9 SMART Personal Financial Goals to Increase Your Net Worth
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If your New Year’s resolutions for 2021 go past existence in survival mode, I’m willing to bet you have a financial goal in there somewhere. And this is good, as it shows you’re thinking beyond the present and preparing for a time in the future when life feels a little less restricted.
The unique thing about financial goals is that they spill over into many other “goal” areas of your life. Want to retire early? Look at your finances. Own a boat in the next five years? Finances. Travel the world? Finances.
In order to be successful in these other areas of your life, you will need to focus on your financial health.
That said, it’s critical to determine how you define success in order to create your financial goals. What do you see when you visualize your ideal future, and how can you organize your money in a way that will help you move in that direction? Once you know where you’re trying to go, you can start creating personal financial objectives that will support your other long-term goals.
What do you want to ultimately accomplish? Do you want to get out of the professional arena at a young age and spend the rest of your days seeing the world? If so, you better focus on saving as much as you can and setting your retirement money up in a way that will make it grow on its own. Or, do you want to live a simple life and retire to your family-owned cottage in the mountains with your spouse? If so, you may not need to push yourself to save as much as immediately as you would in scenario #1.
No matter what, if you’re ultimately trying to live an intentional life with your loved ones, this will be hard to accomplish without some type of financial security.
Whatever your goals are in life–both short- and long-term–think about how you will finance them. Without intentionally setting your financial trajectory, you may never be able to conquer the other things in life that you want to achieve.
If you want to establish a secure financial situation for yourself, you first must understand that the health of your finances should not be taken lightly. Staying on top of your fiscal matters is a critical first step in living independently. So don’t jump on board with the 92% of resolutioners who don’t reach their goals. Instead, make your goals SMART so your success will be essentially guaranteed.
In this article, we are going to look at 9 examples of personal SMART goals you can use to help increase your net worth. But first, let’s look more at what SMART goals are and how they can guide you in a direction toward success.
What You Will Learn
- What Is a SMART Goal?
- How to Start Setting SMART Personal Financial Goals
- 9 SMART Personal Financial Goals to Increase Your Net Worth
- Final Thoughts on SMART Personal Financial Goals
What Is a SMART Goal?
The SMART acronym outlines the five characteristics that every well-written goal statement should include. When you apply this framework to your goals, you will be able to recognize if any of your goals are out of reach or if you could push yourself a bit more. You will also be able to see what steps you need to take before you start to work on your goals so you’re not setting yourself up to fail.
S = Specific
When creating your financial goals, you need to be very precise about what you want to ultimately achieve. This first step acts as your mission statement for your goal. Consider the following:
There will be no question as to whether or not you achieved your goal if it’s specific enough.
M = Measurable
When your goal is measurable, you will be able to determine your progress every step of the way. One trick to figuring out if your goal is measurable is to ask yourself what your half-way point is. If your goal is to save a lot of money, you can’t tell when you’re half-way there because the goal isn’t measurable.
What metrics will you use to determine your progress? If you have a savings goal that will take six months to achieve, set a milestone to reach at each month to keep yourself motivated and to make sure you’re making proper progress along the way. This way, if you reach month 4 and you haven’t saved a dime, you will know it’s time to revisit your goal.
A = Achievable
Do you have all of the tools and skills you need to achieve your goal? Is there another goal you need to meet first? You don’t want to create a goal of saving $500 per month if you only have $200 of disposable income after all of your bills are paid–that’s not achievable.
Your goal should require you to step outside of your comfort zone, but it should not be impossible.
R = Relevant
This is where your Why comes in. Your SMART goals need to be relevant to your long-term vision in order to motivate you.
Attach a reason to each of your goals, such as: I will save $100 out of every paycheck so I can…
…or whatever it may be that is prompting you to save money. If your goal isn’t relevant, you’re not likely to stick with it if you hit an obstacle.
A 2019 study found that making an emotional connection to a financial goal can help boost motivation. For example, if your goal is to pay off debt so you can put money into your child’s college fund each month, keeping a picture of your child next to your credit card can help you think twice before making unnecessary purchases, therefore protecting your progress toward your goal. The researchers found that seeing something that is more important than the imminent purchase (such as a picture of your child) can override one’s natural impulse to buy new things.
T = Time-Bound
It isn't effective to create a goal and say you will accomplish it someday. Think about all of the things you’ve promised yourself you will do someday. I know my garage is still waiting to be organized, I haven’t crossed the finish line of a triathlon, and that old friend I ran into a year ago is still waiting for us to set up a lunch date. These are all things I was going to do someday.
There should be a specified deadline for your goal to put some pressure on you to get to work. Having a target date is critical–and it’s good to know what your half-way point is also. This will give you a sense of urgency, and it will give you some extra motivation in case you need it.
How to Start Setting SMART Personal Financial Goals
You can only set your personal financial goals once you know what your future needs and aspirations are. From there, it’s relatively easy to put financial goals into the SMART goal format because you’re working with definite numbers and not just ideas or feelings that can be hard to measure. This makes it easy to track your progress and know if you have achieved your goal.
You can set SMART goals for your short- mid- and long-term financial goals. Start by writing down things that you (and your family) may want to do or buy in the future–no matter how reasonable it seems. You can prioritize and weed out some ideas later, but first, just do some brainstorming.
You likely won’t be able to complete all of the goals that you list, so it’s important to be able to prioritize it.
What do you want your life to look like in 20 years? What does success mean to you and what does it entail? Living in a paid off home? Retiring at 50? Buying a second home? Traveling the world?
Based on where you are now, where do you want to be in three to five years? What are some things you want to accomplish? Build an emergency fund of six months’ of expenses? Pay off a large debt? Save up for a down payment on a house? Get a degree?
Think about the plans you have for the upcoming year and anything new you would like to start. Do you want to go on vacation this summer? Buy a new washer/dryer? Take a class? Pay off a store credit card?
You can create a firm savings plan for each of the financial goals that you’ve come up with by reassessing your spending habits and prioritizing what you do with your disposable income.
Now, let’s look at 9 examples of SMART goals that you can use to increase your net worth.
9 SMART Personal Financial Goals to Increase Your Net Worth
1. Eliminate Credit Card Debt
“I will pay off my $2,400 credit card balance within six months to avoid being charged any interest by only drinking coffee from home and picking up an extra shift at my part-time job in order to put $400 per month toward the bill.”
Specific: To pay a $2,400 credit card balance to $0.
Measurable: Pay $400 per month for six months.
Attainable: This is an attainable and reasonable goal.
Relevant: While financing something and spreading out payment into monthly installments, no one wants to pay extra for interest, which makes this goal relevant.
Time-Bound: The deadline for this goal is in six months.
2. Build an Emergency Fund
“I will build an emergency fund by putting aside six months’ worth of expenses within the next year. I will start this fund by decluttering my home and having a yard sale and I will continue to add to it with the income I will earn from a second job. This way, I won’t need to worry about a financial emergency.”
Specific: To build an emergency fund
Measurable: Put aside six months’ worth of income within one year
Attainable: This is an attainable goal for anyone who is motivated to live without looming financial troubles.
Relevant: This goal is relevant to anyone.
Time-Bound: The deadline for this goal is in one year.
3. Invest in Index Funds
“I will save $3,000 to make an initial investment in an index fund that has an expense ratio of 0.5% within the next four months. I will then set up automatic contributions of $50 per paycheck in order to diversify my savings. I will do this by holding off on my other savings for the four months I’m saving up for the index fund.”
Specific: To save $3,000 to put into an index fund.
Measurable: Open an index fund with $3,000 in the next four months.
Attainable: This is an attainable goal and can be adjusted for one’s individual savings abilities.
Relevant: This is a relevant goal for anyone who wants to save long-term.
Time-Bound: The deadline for this goal is in four months.
4. Save for Retirement
“This month, I will set up my 401K through my employer with a contribution of 6% of my salary. I will do this in order to maximize my company’s matching policy .”
Specific: To put 6% of one’s salary into a 401K.
Measurable: Open a 401K plan by the end of the month.
Attainable: This is an attainable goal for those who work for a company who offer a matching policy for retirement funds.
Relevant: This is a relevant goal for anyone who is saving for retirement.
Time-Bound: The deadline for this goal is at the end of the month.
5. Make More Money
“I will secure a second source of income through a part-time job by April 30 in order to increase my monthly savings by $500 per month.”
Specific: To get a part-time job to be able to save an additional $500/month.
Measurable: Get a job by April 30 to put $500/month more into savings.
Attainable: This is an attainable goal and can be adjusted as needed.
Relevant: This is a relevant goal for anyone who wants to save money.
Time-Bound: The deadline for this goal is April 30.
“I will refinance my home within 90 days in order to take advantage of the current lower interest rates and reduce my monthly mortgage payment.”
Specific: To save money on interest by refinancing a mortgage.
Measurable: This will be done in the next 90 days.
Attainable: This is an attainable goal for homeowners.
Relevant: This is a relevant goal for people who are paying a mortgage.
Time-Bound: The deadline for this goal is in 90 days.
7. Gain Financial Education
“I will read at least six personal finance books this year to improve my knowledge about saving money and learn about any missed opportunities that I can take advantage of.”
Specific: To read six books on personal finance by the end of the year.
Measurable: Read six books in 12 months.
Attainable: This is an attainable goal and can be adjusted for one’s individual wants or needs.
Relevant: This is a relevant goal for anyone who has a personal interest in their money.
Time-Bound: The deadline for this goal is the end of the year.
8. Own Your Home
“I will make two mortgage payments per month for the remainder of this year in order to pay down the principal and be free and clear of my loan within 8 to 11 years.”
Specific: To pay down the principal of the mortgage by making two payments per month.
Measurable: Make an extra payment at least twelve times (one extra per month during the year).
Attainable: This is an attainable goal for those who have the extra income and want to make this a priority.
Relevant: This is a relevant goal for anyone who owns a home.
Time-Bound: The deadline for this goal is at the end of each month and at the end of the year.
9. Protect Your Assets
“I will buy enough disability insurance by January 31 to replace my income, should an incident occur that prevents me from working.”
Specific: To sign up for/buy disability insurance.
Measurable: Enough to cover one’s income, which will vary.
Attainable: This is an attainable goal for anyone who is working.
Relevant: This is a relevant goal for anyone who depends on their full-time income to live.
Time-Bound: The deadline for this goal is January 30.
Final Thoughts on SMART Personal Financial Goals
Knowing your financial goals and putting them into the SMART format will get you on the path to a stable financial future. However, because we have all experienced the volatility of the economy and the job market, make sure your financial goals can be flexible and have some room for uncertainty.
Set aside time once or twice a year to go over your income, spending habits, and goals. Doing regular financial checkups will help ensure that your goals are well-informed, realistic, and relevant to your current wants and needs in life.
Adhering to your budget may be difficult at times, but as with most things, you will get better at it with time and experience. Practice making SMART goals like the ones outlined in this article to stay one step ahead of economic uncertainties and start increasing your net worth.
Connie Stemmle is a professional editor, freelance writer and ghostwriter. She holds a BS in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her 4-year-old daughter, running, or making efforts in her community to promote social justice.