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If you want to achieve your dreams, the act of setting financial goals is vital. How can you comfortably purchase a home, retire or even go on vacation without a financial goal in place? But, it doesn’t have be a challenge all the time. Sometimes, it’s just about staying focused and avoiding the setback that could derail you completely.
Thankfully, you can use the following eight tips to not only set but stick to any financial goal that you have in mind.
Tips to stay focused on your financial goals
1. Set small, achievable goals
“It can be hard to think of the future at this time, and that’s OK,” writes Melina Duffet for One Main Financial. “Rather than saving for a lofty goal, like a new car, start small with something you know you can achieve, like saving an extra $20 a week.”
You could also use your calendar app or phone to set up automated alerts. Even better? Initiate automated weekly deposits into your savings account so you’re always paying yourself first.
2. Know your why
This isn’t just reserved for achieving financial goals: It’s a proven tactic you can employ for any goal that you set. Knowing this makes it easier to tap into intrinsic motivation.
What exactly is intrinsic motivation? It’s nothing more than doing something because you truly want to. For you, it’s a priority, regardless of what external forces are coercing you to so.
3. Build goals into your budget
Despite your misconceptions, budget isn’t a filthy word. In fact, it’s important if you want to reach goals like keeping your spending in check, building an emergency fund or shoring up your financial future.
More specifically, when you know how much money is coming in and what your expenses are, you know how much you can allocate to your financial goal. And because a good budget is both realistic and flexible, you can alter it as needed.
For example, maybe you were concerned that you couldn’t absorb a $1,000 emergency, which is something only around half of Americans can do. To address this situation, you could add $50 to your monthly budget. It will take you 20 months to build up your emergency nest. But for most of us, we could easily swing this addition to our budget.
Want to make your financial goals more tangible? Set up a dedicated account for it, and don’t forget to label it.
For example, if you’re saving for a new vehicle, then you could name the savings account after the make and model. I think setting up automated deposits, as discussed previously, would help you go the extra mile — yes, the pun was intended.
Besides ensuring that you don’t spend this money, it’s always a pleasant surprise to randomly check your account and see how far you’ve gotten.
5. Schedule quarterly reviews.
At the same time, I wouldn’t obsessively check your savings. In most cases, there really isn’t much of a difference from last week’s balance to today. And, if you notice that, it can be frustrating.
This is particularly true when it comes to heftier financial goals. For instance, a Tesla Model S will set you back close to $70,000 — if you want to pay in cash. If you’re just starting out, that may seem like an impossible dream.
But, if you divided that into quarterly milestones, which would be every three months, it seems more manageable. And if you’re content with leasing your Model S, then you need just over $6,000 down. So, your quarterly goal could be $1,500. That sounds within reach now, right?
What’s more, this gives you a chance to update your goals and evaluate your performance. If you’ve fallen behind, for example, you’ll have to take steps to get back on track.
6. Keep emotions from distracting you.
When it comes to stress, money can be a dominant source. In fact, according to Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning and Progress Study, a good portion of Americans “consistently experience a range of negative emotions such as:
- Anxiety (54%): 25% “all the time” or “often”
- Insecurity (52%): 24% “all the time” or “often”
- Fear (48%)
If you’ve ever experienced any of these emotions, then it can be difficult to keep your eyes on the proverbial prize. The good news is that you do have the superpower to cope with these negative emotions.
“Sadness increases the amount of money we’re willing to spend and makes us impatient, Harvard University researcher Jennifer Lerner and her colleagues found,” writes Liz Weston, who goes on to advise, “Exercise, time spent outdoors, or hanging out with a comforting friend will provide more relief. If you can’t shake your sadness, you may be suffering from depression and should seek treatment.”
Are you angry?
When you feel this way, you might take bigger risks or dig in your heels, refusing to admit mistakes. Work on your patience and give yourself space before making an impulse decision. You may also want to turn to a third party, such as a financial or robo-advisor.
Fear can make us exaggerate risks rather than discount them. It can also make us second-guess decisions. A financial planner can help us with our fears and allow us to stay the course.