By Catherine Martinez

2021 is finally here, and that means it’s time to revisit your financial goals. Setting goals for your finances can seem overwhelming, but this exercise can help you dream and relieve your anxiety about the future. Take a deep breath and try these tips to get started.

1. Brainstorm and research.

You may already have a few goals in mind, but there are probably a few others that you need to pursue but haven’t yet considered. That’s why research is essential.

Here are some examples of financial goals to get you started:

  • Pay off all credit card debt.
  • Keep a spending journal.
  • Create and follow a budget.
  • Open a 529 college savings plan for dependents.
  • Buy a house.
  • Pay off your home mortgage early.
  • Save for a family vacation.
  • Pay off student loans.
  • Make a will.
  • Start a business.
  • Create and diversify an investment portfolio.
  • Build an emergency fund.
  • Retire early.
  • Grow income through a side hustle.
  • Give to charity.
  • And many more!

2. Make all your goals SMART.

Set all goals using the “SMART” method: specific, measurable, actionable (or attainable), relevant (or realistic), and time-bound. For example, instead of setting the goal, “I will save more money,” try this: “I will save $2,000 by the end of December for an emergency fund. I will do this by revising my budget and directly depositing $75 of my paycheck into a savings account each pay period.”

  • Specific: I will save $2,000.
  • Measurable: The dollars I save will be the measure of my success.
  • Actionable: I will revise my budget and use direct deposit to send $75 of each paycheck into savings.
  • Relevant: These savings will keep me from going into debt in an emergency.
  • Time-bound: The deadline is December.

3. Categorize short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals, and break them down into achievable steps.

Remember, you meet a big goal by meeting many small goals. For example, my long-term goal is to save enough for retirement, so my short-term goal is to invest 8% of my paycheck into a 401(k) this year, and my mid-term goal is to work my way up to 10% over the next two years.

4. Automate as many goals as possible.

Nothing will help you achieve your financial goals like automation, especially when saving and investing. Put your progress on autopilot by using direct deposit and workplace benefits to save and invest. This will help you stay on track!

5. Write down every goal.

Write down all your goals and the steps to making them a reality. Include deadlines, budgets, and other relevant information. Consider putting your plan in a place where you will see it every day, such as the bathroom mirror, the fridge, or your office wall.

6. Expect the unexpected.

This should be on everyone’s list: Prepare yourself and your family for unexpected events with safeguards like life insurance, flood insurance, and a last will and testament. If you fall victim to a natural disaster or an unexpected loss, you won’t be derailed from your financial goals.

7. Find accountability.

You can write down your goals and keep them private, but sharing them with a friend will improve your odds of following through. Be brave and find an accountability buddy!

8. Commit to learning more.

Find resources to fill the gaps in your knowledge: read books, watch videos, or make an appointment to speak with a financial advisor.

You can make your goals a reality in 2021. Get started today!

Catherine Martinez is a contributing writer for Smart Women Smart Money Magazine. She can be reached at [email protected].