The other day, I bumped into an old friend who I hadn’t seen for years. She looked great, but when I glanced over at her car, I got a little worried. You see, in the past, Ellen wouldn’t have been caught dead in a car that small or that old. And yet, there she was smiling and talking about how great everything was. I guess my poker face wasn’t so good because she finally stopped and said, “You’re staring at my car.” I admitted it and then she said, “The truth is I have enough money in my investments to buy 50 cars but that’s just not one of my goals right now.”
Goals? Investments? Who was that woman and what had she done with my materialistic friend?
After some kidding, Ellen admitted that she had really heard all of my preaching and one day her focus just shifted from spending money to accumulating it, and she had been on that path ever since. I told her how happy I was for her and we made plans to get together again soon.
So often, like the Ellen I once knew, we live in the day-to-day, allowing the demands of the present to swallow up our time and our money, and we don’t make time to set goals and prioritize where we want our money to go. But some amazing things can happen when you do that, including accomplishing some really big things. (Note: I did the math and if Ellen can afford 50 cars, she must have around $1 million stashed away.)
There is no time like the present to get started putting your money to work for you. And remember, it is just as easy to set big goals as it is to set small ones. To get started, set aside some quiet time to think about what you want your life to be like in five years. Ten years. Fifteen years. Then work you way back to the present, including the steps you need to take to get there in the future. In each case, the goals you set should be something you really want so you will have the motivation to keep going when things get tough and to make any sacrifices necessary to make your vision a reality.
When setting goals, always keep the basics in mind. Goals should be: specific—being wishy-washy gets you nowhere; realistic—in the realm of possibility so don’t set yourself up for failure from the start; have a controllable outcome—with you as the creator of your destiny instead of leaving your fate in the hands of others; include a time frame to be completed; and be measurable so you know when you get there. One example that fits all the criteria is someone age 35 who wants to accumulate $1 million by age 55 so they can retire early. There is no doubt about what the goal is, it is controllable and within the realm of possibility, there’s a deadline and even motivation to keep going. For more on financial goals, listen to my “The Art of Goals” podcast here.
Finally, remember to celebrate your successes along the way and to set new goals as you achieve your current ones. As far as I know there is no limit on the number of goals you can set or achieve.
So don’t wait any longer. Take the first step, write out your goals, and share one of your main goals below. Putting it out there will not only help encourage others, but it will allow the universe to help you stay on track by holding you accountable to yourself.
Patricia Stallworth, CFP® and CDFA, is the president of PS Worth, a financial education company, the author of Minding Your Money, and the host of the Minding Your Money Minute™. Learn more by visiting MindingYourMoney.net.