Setting financial goals is a big part of achieving overall financial health. After all, goals keep us moving forward and ensure that, down the road, we have the things we want. But what's the best way to set a financial goal? What do financial goals even look like? How do I know if I’m setting the right financial goals for myself so that I can live my financial best life? Answering these questions is why I’ve put together this guide on how to set the best financial goals. It's not like we're born knowing this stuff.

Here’s what we’ll cover:


    • How to set financial goals
    • Examples of strong financial goals
    • How do I decide which financial goals are right for me?
    • How to take your goals and make them S.M.A.R.T.
    • Sticking to your financial goals
    • How to get back on track with your financial goals


    How to Set Financial Goals

    Setting financial goals only requires three things:

    • thoughtful consideration
    • the actual setting of  goals
    • ….and then shoring up our money habits to give ourselves the best chances for success.

    See? Easy peasy.

    But it isn’t enough to say, “I want to stick to my budget” or “I want to pay off debt.” For the best chances of success, we have to make them S.M.A.R.T – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound.


    Examples of Financial Goals


    These are just 15 I came up with off the top of my head. They’re specific to me and my story, but here’s a post from The Balance on broad types of financial goals you can set if you’re still stumped after reading this list.


    I’d like to track my spending for a month.


    You can use the examples above, but below are some things to consider when setting your financial goals AND the order in which to tackle them (how you prioritize these goals.) Obviously, we all only make a certain amount and can only tackle so many financial goals at a time.

    Just pick a few goals that are the most important to you (once you’ve covered the basics, like setting up an emergency fund) and then focus on one, finish it and move along to the other.

    How do I decide which financial goals are right for me?


    Take Stock of the Year (or Months) Prior



    The start of a new year is a great time to set financial goals because you have a whole, fresh year ahead. Before you begin planning the future – look at the past.



    • What did you accomplish (financially) last year that made you proud?
    • Is there something you wish you'd done differently?
    • What is the #1 thing you’d like to do with your money this year?


    Answering these things in advance will help you to set priorities.



    Prioritize the Things that are Losing You Money



  • Debt. It's expensive. Every dime that sits in savings is worth less when you have debt hanging out. And while it is hard to manage debt with other savings goals like retirement and emergency funds, the fact of the matter is that with interest rates on savings accounts so low, you need to pay off high-interest debt first in order to get ahead.


  •  So when brainstorming your financial goals, prioritize the items that are costing you the most. 

    Finally…Throw In Some Savings Goals Too


    Having a nice emergency fund before you pay off debt is important to keeping out of the cycle of using credit to cover the unexpected.

Looking for a FREE (no fee) savings account? Check out the high-yield savings from CIT Bank. It's a great interest rate, AND they just debuted their new “Savings Builder” feature which gets you their highest rate (currently 2.5%) if you can commit to autosaving $100 each month.


    Decide what YOU want


    Don't forget to listen to your own inner voice. Ask:


    • What do you want to accomplish?
    • Which goal completion would make you happiest?
    • Which completion would free you up the most to do something else you really want to do?


    Once you've contemplated the four sections above, now you're ready to put “pen to paper” so-to-speak and draft those goals. Below is a four step system to follow to ensure your goals work for you rather than against you. To do this, we’re going to take a financial goal and make sure it follows the S.M.A.R.T. methodology.


    How to take your goals and make them S.M.A.R.T

  • I’m going to use the first financial goal example I listed above, the “I want to save a $1,000 emergency fund in 45 days.


  • #1 – Set a Specific (or Quantifiable) Goal



    “ I want to save $1,000 in 45 days.”

    What makes this goal quantifiable?

    • We know we want to save $1,000. That’s the real goal. 
    • This is way more specific than saying, “ I want to save up an emergency fund,” “Or I want to pay off debt.”
    • This gives an identifiable number to shoot for, and it's very black and white regarding whether or not this goal has been reached.


    #2 – Making It Measurable


    How do we best measure this goal? Using our example, $1,000 in 45 days is easily measured – by the amount of money we’re able to save.

    This is why financial goals make great S.M.A.R.T. candidates. Because they are (usually) numerically based, they’re inherently measurable by nature!


    #3 – Set an Achievable Goal


    It's important to set a goal that you can actually achieve. Instead of trying to accomplish some crazy goal, like paying off alllll the debt. Set something reasonable.

    • Using my example, $1,000 may not be doable in 45 days.
    • Depending on your salary, it may be more achievable to save up $1,000 in one year.
    • Feel free to adjust as necessary to your own financial situation.


    #4 – Making It Relevant


    This is probably my biggest beef with using the S.M.A.R.T methodology. “Relevancy” is more of a business consideration than a personal one. How do you make a personal finance goal relevant? Of course it’s relevant – getting my financial shit together is incredible relevant to me.


    • An example from The Balance states that relevancy is meant to take into consideration conditions in the environment.
    • For example, maybe don’t blow all your money on vacation if you know you’re having a baby in the coming months. Etc. Etc.
    • Relevancy means you should take into consideration any events or changes in your life that could prevent you from accomplishing your goals.


    #5 – Time Bound (A.K.A. Set a Deadline)


    A whole year is a long time to commit to a goal. So many things could change, and enthusiasm is certain to wane. To help make a goal more achievable, try setting a smaller, shorter goal, preferably one that will be reached a few months after setting it. Or, if you're sure a one-year goal is for you, check in periodically throughout the year to make sure you're on track.


    In our example above, we’ve already made our financial goal time bound by challenging ourselves to save up $1k in 45 days. And for those interested, here’s how I did just that.


    Tricks to Use to Stick to your Financial Goals



    • It doesn't matter how lavish or simple your rewards are, just so you set them in advance.
    • Give yourself a treat for every month you do all the things you set out to do.
    • I like to recommend no more than 5% of the balance you just paid off (if you’re paying off debt as a goal) for a treat.There are also four main ways that I’m able to stick to my financial goals and these methods are important. Not all financial goals are as fun as stacking cash in the bank or the feeling of accomplishment you get from paying off a credit card so it's important to think about how you're going to stay motivated with these goals while you're brainstorming them. Don't wait until you run out of steam to figure out a way to stay accountable! 

      Do it with a partner or community


      Everyone is more successful when they have someone (or something) holding them accountable to their goals. For me, when I did my $8k in 90 Day Challenge, I put it on my blog specifically so my readers could keep me accountable. I didn’t want to fail in front of them.

      Accountability doesn’t mean they have to be in the trenches, side-by-side with you working on the goal as well. It just means you have someone checking in on your progress and applying a slight bit of pressure (or guilt) if you’re behind.


      Create a vision board


      I have a big tutorial on creating vision boards, because I believe in them and think there is BIG MAGIC at play in how they work. Even if you don’t believe in the spiritual wisdom behind a vision board, there’s nothing wrong with creating a visual reminder of what you’re working so hard for.


      • For financial goals, choose imagery of what your life is going to look life after you complete your goal.
      • For example, put up an image of the Gucci shoes you want, or the beach you’re going to work from remotely once you save up enough to quit your job. 
      • A recent TD Study showed that 82% of business owners with vision boards believed they accomplished and achieved more.


      Create Mantras for Yourself that You Repeat Often


      Below are some of my favorites. And you don't have to do them all each day (although you can.) I like to have a repertoire  of mantras because I like picking and choosing depending on what I'm dealing with each day.

      If you’re setting your own with a notebook and paper, ask:

      • What are you really struggling with?
      • Which messaging would you like to really reinforce with yourself?
      • What word or phrase really inspires you when it comes to meeting your goals?



      Schedule Rewards (Yes! #Treatyoself)


      This is something I have long touted as essential to debt payoff, but really, it’s important for all your financial goals.


  • How to Get Back on Track with Your Financial Goals




    Setting goals is easy.

    It's the breaking bad habits and staying disciplined part that usually gets in our way.

    How hard is it to get back on track with your financial goals once you’ve slipped? Relax, it's pretty easy and you are the one in control, so don’t beat yourself up. Below is a blueprint for tackling the most common challenges that keep people from truly succeeding with their financial goals.

    Overuse your credit card?

    Spend more than you make?

    Unable to really save?


    Whatever you need help with: budgeting, paying off debt, or tracking your earnings the Financial Best Life Starter Set ($10) has a worksheet to help you prep and plan. Use code “BFF” at checkout for 50% off.

    Hopefully, will help you put together an action plan to make achieving your financial goals a reality. The steps above are how I’ve been able to pay off $8,000 in 90 days, buy a home at age 26, and save to leave my full time job.

    The point is, if I can do it, so can you.


    *Jordann Brown contributed to this post.

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    • Peachy
    • February 3, 2019

    Adulting is super hard, especially when it comes to our finances. This post is really a great help for me. Your guidelines are practical and the goals achievable. Thanks!

    • Albeneth
    • February 3, 2019

    I agree with you as the advice is very brilliant. My financial goal for now is savings.

    • Harriet
    • January 31, 2019

    This is such an important article. Lack of financial discipline and planning has landed many a people in unfathomable debt.

    • DNN
    • January 28, 2019

    The mindset I’m in today I wish I was in 20 years ago when I was just learning about how to use the internet to start a business and achieve financial freedom. The good news is, there’s always a golden-egg opportunity to begin again and work toward achieving “personal financial goals,” with the “side hustle millionaire” mindset. 🙂

    • Anthony
    • January 26, 2019

    The importance of setting a quantifiable goal can’t be overemphasized. Vague goals are just a recipe for disaster. Great piece!

    • James Austin
    • January 24, 2019

    I really struggle managing my finances. I easily give in to my wants, but this year I really am making sure to focus on controlling my spending habits.

    • Tony
    • January 24, 2019

    Learned so much from this article. Yes, debt is really expensive. I will try to use these tips to help me with my financial management.

    • Buenaflor
    • January 24, 2019

    Wow amazing tips for those who cannot budget, like me. I read about this and tried a lot and so it work, I open my eyes in the morning to see things that I might need and want this is the best goal setter of all, A brilliant advice that can surely help everyone. Being a smart goal achiever is a very big opportunity and this gives me an open mind of how I should cherish opportunities and how important is building momentum.

    • Obalade Damilola
    • January 24, 2019

    You just opened my eyes to a lot of stuff I never knew before..I have never set a financial goal before.. I guess that’s why my finance is always falling into chaoas…thanks for your write up…if their is something that got stuck in my brain, it is the fact that I should set short term goals because so many things could change.Also,set achievable goals…Great share

    • thewanderrunner
    • January 24, 2019

    This makes ma want to do my financial goals this year!What a great blog sis!Thanks for these tips.

    • Grace K
    • January 24, 2019

    I will try this and see whether it will work. I am one person who sets new financial goals every new year and new months but never seems to accomplish them.

    • Scott Summers
    • January 23, 2019

    I always take the 70-30 approach!!! I mean 70 percent for all expenses and 30 percent for savings and all other stuff.So far it has not let me down so I am doing it.

    • Maury Cheskes
    • January 23, 2019

    Really refreshing article. I agree that visualizing your success is so instrumental in achieving what you want. I really love the idea of creating a vision board and being honest with yourself by setting goals that are ambitious, but also realistic and attainable. I also think you made a great point in that no one succeeds entirely by themselves and there’s nothing wrong with asking for a helping hand once in awhile. Rewarding yourself and giving yourself a pat on the back is also key for happiness and self-appreciation.

    • Danielle M
    • January 23, 2019

    Thank you very much for sharing all this information and your personal workbook. I’m trying to do the things better this year specially iin the financial área, and ill find your advices very helpful.

    • Pat
    • January 23, 2019

    Well detailed post about meeting financial goals. The requirements for setting financial goals which includes thoughtful consideration
    the actual setting of goals and the shoring up our money habits to give ourselves the best chances for success.should be highly considered when writing out financial goals.

    • Rae
    • January 23, 2019

    This blog is just the thing that I need! Good thing I stumbled upon this blog. I’ve been having a hard time managing my personal finance these past few days. That’s why thank you for the helpful tips!

    • berry
    • January 23, 2019

    This topic will be so timely I don’t think we can do a lot without setting financial goals. I need this topic and I will love to be a part of all the posts about this.

  1. Reply

    When you have goal to achieve is a little bit easier keep yourself focused on them, for example I’m into savings mood for holiday (I’m craving for a cruise in Greece) and save for a hoome deposit, this means have a budget and stick it and I must to admit I love to prove to my friends that is possible have a good social life also on a tiny budget:D

  2. Reply

    These are all great tips. Setting a quantifiable goal is really needed at it makes you more focused rather than being generally ok that you were able to pay of something, it will be more rewarding to see actual numbers.

    • Michelle
    • September 28, 2013

    Your point about setting a short (initial) time frame is so important. I love to set long-term goals but in order to achieve those goals I have to acknowledge that starting small is the only way I get anything done.

      • Jordann @ My Alternate Life
      • October 3, 2013

      Definitely! Setting long term goals can lead to all sorts of bad results – mostly because of procrastination.

    • Bryce @ Save and Conquer
    • September 27, 2013

    This method of setting short-term obtainable goals is not only good for reaching financial goals, but also for completing large long-term projects, either at work or home, as is mentioned in the comments, above.

    • Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans
    • September 27, 2013

    Big, vague goals are rarely accomplished. Nowadays, I try to make smaller, attainable steps that eventually lead to the bigger goal.

      • Jordann @ My Alternate Life
      • September 27, 2013

      That’s very smart of you, Lisa.

    • moneystepper.com
    • September 27, 2013

    Great tips. Setting goals using the “SMART” method really helps in actually achieving the goals that we set. However, “build momentum” is a great addition to this, and really helps. Set very achievable goals in the very short term, and very stretching goals in the long term.

    We, apparently, always set overestimate our short term progress and underestimate our long term.

      • Jordann @ My Alternate Life
      • September 27, 2013

      This is so true! I always try and use the SMART goal framework for my goal setting, but I think building momentum is so important, especially for first time goal setters.

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