6 Keys to Setting and Reaching Financial Goals

It doesn’t matter what age you are or where you are in life you can start setting short-term and long-term financial goals. It is easy to think about financial goals, but it is not always easy to implement them. Some of the keys to success are setting tangible and realistic goals, sticking with a plan and tracking your progress. Make sure to include your spouse in any decisions if you are married. Here are some steps to get you started and keep you on track.

 

Discover Your Values

In order to set realistic goals, you need to know what your values are and what you hope to accomplish. This gives you something to base your decisions on. So, before you create a budget or cut your spending, sit down and write down your values and what you want your life to look like. Think about what your financial goals will allow you to achieve in other areas of your life.

 

Organize and Track Your Spending

It is hard to set goals when you don’t know where your money is going. It is important to have an idea of your average monthly income, your reoccurring monthly expenses and the total of any debts you have accrued. This also means managing your financial documents and your time.

Round up your bank statements, tax documents, credit card information, insurance policies and investment information. Organize these documents and put them in a safe place that is easy to reference. You should also collect personal documents like your birth certificate, marriage license, death certificates, divorce papers, copies of wills, etc., and put them in a safe deposit box or an equally safe place at home.

Tracking spending habits is one of those things many people struggle with.  Especially if they have difficulty saving money.  Tracking money is a habit that has to be developed.  A friend told me that financial guru Dave Ramsey suggests that you track your expenses by writing everything down that you spend or using an app to do the same thing.

But here is a better way.  Most large banks now have expense tracking software available on their online banking.  These tools allow you to know where your money is going by displaying the dollar amounts spent on categories like food, rent/mortgage, gas, and entertainment.

Many of these tools also display your spending habits using colorful graphs and you can even create budgets directly online.  Here are a few of the largest banks in America that have financial budgeting tools already available on their online banking.

Bank of America

https://www.bankofamerica.com/onlinebanking/financial-management-tools.go

Citi Bank

https://online.citi.com/US/JRS/pands/detail.do?ID=CitiFinancialTools

Wells Fargo

https://www.wellsfargo.com/online-banking/my-money-map/

PNC Bank

https://www.pnc.com/en/personal-banking/banking/checking/virtual-wallet.html

HSBC Bank

https://www.us.hsbc.com/1/2/home/personal-banking/pib/money-management-tools

BB&T Bank

https://www.bbt.com/online-access/online-banking/plan-and-analyze.page

Regions Bank

https://www.regions.com/help/online-banking-help/budget-and-planning-tools#

Budgeting

If you notice that you are eating out too much or spending more than you would like on entertainment, now is the time to start getting your spending into check. Create a budget. First, allocate money for all of your necessary expenses: insurance, rent, mortgage, phone service, cable, utilities, etc. Then, determine a percentage for different categories.

Maybe you allow yourself 5 percent of your income for entertainment and 5 percent for vacation. Take the time to review your budget each month to determine what is working and what isn’t. Keeping your pulse on your expenses helps you remember why you are making the financial decisions you are.

 

Insurance

When I was a Financial Advisor, I mostly focused on helping clients with investments like mutual funds, stocks and bonds.  However, I was required to have my insurance license as well.  This was primarily due to the fact that Financial Advisors help protect money by using insurance products.  Insurance is something I did not enjoy talking about but was a necessary part of having overall financial health.

Insurance is important. Some insurance coverage is even required by law. Seek out local insurance agents to help you determine what kinds of policies fit with your lifestyle and overall goals.

 

Set CLEAR Financial Goals

When I was a banker, when I asked people how much money they wanted to make or save, many would say “I don’t need to be rich, just enough to be comfortable”.  This answer would frustrate me because “comfortable” is not a number.  The key to having financial goals is to have a clear goal which is usually a dollar amount.

When setting financial goals, it is important to be clear on what those goals are.  How much do you need in savings?  How much debt is acceptable for you?  Do you need to start saving for your children’s education?  Keep in mind that financial goals change over time.

Make a point to get out of debt. Start saving for retirement. Set a goal for buying a house or going on a big vacation. Maybe you want to make a big career move. Write these goals down and develop a timeline and plan to reach them.

 

Track Your Progress

The best way to reach your goals is to track your progress. It can sometimes feel like you are getting nowhere. When determining budgets and spending plans, make your efforts trackable. That way you can see where you’ve been and where you are going.

Setting financial goals and reaching them is rewarding. It makes you feel more in control of your life. Don’t let your hard-earned money seep away through your fingers. Make intentional choices about your money. It will pay off in the long run.

 

 

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