Taking charge of your financial future involves setting short-term, mid-term, and long-term financial goals.
In fact, did you know that 83% of people who set financial goals feel better about their financial situation within just 12 months after setting their goals?
Source: Business Wire
Setting financial goals can also help you improve your current financial situation.
And in this article, I’m going to show you how to set financial goals by giving you my top 10 financial goals examples that can help you take control of your finances.
In this article
Let’s get started!
What is a Financial Goal?
A financial goal is a milestone you aim to reach by mastering money management. Financial goals can be either short-term, mid-term, or long-term and they typically require you to budget, save more, pay off debt, and invest for retirement.
The more specific and measurable your financial goals, the more likely you will accomplish them.
The unfortunate truth is that today more than ever; Americans need to commit to their personal finance goals so they can better prepare for their future.
The recent pandemic has been a complete disrupter, financially speaking, for most Americans. In fact, 63% of Americans say their personal finances were affected by COVID-19.
Solid financial goals can help you get back on track.
The first step to developing your financial goals is to create a budget with top-tier software programs like You Need A Budget.
Once you’ve created a budget, the next step is to figure out your financial goals.
Below is a list of financial goals that my husband and I developed for ourselves:
- Live on a minimalist budget
- Pay off the mortgage by 35
- Retire our parents by age 35
- Achieve millionaire status by 35
- Travel to 1 new country each year
- Build 2 additional side hustles by 30
While we have many additional goals, these are some starter financial goals that you can also take inspiration from.
The 3 Types of Financial Goals
There are 3 types of financial goals:
It’s important to understand the difference between each of the three types so that you can start setting short-term, mid-term, and long-term financial goals.
Below is a breakdown of the 3 types of financial goals:
|Financial Goal||Time Frame|
1 year to 5 years
Here are some short-term financial goals examples:
- Start a budget
- Save for holiday gifts
- Prepare an estate plan
- Build an emergency fund
- Build a net worth statement
Short-term goals should be accomplished within 1 year of setting them. Typically, short-term goals are fairly straightforward.
Now let’s take a look at some mid-term financial goals examples:
- Pay off your car
- Start maxing out your 401k
- Save for a house down payment
- Pay off your massive credit card debt
Mid-term goals often take a little more time to plan and execute. They also typically require more money than short-term financial goals.
Lastly, let’s take a look at some of the long-term financial goals examples:
- Save for college
- Save for retirement
- Build your business
- Pay off your mortgage
- Plan for long-term care
- Review your estate plan
Long-term financial goals often require more planning, more money, and more commitment. Often, long-term goals take patience and discipline – and typically it takes time to see progress.
Surprisingly, only 30% of Americans have long-term financial goals.
It’s critical to have long-term financial goals because these goals help you accomplish lifelong dreams – like retirement, owning a home, or providing for your family’s financial security.
Financial Goals: What to Keep in Mind
As you start considering which financial goals may best suit you and your situation, you should keep in mind that there is a secret way to build successful financial goals.
I call it the SMARTV Plan.
|The SMARTV Plan|
Your goals should be specific
Your progress should be tracked
You should be able to take easy action
Don’t exaggerate your goals
Set specific time frames
Your goals should be visible for you on a daily basis
If you follow the steps of the SMARTV plan, then you’ll make it much harder for yourself to fail at accomplishing your goals.
I’ve personally used the SMARTV plan when it came to building this blog, and it worked wonders.
Top 10 Financial Goals Examples
Now that you have a rough idea of how to set financial goals, let’s take a look at the top 10 financial goals examples.
As you read through these goals, remember to stay:
Even if you don’t see progress within the first few months, continue with your plan, and chances are, you’ll start seeing a difference down the road.
Let’s dive right in.
1. Educate Yourself on Basic Financial Literacy
If you want to get ahead financially, you have to understand basic money matters.
Did you know that Botswana is almost as financially literate as the United States?
Clearly, there is a lot of ground that we need to cover.
If you want to save money in the future, then one of your financial goals should be to start educating yourself on basic financial literacy.
In fact, lack of financial literacy has cost Americans just about $415 billion in 2020 alone.
Do yourself the favor and start saving money now.
If you build up your financial literacy, then you’ll be ahead of most Millennials, because only 16% of millennials are financially literate.
Source: Yahoo Finance
It’s no wonder that only 16% of millennials are considered financially literate because just 21 states require U.S. high school students to take a course in personal finance.
I believe that every student should sit through a personal finance class.
If you want to improve your financial literacy, I would recommend you first to sign up to my weekly newsletter, below.
Second, I would suggest picking up a book (or listen to a podcast) that talks about some of the basic personal finance concepts.
Below are my top personal finance book picks:
- The Behavior Gap by Carl Richards
- How to Get Rich from Nothing by Me
- The Millionaire Mind by Dr. Thomas J. Stanley
- The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
The most important part is to start educating yourself – even if it’s just for 15 minutes a day.
2. Pay Yourself First
Paying yourself first is critical to long-term financial success.
Paying yourself first really means using your paycheck money to:
- Pay off credit card debt
- Invest in your retirement plan
- Add to your emergency savings fund
- Increase your investment contributions
As it stands currently, 95% of millennials are saving less than the recommended amount for retirement (which typically is between 10% to 20% of your total income).
The good news is that paying yourself first is a way to combat this statistic.
- Download M1 Finance
- Spend less than you earn
- Set up auto-recurring investments
- Don’t allow your lifestyle to eat into your long-term goals
M1 Finance is an investment app (free to download) that is designed for serious, long-term savers. The minimum to open a regular account is $100 and $500 for retirement accounts.
If can’t put away large chunks of money right now – then consider downloading Acorns. Acorns is an investment app where you can start investing with just $5.
The most important point is to start paying yourself first now.
3. Build Additional Income Streams
Have you ever heard of the saying: Never put your eggs in 1 basket?
The same goes for your income streams.
Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been taught that we can no longer rely on just 1 income stream (which for many would have been their primary job).
Instead, it’s imperative to start building passive income streams.
Here are some of the top passive income ideas:
Another great way to build additional income streams is by starting a side hustle.
Here are some of the top side hustle ideas:
If you want to become financially independent and create new income streams, then check out these platforms to grow your long-term wealth.
Recommended Reading: 7 Multiple Streams of Income
4. Develop & Stick to a Budget
Have you ever tried driving a long road trip without a map (or without your GPS)?
If you don’t stick to a map, then there is a high chance that you’ll get lost and probably end up somewhere completely different from your final destination.
The same goes for not having a budget.
Your budget is your road map.
Budgets are critical to helping you:
…Your financial goals.
And the good news is that 58% of Americans feel comfortable creating a personal budget – but most just haven’t started one yet.
Source: PR Newswire
And that’s ok because one of the keys to setting financial goals is to first understand your current situation: Your income and your expenses.
That’s where a budget comes into play.
One of the most effective budgeting apps out there is known as YNAB, aka You Need A Budget.
You can download YNAB and have a free 34-day trial to see if you like the app.
YNAB claims that its app is so effective that first-time YNABers save about $600 in the first 2 months and over $6,000 in the first year of using the app.
5. Pay Off All Credit Card Debt
Did you know the average American family is saddled with over $6,270 of credit card debt?
With an average of 25% APY interest rate, these households may be paying $1,567.50 in just interest per year.
Of course, COVID-19 was a major contributor to the increasing debt load, where 51% of U.S. adults accumulated more debt during the outbreak.
There are some savvy ways to pay off credit card debt, however.
One of those ways is called credit card debt consolidation.
The reason why debt consolidation could work is that:
- You pay a lower interest rate
- You only have 1 monthly payment to 1 company
- There is a clear end date to when your payments terminate
One company that specializes in debt consolidation is Tally 👇
Tally makes it simple to stay on top of your credit cards.
You scan your cards. If you qualify, tally gives you a line of credit at a low APR and manages all your payments.
No late fees. No gimmicks. Just a faster way to pay down your balances.
Start paying off high-interest debt today.
Your bank accounts will thank you later.
6. Build an Emergency Savings Fund
If you had to drive exactly 137 miles, would you fill up your car tank to give you a range of exactly 137 miles?
The answer should be no.
You don’t know if there will be a detour, which could cause you to drive a different route, and you also don’t know whether you’ll get lost and drive more than the 137 miles.
We just don’t know what the future will hold.
And that’s why it’s critical to have an emergency savings fund – a cash account that can get you through an emergency like an unexpected detour.
Shockingly, however, nearly 10% of Americans have $0 saved.
If there ever was an emergency, chances are they will have to resort to debt financing (aka using their credit cards) or taking on other high-interest loans.
Even more shocking, is that only 39% of Americans could pay for an unexpected $1,000 expense.
Here’s how much you should have saved in an emergency fund:
- 3 to 6 months’ worth of your living expenses
So if you earn $3,000 a month, you should have saved between $9,000 to $18,000 in cash in an emergency savings fund.
COVID taught us a valuable lesson: Your job is temporary.
Your emergency savings fund can keep you afloat during the months that you are looking to find a job (for example). On average, finding a job typically takes 6+ weeks.
That’s where you’ll have to rely on an emergency fund the most.
Here’s how you can get the biggest bang for your buck:
Open a high-yield savings account with online banks like Axos Bank and designate that as your emergency savings fund.
Axos Bank offers interest rates up to 10x the national average on your cash. It’s free to open an account, there is no lock-up period with your money, and you get FDIC protection.
This is how you optimize your cash and prepare for the unexpected.
7. Establish a Solid Credit Score
Think about your long-term goals.
If you want to:
- Buy a car
- Buy a home
- Get a new job
…Then you’ll probably have to show you are responsible.
Most institutions take your credit score, which for them is a measure of responsibility (aka whether you pay your bills on time).
That’s just the way things are.
I want you to think about your credit score – and if you don’t know your credit score, then check out Credit Karma, which will show you your credit score report for free.
Below is a look at the FICO credit score ranges:
Your goal should be to land anywhere between the Good and the Excellent ranges.
Your credit score is determined by several factors including:
- Your credit mix
- Your new credit
- How much you owe
- Your payment history
- The length of your credit history
Below is a rough breakdown of how much weight each category has in determining your credit score:
Now, if you don’t have the credit or payment history because you’re young and just haven’t had the chance to use a credit card yet, then there is a fix to build your credit score ASAP.
That fix is called Self Credit Builder.
Self helps you build your credit history (and your credit score) even when you don’t have credit. Self reports your payments to the credit reporting institutions to build your history.
The only caveat is that with Self you cannot afford to miss a payment.
If you do, that completely defeats the purpose of this app (which is to build your credit).
8. Save for Retirement
Although retirement may seem so far off, it’s never too late to think about your road map to become financially free during retirement.
If you want to get ahead of the curve, start saving for retirement today.
In fact, 66% of millennials have $0 saved for retirement.
Source: John Hancock
Even worse, 67% of Americans’ retirement plan is to just keep working during retirement – which often leads to stress, increased health issues, and potential frustration.
Unless you love your job, don’t count on working the last few years of your life because you have no other option.
Save yourself the trouble by putting your money to work today.
- Download M1 Finance
- Spend less than you earn
- Max out your retirement plans
- Invest consistently every month
First, it’s critical to at least contribute enough money to your 401k plan (if you have access to one) so that you receive your employer matching contribution.
Second, you can open a tax-advantaged retirement account (like an IRA or a Roth IRA) through free investment apps like M1 Finance.
Even if you can invest “just” $100 every week, then do it.
Start now. You’ll thank yourself later.
9. Get Life Insurance
Even if you’re in your early 20’s, life insurance is something that you’ll probably want to consider at some point in your life – and the earlier, the better.
Because the cost of your life insurance could be substantially lower if you’re younger (because you’re healthier) versus if you applied for life insurance at a later age.
In fact, only 10% of Millennials have enough life insurance to cover 100 percent of their needs.
Source: New York Life
Here’s when you need life insurance:
- You have kids
- You have a partner
- You have other dependents
- You are the primary breadwinner
And honestly, even if you are single and without kids as a millennial, you should probably consider buying life insurance earlier than later – especially if you plan to start a family in the future.
Recommended Reading: How Much Life Insurance Do I Need?
I should note that there are many different types of life insurance.
When I’m talking about life insurance for Millennials, I’m actually talking about buying what is known as term life insurance.
Conversely, if you don’t outlive your life insurance term (which we hope won’t be the case), then your designated beneficiaries (aka the people who you want to receive your life insurance money) would receive your life insurance death benefit tax-free.
I work with a lot of millennials, and I often suggest they consider purchasing a term life insurance death benefit between $500,000 to $1 million.
Typically, they would be looking at a $20 to $50 monthly cost for that type of coverage (which is pretty cost-efficient).
Obviously, I don’t know your situation, so I can’t give you a recommendation – but I can recommend for you to check out Policygenius.
Policygenius and I have partnered because I truly believe that Policygenius can give you some of the best term life insurance rates in the marketplace.
Here’s what you do:
- Go to Policygenius
- Type in your basic information
- Run a life insurance quote within minutes
- Determine whether you like what they offer
- Start the life insurance process to protect your family
Running a quote takes between 2 to 4 minutes, and you’ll see how much you can expect to pay for your life insurance immediately.
Although no one likes talking about their mortality, it’s important to prepare yourself – and your loved ones – for a worst-case scenario.
Term life insurance often is a cost-efficient way.
10. Prepare Your Estate Documents
One of the best – and typically most overlooked – financial goals is to prepare your estate documents.
Just as with life insurance, no one likes talking about their own mortality (not even me!). But death is simply a part of the life cycle.
And if our goal is to help our loved ones avoid as much financial stress as possible, especially while grieving, then you should probably make it a priority to prepare your estate documents.
Typical estate documents include the following:
- Basic Will
- Living Will
- Living Trust
- Health Care Surrogate
- Durable Power of Attorney
If you just thought you read a different language and have more question marks than answers, take a look at my English translation below:
You direct how you want your property (from your jewelry to your money) to be left to your family, friends, charities, etc.
If you are incapacitated and you are unable to express yourself, this document will detail your medical treatment.
A way to distribute your property after your death without going through the public court system.
Health Care Surrogate
If you’re not able to make medical decisions (aka you’re incapacitated), this document will state the person you give authority to make decisions on your behalf.
Durable Power of Attorney (aka DPOA)
You select someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf about virtually every aspect of your life (from money, to your health, etc.).
Now, if you’re young and your financial situation isn’t too complex, then you probably don’t need a trust.
However, you should probably consider obtaining the other estate documents.
However, seeing that most millennials are just starting in their careers, are probably in some type of student debt, and are probably not making a lot of money (yet), there is another, much more cost-efficient way to draft up estate documents: Using online services.
One of the top recommended online estate planning services is known as Trust & Will.
Trust & Will provides basic estate planning documents (including Wills, Living Wills, Powers of Attorney, etc.) that are state-specific.
After answering a few questions about your personal situation, Trust & Will drafts a customized plan for you – plus as your life changes, you can also make updates to your estate plan.
FAQs about Financial Goals
Some examples of financial goals include:
- Create a budget
- Pay yourself first
- Get life insurance
- Prepare an estate plan
- Pay off high-interest debt
- Create a side hustle income
- Improve your financial literacy
- Increase your retirement savings
A good personal finance goal will include the characteristics of the SMART acronym: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based. The key to a good financial goal is that you create a clear roadmap to accomplish your goal.
Setting financial goals works when you set short-term financial goals, mid-term financial goals, and long-term financial goals. The more you break down your personal finance goals into categories, the easier it will be to accomplish them.
Long-term financial goals are critical to accomplish financial freedom. One of the most popular financial goals is to save enough money for retirement. While most recommend saving around 10% of your total income, considering today’s increasing cost of living, the exorbitant cost of healthcare, and the fact that we’re living longer, it’s a better idea to save 30% at minimum of your total income for a better retirement.
The first place to start is to figure out your current situation: What’s your budget (income vs. expenses) and what’s your current net worth (how much you own vs. how much you owe).
If you know what you want to achieve in your future (like paying off debt, saving for retirement) and you’ve already determined your current financial situation, all you need to do is create short-term, mid-term, and long-term financial goals to help you connect the dots to where you want to be, financially speaking, in the future.
Financial Goals: The Bottom Line
Especially in today’s chaotic, pandemic-ridden world, it’s more important than ever to understand your financial goals and what you need to do to make them a reality.
Remember that your personal finance goals should be:
…Aka your financial goals should be SMART.
Life is guaranteed to throw several unexpected curve balls your way – and you better be prepared for those situations (financially speaking).
Keep in mind that:
- People are living longer
- Wages are fairly stagnant
- The cost of living is increasing
- Student loan debt is increasing
- The cost of healthcare is increasing
…And all of this means that your financial picture better be prepared for whatever comes your way.
If you don’t know where to start, my advice is to start with a budget. Remember that you can download one of the best budgeting tools, You Need A Budget (aka YNAB), with a free 34-day trial.
Finance is typically a long-term game. So, just be patient with yourself and stay focused on those long-term financial goals.
Your bank accounts will thank me later.
How do you plan to tackle your financial goals? Let me know in the comments section below.