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Write Down Your Financial Goals

We hear a lot about the importance of goal-setting but most of us don’t have clear and measurable goals to work toward. Most people do not actually take the trouble of writing them down and wonder why they are just passengers journeying through a life that lacks purpose and significance. Writing goals down does not guarantee success but it is an important beginning: Here are some reasons why:

There is so much to think about in our every day lives. If you don’t write the important things down you will simply forget.

Writing down your financial goals and dreams and keeping the paper visibly, on your wardrobe, on your mirror, on your wall, will serve as a constant reminder of what must be done. When you see them everyday it keeps them in view and crystallizes our thoughts.

By writing down specific and measurable goals down on paper with clear milestones, we are clarifying what is most important to us and better able to prioritize and focus.

  1. Make a budget and living by it. Some are skeptical of the budgeting process. “Budgets are focused on debts and expenses and nobody got rich by focusing on their debts,’’ said Ric Edelman, a certified financial planner who is the author of eight books. “You get wealthy by focusing on your assets and your income.’’ But most experts agree that budgets are useful, if only to clearly define the amount of income and fixed expenses in someone’s household.
  2. Pay off credit card debt. Wohlwend said this quality should head the list for anyone serious about establishing financial standards. “The interest charges (on credit card accounts) eat up so much of the cash flow that could be used for other objectives,’’ Wohlwend said. “Once you pay them off, you should be conscious about not using the credit card as much. The whole system enables people to make poor decisions. Once you get caught up in that culture, you don’t even know what’s happening until you add it all up. It’s like, ‘My gosh, I’m $150,000 in debt!’ If you have trouble doing it yourself, try credit consolidation with a reputable company.
  3. Save an emergency fund. Three months of liquidity is a minimum standard. Six months (or more) is better. In a fragile job market, emergency funds are essential.
  4. Save for retirement. Delayed gratification remains an elusive concept for some Americans. “Everything around us is a push to buy, a push to consume,’’ Lusardi said. “We need to making saving — particularly retirement saving — as exciting as consumption. And it is exciting when you consider it gives us the capacity to reach our long-term dreams. People just need to see it that way.’’
  5. Live below your means. It’s a simple math equation. If you spend more than your income, there’s debt. If you spend less than your income, there are savings.
  6. Develop skills to improve your income. It doesn’t necessarily mean a return to college for an additional degree. It might mean taking on additional training or responsibility at your current job. It might mean finding a mentor, who can provide tips and feedback, or working a part-time job. It could also mean attending conferences and workshops, networking in your profession, taking a class at the public library, anything to acquire more contacts and knowledge.
  7. Save for your children’s education. It’s not getting any easier. From 1980-2014, the average annual increase in college tuition grew by nearly 260% compared to the nearly 120% increase in all consumer items. Why is it important? According to the U.S. Department of Education, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree typically earn 66 percent more than those with only a high-school diploma. Over the course of a lifetime, the earnings are $1 million or more. By 2020, an estimated two-thirds of all job openings will require post-secondary education or training.
  8. Save a down payment for a home. For most people, it’s the most significant purchase and investment. The greater the down payment, the more freedom and flexibility that’s provided for the life of the loan.
  9. Improve your credit score. In order to get that home — or any other transaction that requires a loan — it’s always helpful to qualify for a lower interest rate. In simple terms, an improved credit score saves you money by qualifying you for lower interest rates.
Read Also:  Why go to work?

“The bottom line is everyone can do more — and everyone should do more — to plan for their financial future,’’ said Annamaria Lusardi, a George Washington University professor who is one of the world’s foremost experts on debt management. “Make a plan, then follow that plan.’’

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

The best way to reach your financial goals is by making a plan that prioritizes your goals.

When you examine your own goals, you’ll discover that some are broad and far-reaching, while others are narrow in scope. Your goals can be separated into three categories of time:

  1. Short-term financial goals take under one year to achieve. Examples may include taking a vacation, buying a new refrigerator or paying off a specific debt.
  2. Mid-term financial goals can’t be achieved right away but shouldn’t take too many years to accomplish. Examples may include purchasing a car, finishing a degree or certification, or paying off your debts.
  3. Long-term financial goals (over five years) may take several years to accomplish and, as a result, require longer commitments and often more money. Examples might include buying a home, saving for a child’s college education, or a comfortable retirement.

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