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Have you ever had tried to fix your finances, all fired up and failed? (*raises my hand*)
Why? (Or rather, why not?)
There can be a myriad of reasons, but if I had to guess, I'd say constraints of some type stopped you from succeeding.
You may struggle with limited:
- Budget: We know we should save for emergencies, have something for retirement, and pay off our debts, especially high interest ones if we have any. However, we only have so much money in our account and bills to pay.
- Schedule: Between work, family, and sleep we might not have a ton of time to devote to working on another project.
- Energy/Willpower: With all of our responsibilities it can be easy to see it can be tiring to add more to our plate.
The good news? Even with these limits, you can succeed.
How to Focus and Prioritize Your Goals
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How can we take this scattershot approach to our dreams and instead laser focus our time, money, and energy towards our goals?
The critical piece is not trying to do everything at once.
Sounds simple, but speaking from experience, I know how hard it can be to prioritize your dreams.
Define Your Goal
Stuart Ritter, Certified Financial Planner at T. Rowe Price, believes that most people skip over a critical step – properly defining your goal.
To give you an idea of what he means by that, here are a few common goals I've heard or seen couples make:
- “We're going to buy a house in a few years.”
- “I'm going to save more for retirement after I get a raise.”
- “We're going to help our kid with college.”
Do you see a pattern here? While there is a good intention or purpose for the money, it's vague.
So how can you properly define it? Ritter pointed out that answering these three questions will help increase your chances of succeeding:
- What do you want to save or invest for?
- When do you need this money?
- How much will it cost?
With those answers, you can then find a suitable way to save and/or invest this money.
Figuring Out Your Numbers
Once you have your goal firmly in place, the next step is getting your numbers down. Even if you have a ballpark figure, you'll be ahead of most.
Go out on a money date. You two can sit down and chat about:
- How much do you need?
- What account will I use?
- How do I save/invest that money?
So how do you decide what mix of investments can help you reach your goals? I have a guide to understanding asset allocation and investing.
If you're looking for a concise overview, you can download or listen to my latest podcast with Stuart Ritter.
He did an amazing job taking me through the thought process and breaks down how your timeline determines your allocation and how you can implement your goals.
Keep Track of Your Progress with Personal Capital
By the way, if you're looking for a way to keep tabs on your finances and see how your net worth is growing, I suggest using a free tool like Personal Capital.
Once you are seeing the overview of your spending, you can hone in on problem areas with your budget. You can sign here and try them out.
Thoughts on Achieving Your Financial Goals
I'd love to hear from you on how you accomplished your financial goals. What was the turning point for you? What tools and resources helped you the most?