The new year often brings a feeling of renewal and rejuvenation. Most of us talk or even write down our resolutions such as “I want to lose 20 pounds.” or “I want to eat healthier.” But this year, I want to challenge you to make a financial goal for 2014. Below are some tips to help you get started:
Goals should be S.M.A.R.T.
This may be the first time you have heard about S.M.A.R.T. goals or maybe you’ve heard it a million times. Either way, a good goal starts with these steps:
S — Specific — Typically the who, what, where, why and how of the goal.
M — Measurable — How will you know you have accomplished this goal? What are the key items to be accomplished?
A — Agreed Upon — This goal should be agreed upon by other important people in your life who help make money decisions
R — Realistic — Is this goal realistic for you? You do not want to set yourself up for failure.
T — Timely — When will you start and finish your goal? What is the timeframe of your goal?
By creating a S.M.A.R.T. goal, you will have taken the first step, which is the most important — writing it down. “I want to save money.” is not a goal. “I want to save $2,500 towards my Roth IRA by the end of the 2014 calendar year by saving $200 per month.” is a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
Goals should be written down
In a recent study, it was shown that when goals are written down, they are more often achieved than not. The study went a step further asking the participants to write down their goals, then write action commitments for each goal, and then share their weekly progress with a friend. Those participants who shared their progress with their friend were the most successful, with 76 percent of their goals being accomplished.
Given that financial topics are often difficult to share with others, it could be shared with someone who helps you with financial decisions. This could be a parent, spouse, or even a dependent. By sharing your goal with someone else, it will help to keep you accountable.
Goals should be your own
Recently, I’ve seen a lot of the 52-week challenges to save money on social media. Although I think this idea is great, it may not be good for everyone. Make sure that when you make your goal that the goal is right for you. If you want to get out of credit card debt this year, visit websites like www.powerpay.org that can help you realize how much you can pay off. If you want to purchase a house this year, decide how much you realistically can save each month for it. Or if you want to be more knowledgeable about your 401(k), then check out your mutual funds online and see what they are made of. Whatever your financial goal is for 2014, make it yours. Own it. Use the S.M.A.R.T. goals, write it down, and share it with someone close to be successful.
Nickels, MS, RD/LD, is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Family and Consumer Sciences educator for Garfield County.