“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” ~ Napolean Hill
Anytime is the right time to set financial goals. The beginning of the year may be a popular time to set them—with nearly half of all Americans reporting that they “usually make” a New Year’s resolution—but, January isn’t the only time of the year to do it. It’s never too late to get your financial house in order. (Side note: this article was supposed to go up at the beginning of the year, something that obviously didn’t happen, but the key, of course, is doing it at some point.) So the best time to set your financial goals is NOW, whenever this may be!
At Cordant we are always talking with our clients about the importance of being intentional with their financial decisions—what do you want to achieve and what is the best way to accomplish it? Financial planning is basically a series of actions to determine your objectives and then putting a plan in place to achieve them. In essence, it’s an ongoing process of goal setting.
So, in this article we will look at three things:
- Why setting goals is important
- How to set goals
- And, for those who want to take action and set some financial goals, we’ve created an “Intel Financial Goal Worksheet” using the 7-step goal framework from item #2.
Why set goals?
When most people think about goals they are really thinking about the result they want to achieve. And while this is an important part of setting any goal, financial or otherwise, the achievement is only one of the reasons to set goals. In addition to raising our chances of getting a particular result, setting goals does a few other things.
- Goals give us clarity: It forces us to think about not only what we want to achieve, but also why we want to achieve it in the first place.
- Goals force us to focus: Setting a goal narrows our attention and make us prioritize appropriately. So much is thrown at us each day that without a desired outcome to focus on there’s a good chance that we’ll end up spending time, energy or money on things that aren’t really priorities.
- Goals provide an incentive: Once you have a goal, you should be committed to achieving it and taking the action necessary to make it happen. And, when you clear on what you are trying to do, and making process towards it, many times the pieces seem to fall into place. As Paulo Coelho wrote in his book The Alchemist “[W]hen you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
- Goals get results: It’s pretty intuitive that being deliberate about what you want to accomplish and then setting a plan in place to make it reality gets results. Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, puts it like this: “Only about 3 percent of adults have clear, written goals. These people accomplish five or ten times as much as people of equal or better education and ability but who, for whatever reason, have never taken the time to write out exactly what they want.”
So, if goals are such an important part of success, what’s the best way to set them?
How to set goals?
Chances are anyone who has set a goal (financial or otherwise) has come across the goal-setting acronym SMART—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
This is a good place to start when setting goals. But going back to Eat That Frog! (via the always excellent Farman Street blog), here’s a slightly more robust framework. Tracy recommends a seven-step process:
“There is a powerful formula for setting and achieving goals that you can use for the rest of your life. It consists of seven simple steps. Any one of these steps can double and triple your productivity if you are not currently using it.
- Decide exactly what you want.
- Write it down.
- Set a deadline on your goal; set sub deadlines if necessary.
- Make a list of everything that you can think of that you are going to have to do to achieve your goal.
- Organize the list into a plan. Organize your list by priority and sequence.
- Take action on your plan immediately.
- Resolve to do something every single day that moves you toward your major goal.”
A Goal Setting Worksheet
For those of you who are now suitability motivated to set some financial goals, we’ve created a financial goal setting worksheet. This worksheet is specific to current or former Intel employees (although it can be modified to work for anyone) with some examples of valuable financial goals included. The worksheet follows the 7-step process listed above. The worksheet will:
- Make you think about what you want and write it down. Some examples listed are:
- Determine how much money you will need, and when you want to retire.
- Review your Intel retirement investments for potential costs savings (See this for more)
- A written strategy for your Intel stock, options, and RSUs/OSUs in your UBS account
- Set up a system to track and monitor all your expenses
- Force you to set a deadline
- Make you list the steps
- Help you create a plan
- And, has a place to list your "first action item."
Click below to download the worksheet.