If you haven't realized this yet, I'm kind of a goal setting freak.
Some people do New Year's resolutions. That's great, but I think you need to revisit your goals on a more consistent basis. For me, that's every 90 days.
Other people don’t bother to set goals. They choose – unconsciously at least – to rely on luck.
“The best luck of all is the luck you make for yourself.”
Let’s establish up front that goals are something more substantial than dreams or wishes.
They can start with dreams or wishes, but they have an action plan behind them – something that spells out how we convert a desire into something real.
That’s especially important when it comes to financial goals. Since they require regular investments of money and effort over a long period of time, you need to have workable plan to bring them to reality.
Start by setting some financial goals. If you’ve never thought much about this, here are 10 good financial goals that everyone should have especially for 2017.
1. Have a Well-Stocked Emergency Fund
We normally think of having an emergency fund as being a short-term financial goal. And from a mechanical standpoint, that’s true. However, an emergency fund has important long-term benefits, which is why it’s one of the good financial goals that you should plan to achieve.
Here are just some of the benefits that a well-stocked emergency fund can provide you with throughout your life:
- It can take away a lot of the money worries that you have, since you know that you will always have a reserve should you get into a tight spot
- As is expected of an emergency fund, it will be there to cushion the blow in the event of a sudden emergency, such as a job loss or a large medical expense
- It’s an important money management tool – if you can save money for an emergency fund, then you can save money for any financial goal that you have
- It provides you with an intermediate funding source – a kind of halfway point between your paycheck and your investment accounts – that you can use so that you don’t have to disturb your long-term investments
- Just having an emergency fund will make the wide swings in the stock market more emotionally tolerable, knowing that your survival isn’t at stake when the market falls
When you consider all that comes from having a strong emergency fund, it should move it up the priority ladder a few rungs. Here are some the top savings account options for your emergency fund.
2. Get Out of Debt – Completely
The great thing about this goal is that anyone can do it, regardless of income or wealth level. And if you want to get the most out of your finances, it's virtually a requirement that you get out of debt.
For the moment, let’s ignore the good-debt-versus-bad-debt debate. At some point in your life, all debt is bad debt and needs to be paid off. That includes the mortgage on your home. Although the purpose of that debt may be noble at the beginning, it’s no less a drag on your income than any other debt as time goes on.
There are more reasons to get out of debt than I can list here, but here are just a few of them:
- Getting out of debt means that you’ll have full control over your income – and that’s an incredible feeling
- It will leave you with more money for savings and investing – and even more for spending
- It will remove the asterisk from your finances – I make $X,000 per month, but $X00 has to go to pay my debts
- It will make it easier to quit a job you don’t like
- It will free your mind of the worry and stress that come with debt
Before starting my career, I fell into the debt trap. I had accumulated over $20,000 of student loan and credit card debt and I wasn't slowing down anytime soon.
Thankfully, my girlfriend (now wife) helped me to see debt for what is really is – EVIL.
After we were married, it became both of our goals to become debt free and never carry a credit card balance.
I'm proud to say that after over 10 years of marriage, that's a goal that we've stuck to.
Take that, Debt!
You can set all of the good financial goals that you want, but it will be difficult to achieve any of if you are carrying a significant amount of debt for the rest of your life.
If you have high interest credit card debt or several different credit card bills to pay every month, it can make a lot of sense to take advantage of a 0% APR balance transfer offer as well.
The Chase Slate® card, for example, gives you a 0% APR for a full 15 months, and all without a balance transfer fee of any kind. With this offer, you could transfer several high interest debts and save hundreds – or even thousands of dollars – over the introductory APR period.
3. Plan For Early Retirement
When I started as a financial advisor and finally grasped the concept of compound interest, I was determined to put myself in situation where I could retire by the age of 50 if I wanted to. I don't know if I'll ever really retire, because I absolutely love what I do.
Even if you absolutely love what it is you do for a living, planning for early retirement is one of those top rated good financial goals.
- Reaching your retirement goals may take longer than you think; if you plan to retire at 50 you’ll have plenty of time to make it by 65 in the event that you hit a few snags
- Poor health could make early retirement a necessity – if you’ve planned and prepared to retire early, then you will be ready
- Family circumstances often require more of your time, and early retirement will help you to have it
- Though you may not want to fully retire early, you may decide that you would like to downshift and not work so hard
- It’s better to be able to retire early and not need to, than to need to retire early and not be able to
There’s one other advantage to planning to retire early, and it’s a big one. By working toward early retirement, you will be front-loading your retirement investment portfolio. That will give you a larger portfolio early, which will mean that you won’t have to work so hard saving for retirement later in life when doing so may be more complicated.
For me that was opening a Roth IRA and maxing it out. My wife, too. In addition I was putting as much money into my 401k that I could. Trust me. As a brand new financial advisor I wasn't making much but I still manage to prioritize my spending and save a significant amount. Early in my career I had witnessed too many couples in their 60's that hadn't save enough to retire at all, yet retire early. I made it a goal (and a mission) that I wouldn't let that happen to me.
4. Create Multiple Income Streams
Even if you love your job, creating multiple income streams is a form of income insurance. For that reason alone, it needs to be on your list of good financial goals.
But here are even more reasons:
- One of those income streams could be the part-time cash flow that enables you to semi-retire at an early age
- If you want to start your own business – but don’t want to quit your job – starting a side business could be the way to do it
- The extra cash flow from any additional income stream could be used to help fund your retirement savings
- It could also be used to help you pay off your debts
- Several income streams could provide you with an income portfolio, that means that you’re not dependent on a single source of income – ever!
Reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad was a defining moment for me. Before then I was oblivious to the concept of having multiple streams of income. Over the years, I dabbled in many side hustles looking for “it”. That included a few multi-level marketing companies that proved to be a flop.
More from GFC, Below
I eventually took a stab at real estate and also failed miserable. Many would perceive these as failures, but I view them more as valuable life lessons that eventually led me to starting this blog. Now I have more than a few sites that yield over 6 figures per year. Not too shabby for a guy that had no web marketing experience before I started.
Give this goal some serious thought, even if you’ve never considered it before. It’s a goal that could open the door to a lot of other goals.
5. Have Enough – But Not Too Much – Insurance to Cover Contingencies
Insurance is something of a tough call. A lot of people don’t have nearly enough coverage, while many others are paying too much for the coverage that they have. Striking a balance between the two is another of those good financial goals.
Here are some strategies in striking that balance:
- Where life insurance is concerned, stick with term life insurance – it’s cheaper so you can buy as much as you need. Just make sure that you’re not buying so much life insurance that you’ll be worth more dead than you are alive; it's just an expense you don’t need to carry
- Unless mandated by state law, look into the carrying the lowest level of auto insurance possible, particularly if you have a long history as a safe driver
- Take the highest deductible you can on your health insurance, and make up the difference with an emergency fund that is large enough to cover that deductible – if you seldom use your health coverage, you'll be way ahead from the lower premiums
Part of your goal should be to work with a knowledgeable insurance agent on a regular basis to make sure that you have just enough – but never too much – insurance coverage. Oh by the way, did I mention that I'm also a co-founder of an independent insurance agency? 🙂
6. Be Able to Live on Less Than You Earn – No Matter What
I’ve covered this topic in other articles, but it is well worth repeating here since it is one of the most necessary of all good financial goals. By learning to live on less than you earn – no matter what – you will always have plenty of income. That means that you’ll have plenty of income for savings, investments, and for paying off debt.
It’s important to always be on the hunt to increase your income. But that strategy will only be effective to the degree that you are able to live on less than you earn, so that you can put the difference to better use to improve your life.
7. End Any Addiction to Stuff That You May Have
This may not be a financial goal in and of itself, but it is an obstacle that will stand in the way of all good financial goals, no matter what they are.
An addiction to stuff can be like a financial parasite. A disproportionate amount of your income and financial reserves will go to pay for your need for stuff.
This will present several problems:
- Stuff needs to be stored, and as your pile of stuff grows, you will need an ever larger space to store it. That will likely see you looking to buy a bigger house every few years, with all of the expenses that come with it
- Stuff is a capital trap – it ties up your money, but generally provides no financial benefit
- Any money that goes into stuff, is money that is not going into productive investments
- While stuff can make you more comfortable, only income producing or growth oriented investments can improve your station in life
- During times of financial turmoil, you may become obsessed with protecting and maintaining your stuff, which is not at all what you need to focus on
- Stuff has a way of eating up time, so that you have less of it to spend on more productive activities
I love this quote from Joshua Becker, author of Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life,
“Removing possessions begins to turn back our desire for more as we find freedom, happiness, and abundance in owning less. And removing ourselves from the all-consuming desire to own more creates opportunity for significant life change to take place.”
If you even suspect that you may have an addiction to stuff, then make it a financial goal to end that addiction once and for all. Your life will go better if you do.
8. A Plan to Do Work That You Love
Ultimately, the purpose of improving your finances should be to provide you with independence in your life. That means that it should afford you the ability to do what you want, when you want. If that isn’t one of the good financial goals, then I don’t know what is.
Getting out of debt, preparing for early retirement, developing multiple income streams, and ending your addiction to stuff, should clear the way for you to be able to do the kind of work that you really love. That should be true even if that work doesn’t pay nearly as much as you're being paid now.
But that will be possible only if you have no debts to pay, if you can live on less than you earn, and if you have a large investment portfolio to back you up.
Why is doing work that you love a worthy financial goal? Very few people will actually be retiring to the beach for a life of blissful nothing, no matter what you see on TV. If nothing else, it’s likely that you will work just as a matter of personal satisfaction – or an attempt to avoid boredom.
Since you will be working all of your life – one way or another – the work that you do shouldn’t just be about earning money. It should be something that makes you feel good about your life, and good about the person you are.
9. Get Comfortable Sharing Your Good Fortune
If you can’t get comfortable sharing your good fortune with people who are less fortunate – perhaps out of fear that you will end up broke as a result – then money has complete control over your life. It doesn’t matter how much money you amass in your life, it should never control you.
There are numerous reasons why giving to others will be good for you:
- Letting go of money affirms your power over it – because you know that it will come back
- Giving to those in need makes you part of the solution in the world, and not the problem
- Hoarding money is all about security – letting go of it is celebrating its value
- Giving to others just feels good – particularly the knowledge that you have the ability to do it
- Call it Karma, a higher power, what-goes-around-comes-around, or whatever you want, when you give you get – maybe not always in the form of money, but often in the form of friendship, personal satisfaction, or even help from others when you’re in need
Is giving one of those good financial goals? I think that if you look at many of the most famous wealthy people the world, you will see a distinct pattern of giving to others along the way.
10. A Plan to Leave Your Financial House in Order Upon Your Death
However you live your life, it should be a goal to make sure that your loved ones are left at least a little bit better off as a result of your life. That means not only making adequate provisions for those who are dependent upon your financial resources, but also making sure that you don’t leave them with a financial mess to clean up.
Here are some steps you can take to leave your financial house in order upon your death:
- As discussed in #5, make sure that you have adequate insurance, particularly life insurance
- Make sure all of your debts are paid, and if there are any large or unusual ones, by a term life insurance policy to payoff that debt upon your death
- Consider the impact of estate taxes, if your estate is large enough to be subject to them (insurance can cover that too)
- Discuss the financial implications of your death with your loved ones, to make sure that everyone understands what you want to do, and also so that you will consider any concerns or insecurities that they may have
- Make sure that you have set an example of good financial management for your loved ones – what they learn from you will benefit them for the rest of their lives, and probably more than any amount of money you could leave them
Reaching a point of financial independence in life has nothing to do with luck or magic. It’s simply a matter of setting good financial goals, and having a concrete plan as to how you will achieve them. Once that plan is established, and working toward those goals becomes part of the habits that make your life what it is, achieving financial independence can almost seem as if it’s happening on automatic pilot.
But only if you make it happen.
When's the last time you wrote down your goals? More importantly, when's the last time you've revisited them?