If You Set These 4 Financial Goals You Will End Up Ahead of Others
Every January 1st many people set new goals for the year. I typically don’t do “New Year’s Resolutions” as I try to push myself as a regular habit. But this year I decided to set one very specific goal for 2017: exercise more. Well, not more per se. I just wanted to start exercising…period.
So far, I am proud to say that I have kept my goal of exercising at least 5 times per week. I just completed a 30-day challenge with my wife. And I continue to make exercise a regular part of my day. That’s important for someone like me. As a financial professional I spend my days looking at economic and investment data, while sitting in front of a computer screen. Not healthy.
Speaking of investment data and goals… (You see what I did there?)
When was the last time you set financial goals for yourself, or for your family?
Financial goals are just as important as personal goals, professional goals, fitness goals, etc. Most people have a goal of retiring one day, but that’s about it. Aside from knowing they want to retire, they don’t have much of an idea of what other goals to set and how to get to where they want to be financially. But, I think I can help.
I recently read an article that suggested 4 financial goals you can (and should set) right now to help you start moving forward financially. I like the goals mentioned here and through they were worth sharing and discussing. You can read the original article here.
Goal #1: Monitor your credit report and score.
By now I hope we all know how important it is to have a good credit score and credit history. You may not be as familiar with your credit history as you think which is why it is a good idea to pay close attention to your credit report. With so many credit cards, debit cards, and online transactions taking place, it is easy to miss something that could adversely affect your credit score.
To monitor your credit report you can request a free credit report each year from your credit card. The article also mentions getting a report from www.annualcreditreport.com. And to help with regular credit monitoring you can use free services like Credit Karma. While the free services might not be as robust as those you have to pay for, it is a great place to start. Since your credit affects everything from buying a car, house, or couch, to getting a job, it is important to do everything you can to raise your score. The higher your score, the better the rate you will get on a loan if you need to finance a purchase. The better your loan rate, the less you have to pay in interest. The less you have to pay in interest, the more money you have to save. You see where I’m going with this?
Goal #2: Save cash in an emergency fund.
Most people will have a financial emergency of some sort. The hot water heater will explode, the transmission will go out, or the dog will eat your phone. Something will happen. And yet, despite this reality 33% of Americans have no savings at all. And, a whopping 65% of Americans have less than $1000 in cash they could access in an emergency. It’s hard to believe.
Having a fully funded emergency fund is a way to avoid financial ruin and be prepared for the surprises life will inevitably throw at you. This means having a minimum of $1000 set aside for emergencies (and no, a new phone is not an emergency). To be full funded, your cash emergency fund should contain at least 3 months of your basic living expenses (think: mortgage/rent, car payment, utilities, food, etc.). If you want to be a financial superstar, have an emergency fund with 6-12 months of basic living expenses.
If you want to see your emergency savings grow try packing your lunch instead of eating out each day. If you save $10 per day (the average cost of lunch out) you will save $50 per week, which will quickly grow to $200 each month. In just 5 short months you will have your $1000 emergency fund started. Continue the habit and before you know it you will have a full funded emergency fund. This will be an important financial tool, as it will keep you from having to use a credit card to pay for an unexpected expense. There’s nothing worse than having to repair your car and then having to pay interest on the money you borrowed to repair it.
Goal #3: Invest 10% into a retirement account.
Your retirement is your responsibility. No one owes you a retirement and if you don’t save enough it will be on you. So start now with saving a minimum of 10% in an employer sponsored 401(k). If your employer offers a match then not contributing is literally throwing money away, free money. If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan start your own IRA and take advantage of the tax savings by contributing.
The article makes a good point: saving 10% is the absolute minimum. Realistically, you should be saving 15% for retirement. And, if you are younger you should probably be closer to 20% to offset any changes to social security. Vacations and gadgets won’t help much when you are 70 and can’t retire because you didn’t save enough. Start now with saving and that vacation will be more satisfying when you can take it without getting permission from your boss.
Goal #4: Read one personal finance book.
This is one financial goal that I had not thought of before. But the more I think about it the more it makes sense. For someone like me that is involved in financial services daily, reading a book would be redundant with my daily life. However, many people are inadequately prepared to make critical financial decisions. So reading a book to help learn valuable information that could result in better decisions is a great step in the right direction.
The article makes a great point:
“Because we all have to start somewhere when it comes to learning about a new subject. Books about personal finance tend to touch on an array of valuable financial areas, from investing to life insurance, and each area is worth learning about. Chances are, you’ll find the book far more interesting, and more understandable, than you thought it would be.”
The bottom line is that you have to start somewhere. These are basic goals that anyone can begin today. Furthermore, they will create financial habits that will develop better stewardship of your resources. This will land you in a better financial position than many others when you are ready to retire and living in retirement. That’s a goal worth setting.
Bonus: If you are really serious about your financial position now and in the future, take time to meet with a financial planner. A free consultation with a certified financial planner (CFP) could be just the step you need to take to jumpstart your financial success.