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Your Guide to Setting Financial Goals

Nov 3, 2007
The first step in personal financial planning is learning to control your day-today financial affairs to enable you to do the things that bring you satisfaction and enjoyment. This is achieved by planning and following a budget. The second step in personal financial planning, and the topic of this section, is choosing and following a course toward achieving your long-term financial goals. As with anything else in life, without financial goals and specific plans for meeting them, you will just drift along and leave our future to chance. A wise man once said: "Most people don't plan to fail; they just fail to plan."

The end result is the same and it is a failure to reach financial independence. The third step in personal financial planning is learning how to build a financial safety net, which is like to having a retirement fund for when you are no longer generating any income.

Step 1: Identify and write down your financial goals, whether they are saving to send your kids to college or University, buying a new car, saving for a down payment on a house, going on vacation, paying off credit card debt, or planning for you and your spouse's retirement.

Step 2: Break each financial goal down into several short-term (less than 1 year), medium-term (1 to 3 years) and long-term (5 years or more) goals; which will make this process easier.

Step 3: Educate yourself and do your research. Read Money magazine or a book about investing, or surf the Internet's investment web sites. Do not be afraid of the stock market. Yes, there is a potential for loss, but if you do your research and get a trustworthy broker, you can ensure your financial future. Just remember not to put all of your eggs in one basket. Diversify your portfolio. With a little effort you can learn enough to make educated decisions that will increase your net worth many times over. Then identify small, measurable steps you can take to achieve these goals, and put this action plan to work.

Step 4: Evaluate your progress as often as needed. Review your progress monthly, quarterly, or at any other interval you feel comfortable with, but at least semi-annually, to determine if your program is working. If you're not making a satisfactory amount of progress on a particular goal, re-evaluate your approach and make changes as necessary. There are no hard and fast rules for implementing a financial plan. The important thing is to at least do something as opposed to nothing, and to start NOW.

Sometimes when people write down their goals, they discover that some of the goals are too broad in meaning and nearly impossible to reach, while others may seem smaller in scope and easier to achieve.

It is okay to dare to dream about riches, but be realistic about what you can actually do. A good idea is to break your goals down into three separate categories of time. One more thing to remember: by placing a time frame on your goals you are motivating yourself to get started and helping to allow you the chance to succeed. Just remember that you can adjust the time frame whenever you want to.

Long-term goals (over 5 years) are those things that won't happen overnight, no matter how hard you work to achieve them. They make take a long time to accomplish (hence the reason they are called long term goals), so give yourself a reasonable amount of time, that are based on your best estimates of what it will take to achieve them.

Examples of long-term goals might include college education for a child, retirement plan or purchasing a home. Whatever the case, these goals generally require longer commitments and often more money in the end. Intermediate-term goals (1-5 years) are the type of goals that can't be executed overnight but might not take many years to accomplish. Examples might include purchasing/replacing a car, getting an education or certification, or paying off your debts like credit cards etc. (depending on the amount). Short-term goals (within one year) generally take one year or less to achieve, based on the date the task is needed, the total estimated cost, and the required savings.

What are your goals? To find out, you need to make up a list, decide which timeline your goal fits into, detail the steps necessary to achieve your goals, then take action toward reaching those goals. It's that simple. You might be wondering where to start when deciding how to go about to start your financial goals. These are some basic tips to help you in making the best choices for you.

After looking at these tips, it is best for you to go out and do some research to find the method(s) that suit you best.

Begin by taking 5%-10% out of each pay check and put it in a savings account.

Look into different investment strategies such as stocks, RRSP, mutual funds, personal investments etc. There are many more and all can assist you in short and long term goals.

Start making a budget for yourself that leaves you with some extra money and follow it.

Use your coupons that are why they are there. It seems like small savings, but added together you could save 20-30 dollars at each trip to the market.

Shop around for bargains.

Do not live outside of your means.

Work with a credit counsellor to get help in lowering your monthly expenses and get rid of your debt.

These are just some of the things that you can do when beginning to realize your financial goals. Of course, you also have to follow the steps on how to successfully set goals. The steps to setting goals successfully don't change, only the methods that you use to go about it. By that I mean; when it is career wise, work to get noticed; for relationships, work on maintaining your intimacy or getting it back; in financial matters, work to save and invest money etc. It really is that easy.
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