Worried About Reaching Your Money Goals? Just Set One

by Miranda Marquit · 6 comments

One of the problems I have with goal setting is that I often set too many goals. Indeed, I’ll make a whole list of goals I want to accomplish – only to have most of them fall to the wayside. That’s the problem with setting too many goals. Many of us can’t do that many things at once.

Instead of setting a whole bunch of money goals, consider whittling it down to just one. You are likely to be more effective overall if you concentrate your efforts on one thing at a time.

What is Most Important to You?

Look at your financial situation, and consider your financial priorities. What do you think is the most important financial thing for you to accomplish? Do you want to be able to max out your retirement contributions? Look at your monthly expenses, and see what you can cut out. Work, a little each month, to reduce your unimportant expenses and increase your retirement account contributions. Find ways to increase your income to meet your goal.

You can set up a similar plan to pay down your debt or save up for a family vacation. Look at your long-term financial goals, and decide what you can realistically do to reach your goals later on. Make this year one that really helps you kick your most important financial goal up a notch.

Planning Your Efforts

Every guru out there points out that you should break down your big goal into smaller steps. As a result, your one important goal quickly becomes several little goals. That’s not a problem, as long as you stay focused on working toward your main, overall result. Breaking down your big goal into a series of mini-goals is more like creating a road map of a trip. You want to follow each step logically in a sequence that makes sense.

Your first step is to figure out where you’re at right now. If your goal this year is to max out your Roth IRA contribution, you first need to take stock of where you are. You can contribute up to $6,000 a year to a Roth IRA. That breaks down to $500 a month. If you already contribute $150 a month to your Roth IRA, you need to find $350 more in your budget each month.

Once you know where you are, and see where you need to be, you can start making a plan to get there. Perhaps you know that you won’t actually contribute $6,000 to your Roth IRA this year. Maybe your goal is to work on your finances all year so that, by the end of the year you are contributing $500 each month, setting yourself up to contribute the maximum amount of $6,000 each year (until you are eligible at age 50 to increase your contribution).

As you progress through the year, you can work, a little at a time, to free up the extra $350 in your budget each month by cutting back on some less important expenses. You can also try to earn more money with a side hustle or home business.

Have You Reviewed Your Money Goals Recently?

Don’t be afraid to change goals either. Sometimes, money goals no longer make sense.

There’s nothing wrong with changing your money goals. In fact, it makes sense to review your money goals regularly to get an idea of where you stand, and whether or not your goals still make sense for your situation.

Are You on the Right Track?

One of the best reasons to review your money goals and change things up is if you’re on the right track. Are you headed in the right direction? Have you made good progress toward your priorities?

For example, if you are already doing what’s needed to save that $500 towards a Roth IRA each month, then you should set another goal. Perhaps you want to put even more into retirement by starting a taxable investment account. Maybe you want to build a bigger emergency fund. If you have made solid progress and are on the right track, you might be able to start using any excess over $500 to beef up your cash cushion.

Have Your Priorities Changed?

Sometimes, when we set money goals, we do so with certain priorities in mind. What happens when those priorities change? You need to change your goals to match your new direction. There’s no reason to keep reaching for objectives that no longer matter to you.

Every now and then it makes sense to review your money goals and determine whether or not they match your current lifestyle expectations. I had to review my own money goals recently. I changed some of my objectives to match with the fact that my life is on a new trajectory. Abandoning a goal because it no longer fits isn’t a failure. It’s recognizing that life throws you curveballs and sometimes you need to course-correct in order to continue progressing.

Be Careful About Changing Your Money Goals

It’s important to be careful about changing your money goals, however. You don’t want to switch things up just because things are difficult, or because you are temporarily distracted by something else. It’s important to carefully consider the reasons that you plan to change your money goals. Honestly examine yourself to figure out what truly makes sense in your situation.

Don’t change your goals to match someone else’s idea of what you should be doing. Additionally, don’t change things due to panic or euphoria. Either of those emotions can cloud your judgment. Instead, take stock of where you stand and what you hope to accomplish.

Your goals should reflect your long-term lifestyle aspirations and expectations, and provide you with a practical roadmap to reaching your destination. Regularly review your goals to make sure they still reflect your priorities and expectations. And if they no longer do the job, switch them out for goals that are more in line with your future.

Bottom Line

Don’t try to solve all of your financial problems in one go, or try to reach financial freedom all at once. You are more likely to become discouraged through such efforts. Instead, focus on one major money goal and make sure that goal truly still reflects what is important to you now. Once you have reached it, you’ll feel ready to tackle the next goal on your list.

Editor's Note: I've begun tracking my assets through Personal Capital. I'm only using the free service so far and I no longer have to log into all the different accounts just to pull the numbers. And with a single screen showing all my assets, it's much easier to figure out when I need to rebalance or where I stand on the path to financial independence.

They developed this pretty nifty 401K Fee Analyzer that will show you whether you are paying too much in fees, as well as an Investment Checkup tool to help determine whether your asset allocation fits your risk profile. The platform literally takes a few minutes to sign up and it's free to use by following this link here. For those trying to build wealth, Personal Capital is worth a look.

Money Saving Tip: An incredibly effective way to save more is to reduce your monthly Internet and TV costs. Click here for the current AT&T DSL and U-VERSE promotion codes and promos and see if you can save more money every month from now on.

{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Jean says:

    I also used to have this habit of overcommitting myself to too many targets and not really being able to successfully achieve any of them. It’s a good idea to narrow it down to one, or a few only, that are realistically possible. Also, it lets you take into account any experience you gain and apply it to subsequent goals.


  • Maggie says:

    Excellent advice. No goals? No accomplishments. Simple and true.

  • David says:

    Setting a goal is the most critical step in reaching that goal. Paying down one’s debts is an important goal. We should all strive to be better financial planners.

  • Tony says:

    I have been guilty of this myself. I have a tendency to do this not only with finance but with other areas as well. I have soo many ideas I would like to implement, but it becomes difficult to prioritize and follow through with an idea to the completion of it.

    One thing I have resolved to do is create a comprehensive list of all my ideas and prioritize them according to importance and the amount of time it will take to complete it.

    I know one thing we are planning on doing is aggressively paying down on our remaining debt. We are excited about what accomplishing this goal will bring!

  • Eduardo says:

    It makes perfect sense… someone who is starting to work on his/her financial well-being could be more inspired to continue on the right path using this method, while building the strength and will-power needed for a more complex set of financial goals.

  • Donna says:

    You are so right. I found focusing on one goal does work. When you do that everything you do moves in the right way to accomplish your goal.

Leave a Comment