Financial Wellbeing and literacy expert Frank Conway from Moneywhizz outlines the importance of setting financial goals.
A new year brings the opportunity for a new beginning. When it comes to your money, starting with a clean slate can yield a high degree of optimism and motivation to improve your financial wellbeing and put in place the ability to absorb sudden or unexpected shocks that may arise; think broken boiler, car repairs and ongoing surprise expenses.
Setting goals, especially financial ones offer many benefits. All you need is information and determination. And don’t worry, it’s not complicated. You already have all of the necessary information even if you can’t recall or locate it all right away. Once you have that, time and effort are needed to being it all together. Remember; when it comes to goals, achieving even the smallest ones can sometimes generate the greatest feelings of satisfaction.
Today, we’re answering some common goal-setting questions that arise at our financial wellbeing seminars that employers offer as part of their employee assistance progammes.
Why should I set goals?
First and foremost, having goals keeps you accountable. If you don’t commit to something, it’s easy to back out and pretend nothing happened. Having a goal makes it harder to do that.
Goals also help you prioritise what’s important to you in your career, health, personal life and your finances. Working towards a goal gives you focus and helps weed out distractions. In fact, even where your path to achieving your goals may get knocked off track, simply having goals written down, actually seeing them can really help you stay on track or get back if you suffer a disruption. On this point, it is important to have a little ‘down-time’ built in so that you are not hamstrung with an all-or-nothing approach. Having a purpose with your goal will drive you forward and motivate you as you achieve success along the way.
How do I set a good goal?
Being realistic in your goal setting process is key. There’s more to setting a goal than simply saying “I’m going to do ‘X’ “ without any time commitment or outcome objective.
Setting good goals improves your chances of success and good goals are SMART:
Specific: Drill down to details (the why and the what)
Measurable: Have a target to determine success (the what continued)
Action-oriented: Outline the steps or method you’ll use to get there (the how)
Realistic: Within the realm of possibility and reasonably within your control (the means)
Timely: Have a clear timeframe for achievement (when)
As an example, notice the difference between the following two goals:
- “I will save more money.”
- “I will build up a €1,000 emergency fund by putting €100 each month for a year into a savings account”
The second goal is SMART and after comparing the two, it’s easy to understand how being SMART with your goals will set you up for success. Notice how we factored in 2 months ‘down-time’. If you meet your goal in ahead of schedule congratulate yourself and look to the next goal.
How do I stay on track with my goals?
As we mentioned, a great benefit of creating goals is the motivation that comes along with achieving success no matter how small. Remember, ‘little wins’ this is where you start with smaller goals and achieving them can lead to far bigger wins later once you prove to yourself that a goal-setting process can deliver. A ‘little win’ might be little more than starting to save regularly. Or to increase a weekly savings amount by €20 by taking a packed lunch to work or cutting back on snacks or cooking at home more. Remember, it is important to have a process to regularly track your progress as this is key to your ongoing motivation.
Some people thrive off using visual cues so for those, it is important to keep a journal or a running list of updates in a notebook, or even using your smartphone to take regular photos to show yourself how far you’ve come. If it’s a savings account, take a photo of the balance increasing. If it’s a weight-loss goal, take a photo of the weighing scales. Whatever the goal is, create that visual log as your support.
If you’re tech savvy, there are also a growing number of apps and digital tools. Here, you will need to consider opting-in to receive regular notifications of your progress or when you reach a specific goal. These are all the many supports available to help you keep the motivation up!
Finally, we understand that goal-setting can be a very personal one. Some people prefer a go-it-alone approach while others prefer ‘company’. If you are in the latter camp, it can sometimes help to have others join you in a goal.
If it’s to save towards a holiday, perhaps one way you could use a ‘goal buddy’ is to replace a coffee purchase with a walk. Here, you could be doubling up on a financial and fitness goal. The walk replaces the coffee … and you get to save some money along the way. If this is not your approach, use the visual approach so that you can see your progress.
Frank Conway collaborates with Bank of Ireland on Financial Wellbeing and promoting financial literacy. He is a qualified financial adviser, founder of MoneyWhizz and chair of the Price Monitoring Group at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
Published: 27 January, 2020