Aug. 15, 2016
It’s hard to know how to prioritize your financial goals. Personal finance is personal, so there isn’t one answer for everyone. It’s important to understand how to prioritize your financial goals and help you figure out what to focus on first.
Should you start an emergency fund or save for retirement? Pay off debt or start investing? Everyone will give you different advice, and it can get confusing.
Know What You Want
You can’t do anything meaningful until you decide on some goals for the short term (this month), medium term (next 3-6 months) and long-term (1-2 years). What stage are you at in life and where do you want to be?
Your financial goals can be buying a new home, saving for college, starting a family or creating an emergency fund.
When you take this step, it’s important to think about both your short-term and long-term goals.
Perhaps you want to plan a family vacation to Europe within the next five years. Or, you may wish to have enough of a buffer in your finances so that you and your significant other can afford to go out for a nice dinner every couple weeks.
No matter your vision, be sure to create SMART goals.
For example, how much should you have budgeted before you begin planning your trip? Or, how much money would you like to spend each time you go out to dinner?
To that end, it is critical to tie real numbers to your goals. You should also have a feasible timeline for when you would like to accomplish each goal. It’s OK to be ambitious, but you should also avoid setting yourself up for failure by giving yourself far too little time to reach your goal.
No matter what they are, it’s time to get ideas out of your head and make a list. Writing down your goals is critical. However, you should also make a habit of revisiting your goals and making sure you are on the right track. If so, remain consistent and do not let yourself get complacent.
If you’re not currently on track, remember why you set your goals in the first place and find ways to get to where you want to be. Don’t be too hard on yourself — change is hard, and many people fail several times before they find the right formula for success. If you get off track, the best thing you can do is make some adjustments right away.
Prioritize Your Important List
Once you have figured out your goals, give priority to each of your personal goals in order of importance, and then determine how long you have to save for each of them.
Remember to put your oxygen mask on first. Debt destruction is probably more important than kids college fund. Putting your retirement on track is more important than buying a new car. Debt is costing you money and will move you figure away from your goals. If it’s more than you can handle debt consolidation or refinancing could help you out of the hole.
Having an emergency fund is so important. Unfortunately almost half of Americans couldn’t come up with $400 if an emergency came up. A good rule of thumb is having 3-4 months of your salary in a savings account and then contribute to an investment account like Betterment.
Making more money can help you get to your goals faster. Not everyone has the time for side hustles so if you are looking to make some extra cash, every month then asks for a raise. Salary negotiation can be scary, but studies show that people who ask for a raise make more money than those who don’t.
Know What You’re Worth
Asking for a raise can be difficult,
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