It takes extreme discipline, dedication and repeated sacrifice.
It takes setting short and long term financial goals and then following through on promises to yourself.
All things the majority of Americans seem to struggle with. Fortunately, research suggests that simply jotting down a list of financial goals makes you 42% more likely to achieve them.
Not bad for merely putting pen on paper.
Every once in a while Lady Luck steps in and changes someones life…odds are that person won’t be you. Don’t be the person who indefinitely waits on her as your basis for achieving financial success. That’s akin to holding out on that impending lottery win we all feel coming, but never actually does.
Being able to afford a house, your kids’ college tuition, and retiring comfortably-ever-after, will most likely be on you.
Lucius Seneca’s quote is as true today as it was in ancient Rome:
For those of you who are still lost:
It means you’re responsible for creating your own luck.
By having a clear financial road-map and setting realistic financial goals, opportunities for success are more likely to arise.
If your personal finances are in ruin, or you’re simply looking for ways to save more money, check out our list of personal financial goals examples below. Many goal setting activities you can start today.
1. Build an emergency fund
No money goals are worth having if losing your place of shelter becomes a very real possibility.
Since it’s all but impossible to know what life will throw at you, it becomes important to have a little extra stashed away at all times. An emergency fund is “an account used to set aside funds needed in the event of a personal financial dilemma, such as the loss of a job, a debilitating illness or a major expense.”
Most experts recommend putting away at least 3 months of living expenses into said account – and more if you can afford to do so.
2. Get out of debt
If getting out of debt wasn’t your first priority, it should be. That’s not to lessen the importance of anything else on a list of financial goals, its merely to highlight just how damaging debt can be to achieving financial independence.
Don’t become a victim to a vicious loop of minimum payments and accrued interest. Putting it off only makes it harder to eliminate, and worse yet, you may end up trashing your credit score in the mean time.
Jeff Rose, a certified financial planner at Good Financial Cents, lists some no brainer reasons for getting out of debt:
- Getting out of debt means that you’ll have full control over your income
- It will leave you with more money for savings and investing – and even more for spending
- It will make it easier to quit a job you don’t like
- It will free your mind of the worry and stress that come with debt
3. Keep accurate records
If merely writing down your goals makes you 42% more likely to achieve them, it goes without saying that accurately tracking your spending creates a further sense of accountability. By creating a money journal of sorts, you can track past successes (and failures), learn from your mistakes, and identify areas for improvement.
Plus tracking your goals becomes a breeze because you have reference points and objective data from which to draw conclusions.
J. Money of Budgets Are Sexy doesn’t keep a journal…but he does track his net worth via his blog where readers are welcome to follow along. The blog also makes him several thousand dollars per year (hint: not a bad idea).
4. Create (and follow) a budget plan
Have you ever actually sat down and tried to create a budget? Apparently 32% of you have – or at least that’s what the results of a recent Gallup poll would suggest.
And that’s a good thing.
For the the other 68% however, what is stopping you? Taking the time to categorize your spending can be a huge eye opener. If the majority of your spending is in the housing/car/loans section vs the latte, Dolce, and Rolex department you’re on the right track.
A good budgetary guide is the 50/20/30 rule. 50% essential spending (rent, transportation, utilities) – 20% towards personal financial goals (saving or paying off debt) – and 30% is flexible (expenses that can vary from month to month, like eating out, groceries, shopping, hobbies, entertainment, or gas).
5. Improve your credit score
One of the more popular items on our list of financial goals is how you can improve your credit score.
The good news? It may not be as hard as you think. The bad? It’s one of those long term financial goals that’s going to take some time.
Get an idea of what your score is by checking it for free with Credit Sesame.
If you’re in a hurry these 4 things can help raise your score quickly:
- Pay off a chunk of your balance to reduce your utilization ratio (UR)
- Ask for a limit raise – ironically a limit raise can also reduce UR
- Correct report errors – according to the FTC nearly 20% of credit reports contain errors
- Join an existing account of another card holder (further reduces UR and their score may give you a boost)
6. Avoid large unnecessary purchases
This one is pretty self explanatory but continues to be a huge money problem for many people. If you’re netting $1200/month after taxes, you cannot afford a $450.00 monthly car payment (think 50/20/30 rule under #4 above) no matter how bad you want that new Camaro.
If you’re falling deeper into debt with each passing month, there will come a point in time where you may have to accept that the brand new iPhone X that you want so bad will have to wait just a tad bit longer…and that the 7 Plus you still have operates just fine.
Define what is important to you and cut out the rest. Do you need that brand new ATV you saw at Bass Pro? Do you need that new handbag you saw on “sale” at T.J. Maxx? Or do you merely want them? Turning down something you want may be hard but its that sort of discipline you need to truly change your financial outlook.
7. Save on utilities
Just because you have to spend money on utilities doesn’t mean you have to spend that much on utilities.
Look for ways to save electricity and slash your heating/cooling costs.
Reduce your cable bill and get rid of infrequently used paid channels (like HBO/sports packages).
Be frugal. You can save hundreds of dollars each month by cutting costs on mandatory expenses.
8. Get a side hustle
Ah yes, the now famous side hustle. Have you heard of it? If you haven’t, you’re clearly falling behind the times. As of 2017, 44 million Americans have one – and of those that do, 36% report making $500.00 (or more) per month from theirs.
How does an extra $500 a month sound to you?
Some of the more popular side hustles out there at the moment are paid surveys, mystery shopping and blogging. If you’d like to try your hand at paid surveys check out Survey Junkie and Swagbucks.
If you’ve got a knack for telling stories you can start your own blog with HostGator in as little as 10 minutes (and for less than $3/month). Trade a cup of coffee for your own business that could earn over $25,000/month? Seems like a no-brainer.
9. Read 3 personal finance books
Make it one of your short term financial goals to read a good book or two – knowledge truly is power!
Don’t just take it from us, there are lots of places out there to find quality information on reaching your smart financial goals.
Some must reads are:
10. Learn a new skill
If you’re actively choosing to stay the same – to do nothing to change your circumstances – nothing will change.
You have to want that change.
Learning a new skill provides just that opportunity.
Better yourself in your workplace. Switch your area of expertise entirely. In the 21st century there are ample opportunities to learn a second skill at home all the while holding down a full-time job. It’s often time consuming, and a lot of hard work goes into it, but at some point in the future you’ll be better equipped to take on new (and perhaps better paying) responsibilities.
Caitlin Pyle of ProofreadAnywhere made over $43,000 by working as a freelance proofreader…in her spare time. When she wasn’t working, she even had time to go on several fun vacations.
After she had a ton of success doing that, she decided she wanted to teach others how to do the same thing, so she started up Proofread Anywhere.
Sign up for her free workshop to learn more about making money as a proofreader.
I’m a huge fan of goals 11-15 because they all pertain to automation.
Know what’s great about automation? It directly addresses the one thing most often responsible for ruining your finances:
Financial automation is a beautiful thing. It doesn’t
often make mistakes. It takes the human (emotion-based) part of money attachment out of the equation. It operates with objective efficiency.
Your primary goal: automate your finances in 2 ways in the next 30 days.
Some ideas for automating your finances include:
11. Set up appropriate overdraft protection
Nothing is more reckless than paying a $35 fine and chalking it up to another loss because you bounced your checking account and it was a simple mistake.
Ten minutes at your local branch and one signature later you can link your savings account to your checking to have a little added cushion in case things are getting tight.
12. Set a loan in repayment to auto-pay
Lenders often offer a reduced interest rate on loans merely for setting up auto-pay.
Rather than write a check to the lender each month, they’ll automatically deduct the loan payment from a linked checking or savings account.
I shaved .25% off the interest rate of my vehicle (and student) loan with this exact method.
13. Automate your savings
Employers almost always have a method of splitting your direct deposit into multiple accounts should you request it.
Draft a budget and determine an amount you’d like to place into savings – then ask (normally it’s a simple form) your employer to allot a certain percentage of your paycheck to a high-yield savings account that is separate from your traditional spending account.
The reduced easy of access to the money helps you resist the urge to spend.
14. Automate your investing
Technology has come a long way in the 21st century.
Simple smartphone apps such as Acorns (now offering a free $5 signup bonus) or Stash are completely automated, and take care of investing and saving money for you.
15. Set bills to autopay
If you’ve set up a reasonable budget, then setting your bills to auto-pay is a great way to save you time, money and hassle.
No more utilities threatening to cute services for missed payments. No more credit hits for forgetting to pay your credit card bills on time. Just peace of mind knowing your bills are paid on time, and in full, each and every month.
An hour worth of work eliminates a lifetime of headaches. And, as previously mentioned, companies often incentivize users to sign up for auto-pay by advertising reduced rates and discounts on future products – you’re going to have to pay your bill eventually – why not get a discount for doing it automatically?
Every little bit counts.
16. Focus on your health
According to CMS.gov the average American spent $10,345 on healthcare in 2016.
Keep in mind that’s an average, but still, that’s an incredible amount of money to spend annually on staying in good health.
Choosing a healthy lifestyle can reduce your overall spending and keep you living a happy, wealthy life.
If you’re looking to lose a few pounds consider checking out HealthyWage. They’ll even pay you to lose weight. The only catch? You owe them if you don’t reach your goals. We don’t advocate being reckless with your money but if you’re looking for a little extra motivation, and think a few bucks on the line will keep you honest, you can win up to $10,000.
17. Eliminate expensive habits
If the ATF dealt with gambling they’d be regulating the quadfecta of things that often deal a devastating blow to your take home pay (pun intended).
Alcohol, tobacco, firearms and gambling – the four things we just can’t stay away from. They’re all addicting to various degrees and they’re all pretty expensive (no really, per the ATF the average American household owns 8.1 guns – at several hundred to even a few thousand dollars a piece, we’re talking a lot of money).
Check out these surprising figures:
- The average smoker spends over $2,000/year ($5,000+ in NY).
- The average adult spends over $500/year on alcohol.
- US households spend $162 yearly on lotteries on average; for low-income households, the figure is $289 and for those who make less than $10,000 it’s $597, or around 6% of their yearly income.
If you’re working a full-time, minimum wage job (or close to it) and wonder where all of your money is going, start by looking here.
18. Get more organized
Tools like Personal Capital can help you track and organize your finances.
They offer the most advanced technology in personal finance. You can get a transparent view into all of your financial accounts through the Personal Capital Dashboard, coupled with expert advice and financial planning services, all in real time.
The massive benefit here is that you get a much better view of your overall financial health. From net worth tracking, to fee elimination, and retirement planning, achieving your goals becomes a lot easier when you don’t need nine separate logins on different services just to get an idea of your balances.