Financial Planning for the New Year — and New Decade
Are you brimming with excitement over your financial New Year’s resolutions? Imagining this is the year you will shine?
Maybe a few weeks will go by and you’ll still be checking items off your to-do list, completing goals left and right like a boss. And as March arrives, your friends will all be complaining about the goals they’ve abandoned while you’ll smile to yourself knowing you’re on track to complete all your goals on time.
Want to know the secrets to making this dream a reality? (Hint: It isn’t buying a fancy goal planner.) You can use my three-step system to set financial goals that you can actually accomplish in 2020 — and into the new decade.
Step 1 — Assess Your Current Situation
Before you can set financial goals that have you jumping up in the morning and raring to get going, you need to assess where you’re at today.
- Have you calculated your net worth recently? How has it changed?
- How much debt do you have, and how much have you paid off this year?
- Did you pay your credit cards off?
- Do you have any outstanding loans?
- Is your budget up to date?
- Are any big changes coming up in the next year or decade, like retirement or a large expense on the horizon?
Once you can answer these questions, organize all your details into one summary so you know exactly where you’re at. Knowing where you stand is the first step in setting financial goals that you can actually accomplish. And if you’ve got all the numbers in front of you but you’re still not crystal clear on where you stand, take a deep breath. Look back to the previous decade and ask yourself:
- Where was I in 2009?
- Where am I now?
- What’s changed?
Write down all the financial changes you can think of that have happened in your life over the last ten years. Notice how much financial progress you’ve made, including how slowly or quickly you hit each milestone. What worked? What didn’t work? What patterns do you see?
Want to Make the 2020s Your Decade of Financial Revolution?
Use this information to help determine the financial goals you’re going to make for 2020 and the new decade. If you’ve consistently made leaps and bounds, then you can probably handle a few bigger goals. But if you’ve been slowly chugging along, then it might be best to break one big goal into several smaller, more manageable goals.
Now it’s time to really think about your core values as well as the short- and long-term outcomes you’ll be reaching for in the 2020s. Sort out what’s within reach and what you can afford at this time in your life. Group these things into common categories, then try to knock them down to two or three big categories.
It is important to make intentional changes during the goal-setting process. If you’ve been adding items to your plate for years but not removing anything, you’re likely setting yourself up for burnout in the coming year and decade. So go through your resolution list to decide what’s important for the 2020s — and what needs to go. Don’t be afraid to make big changes!
Step 2 — Dream Big and Set Your Goals
Now that you have an idea of the areas where you’ll focus your goals, it’s time to sit down and write them out in more detail.
If you’ve made financial goals in the past and didn’t succeed, you may be dealing with some self-doubt. Maybe you feel like you’re the only one struggling with making your New Year’s resolutions. But you’re not alone!
Americans’ top 2020 resolution, tied with eating better, is to “manage their finances better.”
And, since setting those financial goals can be tricky, I’ve got a whole slew of techniques you can use to do this in a practical, actually-have-a-chance-at-completing them way. Because it’s one thing to set goals — but it’s a whole other beast to set goals you can follow.
So, here are three things you should keep in mind when creating your financial goals for 2020:
Make them measurable.
Your goals should be super specific, time-bound, and easily measured. For example, instead of simply saying “I’m going to save for a down payment,” a specific goal would be “I’ll save $60,000 for a down payment in the next three years by saving $20,000 per year from my income.”
Make them realistic.
You want your goals to be on the fine line between difficult and still realistic. So, while it may not be realistic to pay five credit cards’ worth of debt off in one year, you can make a goal of paying off one credit card this year, two the following, and the remaining cards the year after that.
Make them accountable.
These are your goals, not anyone else’s, so make sure that you are in control of and responsible for them! If you’re making a goal with a partner, make sure that you do so with intention and have a shared accountability plan.
If you’re still feeling a little lost or are looking for areas in which to set your goals, here are a few ideas:
— Pay off your credit card debt by cutting back on spending and making a larger monthly payment (read more about eliminating debt here).
— Build an emergency fund to cover six months of living expenses (we’ve talked about growing your emergency savings here and here).
— Develop and implement a plan that puts your mind at ease and allows you to think positively about your financial future (learn more about financial planning here).
Step 3 — Time to Get Real
Now that you’ve selected, written down, and optimized your measurable, realistic, and accountable goals, it’s time to really set yourself up for success. Break them down into smaller goals geared toward results, and turn the actions you’ll take to reach each of those results into steps. Then turn the steps into tasks and add them right into your calendar.
If you’re not familiar with breaking down a goal, key results are measurable metrics you can use to monitor how close you are to achieving your goal (e.g., I will buy new running shoes), and key actions are the small steps you’ll take to reach your goal (e.g., at 2 p.m. on Saturday, I will go to my local running shop to get fitted for new running shoes).
Are you ready to see what that looks like in practice?
Let’s say that your goal for the new decade is to put aside $7,500 each year for your daughter’s college savings. You might say that your monthly key result is that you’ll transfer $625 into a separate savings account. And for your key action, you might say that, at 9 a.m. on the last Friday of every month, you’ll spend ten minutes going into your online banking app and transferring $625 into a separate savings account.
Make sense? Depending on your goals, you may need to set yourself up with a bunch of key results and actions, or maybe only one or two. The important thing is to break your goals down into manageable steps that you can easily mark as completed … or not done yet.
Once you’re finished writing out the key results and actions for each of your goals, plug those tasks into your calendar or planner, and set reminders for yourself.
Putting It All Together
You did it! If you followed all the steps, you’ve planned your financial goals for the next decade, breaking them down into manageable actions. If you get off track, don’t worry. You can check in, reassess, and reinitiate your work on both your annual and decade-long goals each year.
That’s one of the best things about having clear, actionable goals: You always know where you’re at, and you get to delight in all the little steps you check off. So don’t forget to celebrate every win in the new decade! And if you get stuck on any of the steps above, know you can always reach out to your financial professional for guidance and assistance along the way.
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