How to Set Your Financial Goals — and Set Yourself Up for Success in Achieving Them

Nearly all of us have life dreams we’d like to achieve someday. And let’s face it: In many (or even most) cases, finances can play a significant role in our ability to make our dreams come true.

Especially when money is involved, dreams rarely come true without putting in some substantial planning and effort. And this is why setting financial goals and putting in the work needed to accomplish them is often critical to realizing our dreams. This is typically the case whether we’re looking to save enough money to buy a home, enjoy a comfortable retirement, send the kids to college or simply take a long-sought-after vacation.

7 tips on how to achieve financial goals

Having a plan in place can help provide a vision for achieving your financial goals and help inspire the drive needed to make them happen. It can also help you better hold yourself accountable for making wise money-related choices, increasing your likelihood of successfully achieving your financial goals.

Ready to start putting your financial plans in place and working to make them happen? Consider these seven tips from The Southern Bank for setting your financial goals and keeping your efforts to achieve them on track:

1. Make a prioritized list of your financial goals — To get started, create a list of all your top financial goals, including the ones you’re already working toward and the ones you’d like to start making strides toward achieving in the future. As you compile the list, move the items you consider to be the most important to the top, and move the less-critical ones to the bottom. Having a firm grasp on which of your financial goals are most important to you will help you determine how you’ll set money aside moving forward, as well as how you’ll make adjustments to your savings plans when setbacks arise.

2. Keep your goals realistic — Try to avoid an “all or nothing” mindset that sees you setting unrealistic goals that are well beyond your current financial reach. Taking this route is likely to set you up for disappointment and failure moving forward, as you’ll likely become discouraged when you don’t hit such out-of-reach goals, which can eventually lead you to abandon your efforts. Instead, set realistic and sustainable goals that you can actually make happen, even if you need to start small. You can always increase the amounts you’re setting aside as you revisit your goals in the future (more on that later).

3. Ensure the financial basics are covered first — Whether these items made your list or not, it’s important to ensure that the basic elements of your financial well-being are being kept top of mind. This can include such things as paying off debts in a timely manner, building good credit and having an emergency fund in place. Further, while retirement may seem far off, especially for younger savers, beginning to build a retirement fund is important for everyone. (And adding incentive to start early, the power of compound interest can turn even small contributions into substantial sums of money over time.)

4. Clearly define each goal, and put a plan in place — Once your list of top financial goals is complete, add in details such as prospective timelines and rough estimates of the amount of money each goal will require. With an eye toward the timelines, the costs and the priorities you’ve set, put some thought into which goal(s) you’d like to try to achieve first. Keep in mind that you can always work toward multiple goals simultaneously, even if this requires taking small steps toward each. Begin putting a plan into place that includes the actions you’ll take to achieve each of your goals. And if any of your longer-term goals seem too overwhelming to tackle, consider breaking the goal down into smaller, easier-to-achieve steps. For example, if you’d like to someday buy a home, you might want to make your initial goal to save up for the down payment you’ll need, then later set a new goal once you’ve achieved that.

5. Focus on making progress, and celebrate your wins — As you accomplish each of the approachable financial goals you’ve set for yourself, take pride in the progress you’ve made — and celebrate the fact that you’re making strides toward achieving your bigger-picture financial goals. With each small victory you claim, you’ll build momentum toward accomplishing your bigger money-related goals and build motivation to keep up the good financial habits you’re developing and strengthening.

6. Accept that surprises and setbacks will arise — Some months will simply cost more than others, such as when birthday- and/or holiday-related expenditures arise, or when you have to spend money on travel for events like weddings and family gatherings. Further, life is full of surprises and unexpected expenses that can bring unanticipated (and often substantial) bills that impact your savings plans. It’s important to accept that these things will happen, and not to let them get you down when they do. Stay focused on sticking to your plans when you get past such inevitable challenges, and remember that you’re actively making progress toward reaching your financial goals when you can.

7. Revisit/reevaluate your goals and adjust your plans regularly — Life changes and other factors will inevitably affect your financial situation moving forward, so be sure to revisit your money-related goals and plans at least once a year. In doing so, be sure to evaluate the progress you made over the previous year, review the priorities you set when charting your previous year’s (and longer-term) goals, and adjust your financial expectations and plans as needed. In addition, as your income (and the funds you can contribute to savings) increase over time, this will give you a chance to adjust your savings contributions accordingly — and gradually take even bigger strides toward reaching your financial goals.

At The Southern Bank, we pride ourselves on offering friendly, personalized service to all of our customers — and that includes providing guidance when you have questions about any of our banking services. To learn more about our Personal Banking services ranging from Personal Checking and Personal Loans to Savings & Money Market, Certificates of Deposit (CDs), Mortgages and more, check out the Personal Banking page on our website or visit one of our local branches for friendly, in-person service with a smile.

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