We all dream about what we want to do and what we want to achieve. From going on a vacation, paying off debt, putting money away for our child’s education or having enough money set aside for retirement; these dreams become our goals and like most things, have a financial component to them. 

Unsure of where to start? Taking the time to set goals will provide you with an understanding of your big picture. It allows you to figure out what’s important to you, focus on priorities and analyze your needs vs. your wants. Below you will find some advice on creating realistic and achievable financial goals, helping you make tomorrow, today.

Creating Goals

There are three types of goals:

  1. Short-term Goals: These are goals that you can achieve in a short amount of time – less than one year – and can include things such as a minor home renovation, paying off a credit card or starting an emergency fund. These goals can also be shorter goals that contribute to a larger, long-term goal such as starting to put a small amount of money away for retirement.
  2. Intermediate Goals: These goals take a bit longer to achieve – between one to five years. Saving money for a down-payment on a home or saving for a family vacation are great examples that may fit into this category.
  3. Long-term Goals: These goals tend to be longer – 10+ years. These goals are often re-assessed throughout the course of their timeframes to ensure you’re on track and often are adjusted due to changing situations/environments. Some examples of long-term goals may include saving for your child’s education, paying off a student loan or saving enough money to retire.

Now that you know the different types of goals, write down your short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals for 2018. When making a list think about things such as:

  • What makes you happy? (e.g., family, vacation)
  • What makes you stressed? (e.g., credit card debt)
  • What do you wish you had? (e.g., new furniture)
  • What things do you like doing? (e.g., traveling, spending time with friends)
  • Where do you see yourself in one year? (e.g., taking a hot vacation) Five years? (e.g., having a down payment for a home) Ten years? (e.g., having my student loans paid off)
  • What does having overall financial well-being mean to you? (e.g., understanding my money and not having to worry if I'll have enough when I retire.)

When setting your goals include specifics, such as costs and timelines. Also look to see if your goals are realistic and achievable. Small goals are easier to reach and help train your brain into believing you can achieve it. This can also increase your chance of success in future goals. Below is an example of how you can take the things important to you and group into short-term, intermediate and long-term goals.

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

Once you have your goals written and organized, it’s time to prioritize. This will help you understand what’s most important and where you should focus your time, money and energy.

Though it is great to have lots of goals, actually achieving them all may be difficult. You must take a look at your goals and ensure they’re also realistic and achievable when you look at them all together. It’s important to set yourself up for success and work within your means.

Prioritizing will also allow you to make any adjustments needed to make these goals achievable. When prioritizing ask yourself:

  • If you could only achieve one of these items, which one would it be?
  • Are there any goals on my list that are needs vs. wants?
  • How long do I have to achieve this goal – is that a must or can it be adjusted?
  • Can I break any of my larger goals into smaller goals?
  • Can I put a hold on any of these goals and begin working on only once I have completed another goal?

When prioritizing and making adjustments, be aware of how achieving these goals will impact your finances now. Online calculators can help you understand exactly what you need to do now to achieve your goal within your timeline. Depending on your current financial situation and the impact your goal will have (e.g., monthly contributions), you may need to re-adjust or plan your goals differently.

Team Effort

If you are married or have a significant other in which you share financial responsibilities with, it’s essential you work together when creating your financial goals. Work together to develop a list of goals and discuss what’s a priority and what’s not. Together, determine what is achievable and ensure you’re on the same page – if not, you could be setting yourself up for failure. Once set, be each other’s motivation and hold each other accountable to help ensure success.

Talk to Your Financial Advisor

The most important thing you can do once you’ve created and prioritized your list of goals is to talk with your financial advisor. They will be able to provide you with advice on your goals and help you look at the big picture. They may also identify any obstacles that impact you reaching these goals and provide guidance on what types of adjustments can be made. Your financial advisor will also be able to tell you which products, such as RRSPs, Tax-Free Savings Accounts, mutual funds, etc., you should consider helping contribute towards your success.

When it comes to kick-starting your finances, start off by understanding what’s important to you and what you want to achieve with your finances.  Create short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals and prioritize accordingly. Once you’re done, make an appointment with your financial advisor to discuss and determine what tools and resources are available to help you succeed. Don’t have a financial advisor, no worries – you can request financial advice here.

Now it’s all up to you. Make tomorrow, today by setting your 2018 financial goals and completing Challenge #1 of our Kick-Start Your Finances challenge. Be sure to come back next week for Challenge #2 where we’ll be digging into how to understand your money and where it goes. Stay tuned.