How to Reach Your Financial Goals: 6 Tips

It’s great to have goals, but if don’t have a plan for how to pursue those goals, they can be hard to accomplish. This is especially true when it comes to financial goals. 

Maybe you want to become debt-free. Maybe you want to start seriously saving for retirement. Maybe you want to be able to pay for your children’s college education in the next five years. Great! But how do you plan to actually do it?

Whatever life you envision for yourself, creating a roadmap of sorts for how you’ll get there provides clarity and direction that will help you be successful. As a financial advisor in New Jersey, you see so many good intentions fall short because of a lack of direction. Our goal at Foran Financial Group is to help change that. 

Whether you’re just starting out or are preparing for retirement, the following 6 tips can help you get to where you want to be.

1. Put Your Goals Down on Paper

The first step in managing your financial goals is to write them down on paper. Set aside some time to really think about what you want to accomplish. Get really specific. For example, if a comfortable retirement is your ultimate goal, take it a bit further.

  • What day do you want to retire?
  • Where do you want to live? 
  • How do you plan to spend your time? 
  • How much money will you need? 
  • What do you need to take care of before you make the transition (healthcare, pay off your mortgage, etc.)?

Research shows that when you vividly write your goals down, you’re 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to achieve them. Why? Your goals suddenly become tangible objectives that you can reference instead of just ideas rolling around in your mind. 

If you then take that paper and post it somewhere prominent (stuck to your refrigerator, hung in your office at work or taped to the bathroom mirror), you have a visual reminder every single day of what you’re working toward. 

Are you on track to reach your financial goals? Contact Foran Financial Group to see how we can help.

2. Don’t Completely Restrict Yourself from Buying Things You Want

Once you write your goals down on paper, you may feel a rush of motivation to start working toward them. This motivation may cause you to really crack down on your spending and ruthlessly look for ways to save money. 

While this is a good thing, make sure you don’t restrict yourself too much. Accomplishing your financial goals is a marathon. If you don’t make room for things you want, you can lose steam and burn out before you ever reach the finish line. Unfortunately, as a financial advisor in New Jersey, we’ve seen this happen too many times.

When creating your budget, make sure to set aside money for items that will help you enjoy life along the way. This could be money to spend on a hobby, your favorite vacation spot or an occasional meal at a nice restaurant. Doing so will keep you energized as you work toward your goals and increase your chances of achieving them.

3. Create Specific Steps to Reach Each Goal

If you’ve ever gone on a road trip, then you know how important it is to plan ahead of time. You have to determine your route, decide how many hours you’ll drive each day, look up hotels along the way, and plan out what you’ll do once you reach your destination. 

The same is true for your finances. It’s important to create an outline for how you’ll reach your goals if you want to increase your chances of success. One way to do this is by making your goals SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

For example, a general goal might be, “I want to retire comfortably.” While this is a good place to start, it doesn’t really tell you what you need to do to achieve it.  

A SMART goal would be, “I already have $75,000 in my 401(k), but this isn’t enough to retire comfortably. Moving forward, I will max out my 401(k) by contributing $1,625 a month for a total of $19,500 a year. If I do this each year for the next 20 years, I can have more than $1 million when I retire, assuming a 7 percent annual return.”

If your general goal is to be debt-free, a SMART goal could be, “I want to pay off all of my debt ($60,000 in total) within 10 years. I will accomplish this goal by putting $500 toward my debt each month. I will make this happen by saving my bonus each quarter and cutting back on eating out.”

This can be a difficult process to navigate on your own. What are the specific numbers based on your situation? Have you considered inflation, taxes, interest rates, market volatility? Luckily, Foran Financial Group can help. Our team is experienced in helping young investors just getting started as well as seasoned professionals with more complex financial needs. The key is starting the conversation.

4. Create a Financial Calendar

You likely have multiple goals you want to accomplish. Plugging all of your milestones into a financial calendar can help you visualize and keep track of it all. 

For example, suppose you want to max out your 401(k) for the year, start saving for your child’s college, and pay off the rest of your student loans. Your financial calendar may look like this: 

January

  • Contribute $1,625 in pre-tax dollars to my 401(k)
  • Make sure I take full advantage of my employer’s match
  • Save $100 in my daughter’s 529 Savings Plan
  • Pay an extra $200 toward my student loan balance

February

  • Update my estate plan beneficiaries
  • Contribute $1,625 in pre-tax dollars to my 401(k)
  • Save $100 in my daughter’s 529 Savings Plan
  • Pay an extra $200 toward my student loan balance

March

  • Put 50 percent of my tax return in savings and the other 50 percent toward my loans
  • Contribute $1,625 in pre-tax dollars to my 401(k)
  • Save $100 in my daughter’s 529 Savings Plan
  • Pay an extra $200 toward my student loan balance

Again, a financial advisor can help. At Foran Financial Group, we help clients establish and track specific steps needed to reach their individual financial goals.

5. Keep Your Savings Out of Your Checking Account

As financial advisors in New Jersey, we often see savings goals go awry when money is not separated or specifically earmarked – it’s there; why not spend it? One trick that we’ve seen that helps is keeping your savings “out of sight, out of mind.” Another trick is making investment contributions automatic. The more you can put on autopilot, the less you’ll have to convince yourself not to spend certain money. Having to manually move money each month can be difficult emotionally. 

See if your bank allows you to set up direct deposit so money automatically reroutes to your savings account each time you get paid. If you have other retirement or investment accounts outside of your 401(k), set up automatic payments for those as well, if possible. 

Make note: This doesn’t mean you should take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to saving and investing! Make sure to review your plans at least once a year to make sure it still makes sense and your goals haven’t changed.

6. Enlist the Help of an Accountability Partner

What better accountability partner than a professional financial advisor you trust? At Foran Financial Group, we believe a financial advisor should serve as your support system and motivator as you work toward your life goals. 

Think of a financial advisor as a personal trainer for your finances. A financial advisor can:

  • Help you set clear, realistic goals
  • Keep you challenged and motivated as you work toward those goals
  • Help you “avoid injuries” by spotting financial pitfalls you need to watch out for
  • Serve as your sounding board when you need advice on what to do next
  • Offer outside, objective advice if you start to drift off course
  • Help you adjust your goals as life changes (Has COVID-19 changed your goals?)

In many cases, a financial advisor can be the key to achieving success, especially if you struggle to stay motivated or simply don’t know where to start with your financial goals.

retirement post-COVID-checklist

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The financial professionals associated with Foran Financial Group may discuss and/or transact business only with residents of the states in which they are properly registered or licensed. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident of any other state.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.