Get Your S.M.A.R.T. Goals Set for 2016

Scott Kahan |

The cool fall breeze is in the air. The nighttime temperatures are dipping a little further every night. Right now, retailers are focusing on Thanksgiving, which rolls nicely into Christmas specials and door busters at stores around the country. As retailers think about the spending spree that accompanies the end of the 2015 calendar year, it's not a bad idea for you as an individual to start looking ahead to the year 2016. What things would you like to achieve in the future? What financial goals would you like to meet? Now's the time to set your S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2016.

What does SMART Mean?

We're not talking about brilliance here, but rather, a set of goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. SMART goals are applicable to various areas of your life, but they are particularly helpful for those hoping to get their finances back on track after a rough year, or simply improve upon the financial standing they already enjoy. Whether you set SMART goals to right the ship or steer it towards even safer waters in the future, there's never a bad time to get SMART.

Why SMART Matters in Finances

SMART and your finances go hand in hand because everyone needs a measurable way of determining their financial health. If you simply go through life knowing the bills get paid and that suffices for you, it leaves the door open for surprises in the future that can throw your steady world into upheaval quickly. Here's a brief breakdown of SMART's application to finances:

• Specific: Simply saying you want to "save money," isn't an attainable goal. How much money do you want to save? Why? By what date? Be specific when you look at your finances. Have a set goal in mind.

• Measurable: Piggy backing off that point, don't pick something you can't measure. If you are going to set a specific goal, you'll need a budget to help track your progress. Otherwise you're just trying to save money and have no real idea if you're improving in that quest.

• Attainable: Keep your goals realistic. Don't expect to save the requisite 20% down payment for a home all in one year. Start with something small, such as saving enough to pay off a credit card or complete the final payments on an outstanding student loan. Even better, try saving for that vacation you've always wanted.

• Realistic: Stepping back to the previous point, if you opt for a vacation (for example) make sure it is realistic. Don't shoot to save for a 14-day trip through Europe all in one year. Instead, how about a 4-day weekend at a beach resort (off-season) to reward yourself?

• Timely: The best way to stay on course with your savings and SMART goals is to have a specific timeframe in mind. When do you want to save some extra cash by? Make sure it lines up with the specific goal you've set, is measurable over the period of savings, attainable within that time, and realistic to your current financial disposition.

Why Start Now?

The question should be, why not? There's never a bad time to start thinking ahead to next year. If you are going to be setting financial goals for yourself, it's better to do so now before you are in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Look forward now with a clear head, and you'll be able to set realistic goals for your future.


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