1. Narrow your objectives.
You may not be able to achieve every financial goal you've ever dreamed of,
but you can achieve the most important ones if you identify
them clearly in your own mind and decide which are most important.
2. Focus first on those that matter.
To accomplish primary goals, you will often need to put equally desirable
but less important ones on a back burner.
3. Be prepared for conflicts.
Even worthy goals often conflict with one another. When faced with a
conflict between goals of equal importance, you can sometimes choose
by applying criteria like: Will anyone's health be affected by my choice?
Will one of the conflicting goals benefit more people than the
other? Which goal will cause the greater harm if it is deferred?
4. Put time on your side.
The most important ally you have in meeting long-term goals, like
preparing for retirement, is time. The reason, of course, is that money
stashed in a savings account or invested in stocks, bonds or mutual funds
usually grows over time--sometimes substantially--to help meet your needs.
5. Choose carefully.
In drawing up your list of goals, you should look for things that will help
you feel financially secure, happy or fulfilled. Here are some items that
often wind up on such lists. Once you have your list together, you need to
rank the items in order of importance (if you have trouble doing so, use the
money.com Prioritizer for help).
- Accumulating enough savings to handle an emergency
- Buying a house large enough to accommodate you comfortably
- Getting out of debt -- and staying out
- Ensuring that your parents are comfortable and well taken care of in their old age
- Paying for your children's college education
- Investing with the aim of becoming financially independent
- Amassing enough wealth to retire comfortably
6. Include family members.
If you have a spouse or significant other, make sure he or she is part of the
goal-setting process or you will probably regret it later.
Children, too, should have some say in goals that affect them.
7. Start early.
The longer you wait to identify and begin working toward your goals, the more
difficulty you'll have reaching them. (That's why this Money 101 lesson is first!)
8. Sweat the big stuff.
Once you have prioritized your list of goals, keep your spending on course.
Whenever you make a large payment for anything ask yourself:
"Is this taking me nearer to my primary goals--or leading me farther away
from them?" If a big expense doesn't get you closer to your
goals, try to defer or reduce it.
9. Don't sweat the small stuff.
Although this lesson encourages you to focus on big-ticket, long-range plans,
most of life is lived in the here-and-now and most of what
you spend will continue to be for daily expenses--including many that are simply
for fun. That's okay -- so long as your long-range needs
are also provided for.
10. Be prepared for change.
Your needs and desires invariably change as you age, so you should probably
reexamine your priorities at least every five years.
Next: Identifying goals