We’ve all heard of amazing achievements that would never be possible without hard work and dedication. Perhaps it’s the achievement from soccer’s best national team winning the World Cup. That’s certainly not an easy achievement considering the World Cup tournament takes place every 4 years after many rounds of qualifying and competing against the best teams and players in the world. Not to mention all the grueling training and practices.
There are many more notable achievements: the talent and practice it takes to win American Idol, Lance Armstrong and his many wins of the Tour de France, a successful presidential race or, on a more personal level, someone who overcomes addiction.
Financially speaking, we might consider the person who just paid off all their debt, a fully-funded emergency savings account, a retirement to go and fulfill a dream, and perhaps even the start of a small business. Yes, those are all notable and tremendous achievements!
We Didn’t Have a Goal
Achievements are driven by goals and goals aren’t exactly a new topic of conversation. We all can recognize that some of us are goal-oriented and others are not. Personally, I’m naturally a goal-oriented person. I find setting goals is a good way to motivate myself.
Am I always good about setting and sticking to those goals? No, not always but who is perfect, anyway?
In fact, a few weeks ago my wife and I were having a discussion about our finances. As we reviewed our savings balance and began discussing the important need to begin setting aside money for our children’s college funds, she caught me off guard with a simple question, “What’s our financial goal this year?”
This should have been an easy answer for a goal-minded person, but it wasn’t. We’re generally on the same page with our finances, by setting a goal at the beginning of the year and having regular conversations about money, but we obviously hadn’t discussed our financial goal or primary focus this year.
Sometimes You have to Refocus
So we decided to take a step back and look closer at the one thing we knew we needed to focus on this year: building back our emergency savings. We used a lot of it at the end of last year because of a bit of a crisis. Perhaps we were shell-shocked heading into the New Year, so we never really discussed the importance of building up our savings up again.
In fact, I wrongly took matters into my own hands out of frustration and just dumped all our extra money into my 401k. That’s not exactly a bad move, but it didn’t involve my wife in the discussion and it’s more important for us to have some short-term savings. Now our new savings goal provides us something to focus on, get excited about, and work together towards, which will be a great achievement our family!
You don’t have to be Goal-Oreinted to Succeed
Truthfully, the person who isn’t goal-oriented still has goals. There are unconscious goals we set for ourselves everyday such as simply getting to work or meeting a deadline for a project. There are family goals, exercise goals, dietary goals, and so on.
We probably all have financial goals but don’t take the time to recognize them and dedicate thought and action towards achieving them. The one thing I’ve learned about setting goals is they don’t have to be complicated and you really shouldn’t have more than 1 or 2 at a time.
This is especially true when it comes to your finances. Personally, my wife and I have found ourselves trying to accomplish so many goals at once, that to we end up not making progress on any of them. The idea behind making one goal at a time is to focus your intensity in one area. Achieve the goal, celebrate, and then move on to the next one.
That’s what we hope to do with our savings goal. You don’t have to be a goal expert to set a personal finance goal. You don’t even really have to be a naturally goal-oriented person. Just pick the next important thing you feel like you need to achieve with your finances (with some guidance) and focus on it without letting anything else distract you.
Mint Can Help
If accountability is a challenge, I think Mint.com has a handy goal feature that helps you set specific goals and follow them. Mint even gives you ideas on how to get started paying off credit card debt, saving for an emergency, or even buying a home. You can pick your goal and follow Mint’s simple instructions to start tracking your progress. Achieving your next personal finance goal becomes a lot easier with a tool in place to keep you motivated and hold you accountable.
I’m thankful my wife put me on the spot with her question. While she asked it out of curiosity because she wants us to make progress along our financial journey together, it ended up helping us surface our financial goal, regain focus, and build momentum to a future of financial freedom.
Jason started blogging in 2009 when he created his personal finance blog, One Money Design, to share practical financial tips and his perspective on money management with others. Since then, it has grown into a group of writers with unique personalities and a common goal of helping people make progress along their financial journeys.
Jason is an IT project manager by day, but you’ll find him blogging about personal finance and exploring web entrepreneurship late at night and the early hours of the morning. He’s also actively involved in a financial coaching ministry in his community where he shares principles of biblical stewardship and helps people learn to manage their money wisely. Jason enjoys spending time with his wonderful wife and two awesome children and lives in north Dallas.
The views set forth in this blog are the opinions of the author alone and may not represent the views of Intuit, or any firm or entity with whom he is affiliated. The data, information, and content on this blog are for information, education, and non-commercial purposes only.