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it's a good idea to develop SMART financial goals and adjust them periodically based on how your financial situation evolves. Financial goals help you stay on top of your money and set direction for yourself for how you want to improve your financial life.
In this article, we'll go over what a SMART financial goal is, why they're important to make, and several examples of short-term, mid-term, and long-term SMART financial goals.
Let's jump right in.
- What are SMART Financial Goals
- Examples of SMART Financial Goals
- Short-term SMART Financial Goals
- Mid-term SMART Financial Goals
- Long-term SMART Financial Goals
- Wrapping It Up
What are SMART Financial Goals
A SMART financial goal is a SMART goal that is specifically focused on a financial aspect of your life. It's an objective you make to achieve. It could be something like saving $10,000 in a year, creating a budget and sticking to that budget, or reaching financial independence in the next ten years.
The term SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-sensitive. When you use SMART financial goals, you'll have better success because your financial goals will be detailed in a way that you can create a specific process to reach them.
Using the free app Personal Capital will enable you to see all of your finances in one spot, which will assist you in creating SMART financial goals.
Next, we'll go over each aspect of SMART financial goals.
When you create a financial goal, you want it to be as specific as you can. That means coming up with the Who and the What of the goal. You'll want to determine who's involved with the goal, the specific details of the goal, and, if you choose, why you hope to accomplish the goal.
When you say “I want to save for a car,” you're using a specific term, “save,” with a specific result, “for a car.”
Measurable means you're using a specific number to define your financial goal. So in the example above where we said, “I want to save for a car,” you'd add how much you want to put down on the car.
Assume the car costs $25,000, and you plan to put $5,000 down. Your goal would now be “I want to save $5,000 to put down on a car.”
Creating a goal that is achievable means that you're pushing yourself to reach this goal, but that it's also possible to reach it. For example, if you only have $200 left over at the end of each month and you want to save $5,000 to put down on a car, it wouldn't be feasible to make this goal in the timeframe of 12 months.
Assume you have an extra $500 leftover at the end of each month, and you want to save $5,000 to put down on a car over the next ten months. That would mean you'd need $500 per month at minimum. Now, your goal is achievable.
You can add to your goal by saying, “I want to save $5,000 to put down on a car using money I have saved at the end of each month.”
A realistic or relevant goal is one that makes sense for your current financial situation. For example, if you were unemployed, saving for a car might not be realistic.
That said, say you need to find more money each month to save for your car. For example, you may say, “I will cancel unused subscriptions and lower my cable bill to save $5,000 to put down on a car.”
A SMART goal needs to have a timeframe, such as the next ten months. So, using the car example again, you could finally say, “I want to cancel unused subscriptions and lower my cable bill to save $5,000 over ten months to put down on a car.”
Why are financial goals important?
Financial goals are important because they help us set direction in our financial lives. You might have basic financial goals, like saving for retirement, or you may have more specific goals, like buying a house in three years.
Goals, in general, give us something to work towards. They help us set some short-term and long-term objectives. When we have something specific to work towards, it's easier to feel motivated and be more successful.
Examples of SMART Financial Goals
SMART financial goals can be made for the short-, mid-, and long-term. Here are some SMART financial goals examples that will help you come up with your own.
Short-term SMART Financial Goals
Short-term SMART financial goals are those that you hope to accomplish between now and the next 12 months. These goals are important because you can work on them in your everyday life, and you can create new ones periodically when new short-term goals make sense.
Here are three examples of short-term SMART financial goals.
Create an Annual Budget
Creating an annual budget is an excellent short-term SMART financial goal that can likely be done in a weekend. A typical process involves going over your credit card and bank statements and creating a spreadsheet to track everything. From there, you can determine where to cut back on your expenses.
Save $1,000 for an Emergency Fund
Less than 4 in 10 Americans can cover a $1,000 emergency. An emergency like this can be a number of things, including:
- A trip to the emergency room
- A washer or dryer breaks down
- Repairs on your car
- Loss of income due to getting sick and not having sick time
One idea is to say, “I will save $1,000 for an emergency fund in the next three months by making money driving for DoorDash on weekends.”
Pay off a Credit Card
Paying off a credit card in 12 months is a realistic goal to make if you're not using the credit card anymore and simply need to pay off the debt. You may need to make more money or spend less money to pay down your card efficiently.
That said, credit card debt is a real concern as the average American has over $5,000 in credit card debt.
One SMART goal idea would be, “I will pay $200 per month towards my credit card with a $2,400 balance in 12 months by making more money with a side hustle.”
Mid-term SMART Financial Goals
Mid-term SMART financial goals are generally those that you want to accomplish in the next one to five years. These goals are important because they require some level of planning while also significantly impacting your life. Such goals include increasing your income, paying off student loans, and saving up for a house.
Increase Your Income
Making more money makes it easier to do more in life and is always a worthwhile SMART goal to make. There are many ways to increase your earnings, including:
- Getting a raise
- Working more hours or getting a second job
- Starting an online business
- Investing in assets that pay you, such as dividend stocks or real estate
A side hustle is a common way to increase your income, but what if you want to make money doing something more passively?
Investing in the stock market or in real estate is one way to make more money, and you might make a goal such as, “I want to increase my passive income earnings by $200 per month in three years through investing.”
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Pay off Student Loans
Many Americans struggle to pay off their student loans, and one mid-term SMART financial goal worth pursuing is getting out of student loan debt. For example, if you have student loans, you might make a goal such as, “I want to pay off $30,000 of my student loan debt in three years by living frugally and making extra money tutoring math on the weekends.”
Save for a Home
It's the goal of many Americans to own a home. Whether you live out in the countryside or own a condo in the city, homeownership comes with many benefits. You'll need to save for a down payment for your home, as well as cover closing costs, moving costs, and any costs involved with getting the home ready to live in.
With this in mind, you may make a SMART financial goal like, “I will save $1,000 per month for the next three years so that I can buy a house, move there, and furnish it.”
Long-term SMART Financial Goals
Long-term SMART financial goals are important as they affect you well down the road. You're aiming to reach these goals in five years from now or further. Some of these goals might even be goals you hope to reach by retirement, which may be in a few decades from now.
Does the thought of retiring early entice you? The typical age that Americans retire at is age 61, though you can't start collecting Social Security until age 67.
But what if you want to retire when you're 55? Or 50? Or even 40?
Based on when you want to retire, you can make a retirement goal such as, “I will build a business and aim to earn $10,000 per month, invest the money, and reach my retirement goal of $2 million by the time I turn 50.”
From there, you'd come up with a business idea and short- and mid-term goals to go with your business idea to build it up to the point where you could then eventually retire at 50, as per your long-term goal.
Save up a Million Dollars
Saving up a cool million can help you go far in your retirement, so you might make a goal to save up one million dollars by a specific age.
Making a million dollars could be as simple as investing a specific percentage of your salary every paycheck into a 401(k), IRA, or taxable brokerage account. Other ways include starting a profitable business or side hustle, working at a high-paying job, or simply living well below your means throughout your adult life.
A possible SMART goal could be, “I will save up $1 million by investing $2,000 every month into my 401(k) for up to 15 years.”
Pay off Mortgage
With traditional mortgages lasting 15 or 30 years, you'll be in debt for quite some time. You may decide that you want to pay off your mortgage a lot sooner by adding prepayments every month.
You might discover that if you pay an extra $400 per month towards your mortgage that you'll pay off your 30-year mortgage in 20 years and will save you tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments. This makes you decide to pay $400 extra per month towards your mortgage until it's paid off.
Your goal might be, “I will pay an extra $400 per month towards my mortgage until it's paid off. I will cut back on unnecessary expenses in order to fund the $400 I need each month.”
Put Your Children Through College
Helping your children pay for college is an excellent way to help them avoid student loan debt when they go out into the real world as adults.
If you have children, you can set a goal to save for their college education. One goal example might be, “I will invest $200 per month towards each of my children's college funds so that they can attend the university of their choice.”
Wrapping It Up
In this article, we went over examples of SMART financial goals as well as what they are and why they're important to make.
SMART financial goals are goals that you can use to better your financial situation down the road. They help you set direction for where you want to beat a future date.
What are some of your financial goals?