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Set financial goals and how to make them stick

03 March 2021

If you’re the kind of person who makes New Year’s resolutions only to ditch them before January’s even over, you’re in good company. Research shows that 80 percent of us have already dropped the ball on our resolutions by the second week in February. Eeek.

And while this doesn’t bode well for financial goals we might consider making, there are ways you can make your resolutions stick – by developing realistic habits to help you meet them and using specific goal-setting tactics to keep you on track.

How to make resolutions work for you

Firstly, you need to identify the goals that are important to you. Although these might be large goals – like ‘save a home deposit’ – success will be easier if you break the goal down into small, manageable pieces.

Plus, using SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) goals can be more effective, say experts, because they force you to clarify the goal, focus on it and remain motivated to meet it by a certain date. Here’s an example of a SMART goal:

Specific – My partner and I want to take a month-long overseas holiday to Europe in August 2022

Measurable – We’ll need to save $10,000 in total: $4000 for flights, $3000 for hotels and transport and $3000 spending money

Achievable – We need to save this in 18 months which means together we need to put away $555 per month (or around $227 each) towards the goal

Realistic – This is an amount we can both afford on our current salaries, while still meeting our other day-to-day living expenses

Time-bound – This timeline also means we should have half of the amount saved by September 2021, so we can lock in a good deal on flights and pay any hotel deposits we need to.

5 steps to financial success in 2021

Being across your finances and having a plan in place to whittle down debt, as well as save for specific goals can help reduce financial stress. Here are five steps to help you do just that.

  1. Create a budget. You’ll have to scrutinize your spending and go back through your statements to see where your money goes, but knowledge is power – and with it, you can see where you can cut back and allocate funds to other things, like savings.
  2. Pay down your debts. Consolidating your debts (such as loans) into one big debt, ideally at a lower interest rate, can make it easier to pay off. Or, choose the debt with the highest interest rate and pay it off then move through your debts from highest to lowest interest rate. You can reduce your overall debt level – the potential for racking up debt – by closing unused credit cards. Chip away at debt until it’s cleared.
  3. Start an emergency fund. It’s your buffer to cover unexpected costs you haven’t budgeted for. Aim to save 3 months’ worth of expenses, to ensure you can get out of financial hot water if the car breaks down or there’s an unexpected vet bill to cover!
  4. Build your super. Although it may feel like decades away, superannuation builds on compound interest – that means a $1 you invest today might be worth $10 in your retirement. And the earlier you start adding to your super, the more it’ll be worth to you when you do retire.
  5. Talk to a financial advisor. If you’re serious about meeting your goals and improving your overall money management, a good financial advisor can help – and may well be able to teach you strategies and tips you hadn’t thought of.

Conclusion

Setting and sticking to financial goals can be challenging at times, so why not use all the tricks and strategies at your disposal? Creating habits and SMART goals, establishing a budget and putting steps in place to save and pay down debts are all good first steps.

Plus, once you’ve got your finances under control, you’ll feel much more confident planning ahead, saving for the future and working toward a comfortable retirement.

This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness of the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

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