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How to Set Goals: The First Step to Financial Success is Knowing What You Want

If you don’t know where you’re going, who knows where you’ll end up? Whether you are trying to get out of debt, start investing, start saving for your child’s retirement, or anything else, it’s important to have a purpose. Without having any specific goals, it can be very hard to beat your financial worries. However, with goals, you can create a plan: a step-by-step program to meet your goals.

Why is it so hard to set goals?

You’ve probably heard this advice before somewhere. I remember being told to write down my goals in elementary school, but I never listened to the advice. Planning and writing down my goals always seemed so strange. Something that real people didn’t do – something for weird people. A recent article on LifeHacker, Why Goal Setting Makes You Cringe, explains how I felt about goal setting perfectly.

“Life goals are like religious views, salary, age, and weight — highly personal, rarely discussed, and for the ambitious and pie-in-the-sky among us, even embarrassing.”

It felt almost embarrassing to write goals!

So why should we set goals anyway?

For starters, several studies have shown a correlation between conscious goals and success on a task. With a list of goals, we know what we want – and we can plan how to get there. Setting goals is the first step in any major undertaking: financial changes, new businesses, scientific studies (you think of a hypothesis before you plan an experiment, right?).

How can I set good goals for myself?

So we need to figure out how to determine good goals. What are the characteristics of well-written, achievable goals? One of the basic frameworks for goal setting is called SMART.

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Attainable
  4. Relevant
  5. Time-bound

All goals should follow these five requirements. For example, the goal “I want to be rich” meets none of the criteria: How do you measure “rich?” When do you want to be rich by?

Instead, you could say, “I want to pay off my $5,000 credit card debt by December, 2009.” Now, you have a specific (pay off the debt), measurable (all $5,000), attainable (with a plan), relevant (your finances are relevant to your life and future plans), and time-bound (by December, 2009) goal. You should make a list of all the goals you seriously want to achieve.

Building a list of SMART goals for yourself is the first step in fixing your financial situation. Once you have a list, you can begin designing a program to achieve those goals!

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