In a general sense, goal setting is a positive way to put yourself where you want to be in life. That’s why there has been so much press surrounding selfhelp books and vision boards. However, the how of goal setting is important. Like other goals, when setting financial goals, it’s important to not fall into common mistakes that can end up making achievement way harder.
Situation #1: Your Goal is Not in the Sweet Spot with An Action Plan
Setting financial goals is hard because they can end up being problematic if they’re too general or too specific. It’s essential to find the sweet spot in the middle. For example, if your goal is something like, “I want to be a millionaire,” it’s problematic because it’s not rooted in a game plan and is too general. On the other hand, a goal like, “I want to win the lottery on December 19 is too specific. Goals should be realistic, too.
If you set financial goals in a way that doesn’t zero in on what’s possible and how you can make it happen, you’ll end up being frustrated that nothing is happening and just wishing for a tomorrow that’s magically better. When it comes to setting financial goals (and achieving them), there isn’t a quick fix. It takes time, effort, commitment, and a set of smaller, manageable chunks to put you on your way.
Let’s say someone’s goal was to be financially independent. It can feel like a lot to accomplish in one fell swoop, but if it’s broken up into parts—like keeping a regular record of expenses and income and sticking to a budget with occasional splurges—then the experience is better overall.
Situation #2: You Set a Goal and Then Forget About It
The purpose of goals is to keep yourself motivated to improve yourself and your life at the same time. Though, it can be difficult to stay motivated and avoid falling into nonproductive patterns or routines. A goal isn’t valuable if it isn’t regularly in your head or worked toward. You’d just be in the same old place you started then.
So, when it comes to setting financial goals, you have to place your goal in your mind on a regular basis. Maybe that means placing a note with your goal as the background of your phone. Or maybe it means a sticky note at your desk, on your fridge, or in your planner (perhaps even all three). Other than words, you could come up with an image that relates to you goal, and place it all around the things you see. An image could be as simple as a flower or as complicated as an intricate pattern. All that matters is that it represents your goal for you.
Situation #3: You Rely on a Financial Resource that is Untrustworthy
We understand that navigating financial waters can be tricky. There are so many details and new stuff popping up that it can be difficult to stay up to date on the dos and don’ts of the financial world. If you’re not a huge finance buff, you don’t have to let it take up your entire mind; you should enjoy the stuff that you like, whether it’s theatre or sports.
But pretty much everyone needs money in order to survive and function in the world. It’s just a simple fact. For that reason, it’s important to have your head together and a focused eye on the options that you have in front of you. Sometimes when setting financial goals there can be setbacks. It happens, and it’s not something that indicates that you’re a failure.
When those setbacks or emergencies come, you need to be able to think quickly and tell if a possible financial solution could provide a good patch that helps you out in the long run. It’s important for borrowers to always look out for their best interests, and never go along with just anyone that offers them money or any type of investing. This means doing a little bit of research and reflection, both things a savvy borrower can do well.
If you don’t thoroughly read and understand what is in a contract, you open yourself up to a potential financial disaster down the road. Being prepared serves everyone well, no matter what his or her financial goal is.
For setting financial goals (and maintaining them), there should always be a focus on making a decision that takes your needs into account, as well as where you want to go.
Situation #4: A Goal That Isn’t Revised Based on New Information or Developments
Like the fact that we all need money to survive in the world, another constant (that is perhaps a little over said) is change. This idea was touched on a bit in the previous situation. When you have to overcome a new challenge or take action in a different way, there are times when a goal should be revised.
The reason for the revision doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on you. In fact, it’s the opposite. You’re acknowledging that there has been a change, and what you thought was a place you wanted to go isn’t the same as the place you want to go now. When it comes to setting financial goals, what is an example of when revision is necessary or should be considered?
Let’s say that your goal was to set $20 aside each week as a cushion. You’ve been doing it like clockwork for around half a year, and unexpectedly got a raise at work. With your previous salary, $20 was the absolute most you could sock away, but now more is possible, so why not bump it up to $40?
As another example, if your goal was to be financially independent in the span of two years, and while you made some great strides toward stability, you ran into a bump in the road. So maybe you would need to add another year or two onto your goal. We are works in progress, and the best way to gauge your progress is to be honest and not too hard on yourself. It doesn’t hurt to leave yourself some wiggle room with your goal, either.
Situation #5: You Have Too Many Goals
In our lives, we tend to do a lot of multitasking, and the idea of more being better sometimes seems like it’s a permanent cultural ideal. But there is such a thing as biting off too much. When that happens in the context of setting financial goals, it’s similar to when a person has forgotten in their goal in the first place based on the progress that’s made toward the goal. However, where it differs is the normal state of mind of the person who is setting goals.
In contrast to someone who pushing pursuing a goal to the wayside, a person with a ton of goals usually is hyperaware of them, but just has difficulty working toward them because it feels like there’s so much to do. This isn’t a good situation to be in at all.
When it comes to setting financial goals, you need to approach one or a few with a dedicated effort. Think about what you really, truly want to accomplish. What is in your heart of hearts? You might not come to an answer right away, and maybe you’d need to change goals and experience more before settling into goals that are most effective for you. It’s all a part of life.
Situation #6: You Base Your Goals on What Other People Want or External Validation
Setting financial goals is something that’s personal. While of course humans are driven by similar things are they’re likely to have similar goals if you compared them, this isn’t a situation where you should just put down what the person next to you is thinking. It is your goal (or goals), and if it isn’t a goal that rings true for you, it’ll be difficult to muster up enough enthusiasm to follow through with a couple action plan items, let alone cross the finish line of the goal.
So too, it is easy to set a goal that is driven by what other people think of you. It’s the whole idea of keeping up with the Joneses. But it has been shown time and time again that while competition can be healthy, comparing yourself to others can get unnecessarily frustrating and end up being an overall unpleasant experience.
When setting financial goals, all of them will be related to money in some capacity. That’s just in the genre of the type of loan, and there are bound to be similarities. But remember that you are on your own path, and your experiences aren’t a carbon copy of someone else’s. You have the room and the flexibility to explore and learn from your financial goals on your own timeline.
It’s been woven throughout this article—your goals are all about you. No one else is actually in your shoes except you, and you have the power to mold and change your life to your specifications.
Situation #7: You Don’t Lean on Others for Support
It’s true that it can end up being counterproductive to compare yourself to what other people are thinking or doing/accomplishing. Though, human interaction will always be important. And humans are great at supporting one another. When you’re in the process of setting financial goals and working to make them a reality, talk to your best friend, an adviser, or a family member.
This follows the same idea of any other goal, like having a buddy to go to the gym with to keep your accountable. It’s your decision how involved another person should be in your goal process. Maybe you just need an encouraging text message every once in awhile. Maybe you need a friend to enjoy splurging on occasion with. Maybe you need someone to check in with for motivation. Or maybe you know you need something else.
Really, mixing internal motivation with tangible encouragement from people in your life can make a tremendous positive difference. Support those around you to create an environment that makes you and those around you feel empowered.
The Bottom Line
Setting financial goals isn’t something that happens once and then you never have to deal with it again. Goal setting and goal achieving can end up being extremely productive as long as you dedicate your time and are open to new challenges. Additionally, you always need to be open to new experiences and regularly give yourself the opportunity to reflect. It can be handy to keep a journal to jot down your accomplishments and keep a record of your goal(s), as well as process how your everyday experiences impact the achievement of your goal. It can be interesting to look back on, and see how you’ve progressed.
Certainly it’s pretty much always nice to think about positive things and an end result that is stellar and fulfilling when you first approach setting financial goals. But be careful to not get lost in the idea of achieving your goal and simply fantasize about what your life would be like after you’ve done something significant. Sure, your imagination can be extremely motivating, but don’t let it stop you from taking action in the present moment. You have to put in work to get results; it’s true for all type of discipline, from physical to mental.
By asking yourself what goal or goals would be most helpful to set and making a commitment to yourself (and receiving support from others), you’re in an excellent place to turn your life around. Before you know it, you’ll have finished setting financial goals—and ended up with a credit score that is several points higher or just a new calmness about how you approach your finances. Don’t wait or let fear hold you back; you are capable of incredible success and fulfillment right now.