Let’s face it, setting money goals for your family’s finances is not the most exciting thing in the world. But in my own life, it’s one of the most important things I’ve done to set the tone for our financial future.
Each year my wife and I write down a few money goals and review our progress throughout the year. Inevitably, circumstances and priorities change and we end up achieving some and striking through others.
After going over our money goals for several years now, I’ve realized it’s less about whether or not you achieve the specific goal you set, and more about the process of writing it down, reviewing your progress, and course-correcting as needed.
Just having a plan for our finances and actively tracking them has done more to increase our wealth than almost anything else we’ve done – including our many crazy side hustles.
How to Set Money Goals Like a Financial Expert
I’ve rounded up advice from lots of financial bloggers and experts, and there are some distinct similarities in those that actually achieve their money goals and those that don’t.
1. Write Down Your Money Goals
Did you know that people that write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them? It seems silly, but just the act of putting pen to paper helps your brain subconsciously remember a goal and be on the lookout for opportunities to achieve it.
One of our money goals this past year was to sell or refinance one of our rental properties. While we had no idea which one it would be or when we would do it, we knew that prices had risen the past few years and we wanted to pull out some equity and invest that money elsewhere.
By writing down the goal, it was a constant reminder in the back of our minds. And because of that, when one of our tenants moved out, we didn’t automatically try to get a new renter. We ran the numbers and realized it made a lot of sense to try to sell, so we took the opportunity to do so. Without writing down the goal and reviewing it, we probably wouldn’t have done that.
2. Get Accountable – Tell Someone Else Your Goals
Just like when you write your money goals down, having accountability by sharing your goals with someone else is a huge boost in your chances of achieving them.
If you’re in a relationship and set your financial goals together, it could be as simple as making sure you and your spouse tell each other your goals. And if your accountability partner checks in with you regularly to see how things are going, even better.
3. Set SMART Money Goals
I won’t go into a lot of detail here as this topic has been covered ad nauseam elsewhere on the internets. If you want a good primer of how to set SMART goals, you can start here.
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
- Specific – Make sure you have a clear goal that you understand
- Measurable – Your goal should be somehow quantifiable (you need to clearly know when you’ve succeeded)
- Achievable – Don’t make your money goals so far out of reach there’s no chance of you reaching them
- Relevant – Does your money goal make sense for your family or stage of life? For example, setting a goal to work 20 hours of overtime a week to save extra money might not be a good idea if you have young kids at home.
- Time-bound – Set a deadline by which you will achieve the goal
So using our rental property goals as an example, we wanted to sell or refinance (specific) at least one property (measurable) by the end of the year (time-bound). Based on our experience with owning several rental properties, it was definitely achievable, and it was relevant to our other goals to free up additional cash to invest in other opportunities for the year.
30+ Financial Experts Share Their Money Goals
Sometimes the easiest way to figure out how to get on track with your own goals is to review the goals of others.
By seeing what these bloggers and other financial experts are looking to achieve, I hope it gives you ideas and inspiration for your own goal-setting. I know it has inspired mine!
Here are my goals to start things off…
Andrew at Wealthy Nickel
- Add at least $100k to private equity/real estate crowdfunding investments – It’s getting harder to identify low risk crowdfunding investments in the current economy. Need to find more sponsors I trust, and obviously save the money to invest.
- Read at least 10 books – I used to read a lot, but don’t find much time for it anymore. This can be anything from personal finance/productivity to fiction to theology.
- Sell or refinance at least one rental property – As tenants move out, we are looking to selectively sell off properties that have appreciated quite a bit. The proceeds should help achieve #1 above.
- Achieve a 50% savings rate – This will be tough as we live on a single income + side hustles. It will probably require additional side hustle income.
- Put down the phone when I’m with my family – I need to stop working/emailing/checking blog stats when I’m spending time with my family and work on being more present in the moment.
Scott at Making Momentum
- Purchase A New Home: selling our condos and purchasing a new home with the soon-to-be fiancee
- Get Engaged: speaking of soon-to-be fiancee, we will also be getting engaged
- Invest More In Myself/Business: reverting a % of income into career development and where I’m currently spending money to best scale the business
- Travel To 2 Different Continents Outside NA: travel hack our way to Europe (Spring) & South America (Fall)
- Work out more. We got a rowing machine and haven’t used it enough. I want to turn that into a daily program because health is important.
- Improve my savings rate. I had a great year in 2018. I got married and went on an amazing honeymoon so this year should be ripe for improving my savings.
- Purchase a home as the apartment is too tight for us, our dog and our bunny. We’ve been looking for two years but want to get more serious about it now that we’re married.
- Work on building my twitch streaming following. I just started streaming but enjoy it a lot and want to build a bigger following which requires streaming more often.
- Write more on my blog and expand the subject matter. More content is key to growth and I want to improve my writing style and quality as well!
Marc at Vital Dollar
- Contribute $19,000 to my 401(k)
- Contribute $5,000 to a 529 plan for my kids
- Work fewer hours in the summer to have more time as a family when my daughter is not in school.
- Buy a rental property. I do like the benefit of steady income and property value appreciation.
- Invest in a business.I’m already talking to a potential partner. Hoping for the best.
- More home-cooked meals. We started this year and aside from saving dollars, we are eating healthier.
- Sleep more: A lack of sleep affects my overall daily productivity. Need to get my six hours every single night.
- Grow My Income: Next year I plan on focusing more on freelance writing to grow my income by at least 30%. An editor of a magazine reached out recently to see if I would be interested in a $1,000 a month blogging position. While I haven’t gotten a change to review the details yet, I feel confident knowing that my writing has value.
- Give More: I want to increase the amount of money I give to charity by a couple hundred bucks.
- Live More: I want to take a few hiking trips and a 7 day cruise to the Bahamas.
- Limit My Social Media Usage: In order to accomplish my goals, I have to limit the amount of time I am mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and Facebook. Recently I have downloaded and purchased the paid version of the Stay Focused app to help me achieve this goal.
- Write an average of 500 words a day for the blog! The goal is to post every single week through the next year! I’ve been hitting this target for 45 days now and am excited to see the impact it has.
- Increase our income by $10,000 and Retirement Savings by $27,000. The hope here is for both my wife and I to secure small raises while generating some income from the blog.
- Track our spending and take our savings rate from 25-35%! After a few months of lifestyle inflation, we’re planning to get our spending back under control using a zero based budget.
- Pay off my truck (I owe about $2,800)
- Contribute an extra $200 to my 403(b) (which will come as a result of not having the truck payment)
- Contribute an extra $100 to my mortgage payment (again, via not having the truck payment)
- Start a separate Roth IRA and maximize my contributions
- Start a college savings account for my niece
Outsource as much as possible (trade money for time) and gain back that free time for my kids.
One of my main goals is to generate at least $1,000/month in income from blogging and to reach 50,000+ monthly page views. I’m currently stuck at around $200-$300/month and 20K page views, but I’m finally done school and have a more comprehensive marketing plan and content schedule in place for the new year.
I want the majority of my blogging income to go right into my investment portfolio or to be reinvested into the blog, so I’m excited to see how blogging growth will help increase my progress with investing and improving my website.
Tim at Life for the Better
- Max out retirement accounts. This includes TSP (military’s 401k) and Roth IRA.
- Buy another rental property. I already own one but would like to add a duplex.
- Give more to others. Not just more money but more time to others. Doing a random act of kindess per week.
- Pay off $20,000 in debt. That’s an average of about $1,700 a month.
- Lose 25 lbs. I’ve started counting calories again, so hopefully that will help.
- Publish an Android app – even if it’s a real simple one or one that there’s a million versions of.
- Find additional Tax Avoidance Strategies – Being relatively high income earners, we’ve already reviewed our portfolio and changed to tax efficient funds. We’ve also allocated assets to the most profitable savings “bucket” for a particular holding. Now it’s time to leverage the power of SEP-IRAs or Solo 401Ks.
- Reduce expenses to live off one income – My wife and I have similar salaries and have achieved a 35% savings rate, but it’s time to become more conservative and up it to 50%. Our goal is to ensure our lifestyle is maintained and investments preserved should one of us lose our job.
- Educate our children on Financial Literacy – We started theFIway and have outlined a number of tactics we’ve used to teach our children about money. One experiment showed a strong disparity between my daughter’s understanding and my son’s discipline. There’s still quite a bit of work to be done.
- Discover my passion – This is such an odd thing that I assume many folks have figured out. Of course I love my family and friends, find joy in a variety of activities, and take great pride in the work I do. But there’s just something missing…
- Reach the 1,000 lbs Club – A weight training goal where your maximum lift on bench press, squat, and deadlift equal 1,000 lbs+. I nearly got there in 2018 until a leg injury. Should be good to go in February to start anew.
- Figure out health issues – It’s minor but I’ve been going to Urgent Care more and more over minor things which signal that my immune system might be catching up with me. I hate going to the doctor but I need to do comprehensive lab work to figure out the cause, always nerve-wracking!
- Exercise More – My husband wants to exercise more and get into shape.
- Improve the Financial Well-being of a Friend or Coworker – This isn’t a personal goal, but I want to make one impact in someone’s money life.
- Go without meat one day a week – This is much easier said than done!
- Go on a cruise because I never been on one before – We hate spending money on things that we don’t “need” so we have to brainwash ourselves to be a little more OK with spending money.
- Implement quarterly habit changes, such as focusing on sleep (more and better), exercise, eating more fermented foods, and meditating.
- Focus on building my blog with more regular posts.
- Start investing in real estate through a crowdfunding platform.
Michael at Wealth of Geeks
My resolution is to turn the blog/podcast into a respectable business prior to FinCon. The goal is 6 figures for the year.
- Purchase an investment property: I just bought a house but I need to take my wealth to the next level by increasing my income and allocations from real estate.
- Travel to two countries outside of North America: Who doesn’t love exploring?
- Double the size of my dividend portfolio: I’ve made solid progress here, but given the pullback in the stock market at yearend, I think now is a great time to raise cash in anticipation of a buying spree.
My goal in the new year is to save $100,000. Here’s how I’ll get there:
- Max out, 2x 403b, 2x IRA, HSA,
- $20k taxable savings
- $25k to home mortgage principal
I’m not sure I will get there but having a big goal and falling a little short is better than beating a small goal.
Jim at Accelerated FI
- Keep up my habit of writing at least 100 words per day.
- Increase side hustle income from $1.5k per month to $5k per month. Hopefully the first will enable the second
- Save Money for Rental Property: Now that we are debt free we plan to begin saving for a rental property. Once we hit $40,000 we plan to start looking. We likely won’t hit this goal next year but hopefully in 2020.
- Max Out Retirement Accounts: I am on pace to max our 401(k) next year and would also like to open a IRA for my wife and me. Hitting the IRA max will be a challenge but it’s good to set stretch goals, right?
- Give More to Charity: Since paying off our house in August we have upped our charitable donations to about 10% of our take home pay. We plan to increase a bit more next year and give 10% throughout the entire year.
- Directly Help Young Families: Our purpose is to help young families pay down debt and live financiall free. While I’ve had the opportunity to do this in real life, I want to also help young families online through my blog.
- Write for 30 Minutes Every Morning: The first 20 minutes of my day is usually spent picking up my phone and mindlessly browsing. I’m going to try to turn that into more productive time by writing every morning before work (and most weekends).
- Grow our emergency fund to 3 months worth of expenses – this year we established a modest cash emergency fund, however we intend to grow that to 3 months worth of living expenses this year.
- Increase savings percentage to 35% – in 2017 we grew our savings percentage from 5-25%, and in 2018 we grew this to 30%. My overall aim is to get this to 50% in the next 3 years, so my aim this year is 35%.
My money goal is to gain 1,000 hours of financial planning experience this year.
- Max out both 503(b) and 457(b) accounts – Total of $76,000 It would be our first year doing this.
- Do our first Backdoor Roth conversions We can carve out extra investment $ this year, so it’s going here.
- Pay an additional $12,5000 on mortgage paydown – We balance extra post-tax money into investments and mortgage paydown. Get some time in the market AND reduce debt.
- Bike either 4 times a week (208 total rides) or 4500 miles. (Depends on what I train for)
- Maintain regular posting schedule two times a week
After reading Atomic Habits this year, I’m trying to set my behavioral goals as specific behavior targets rather than the expected outcomes. (Lose weight and grow readership respectively.)
- Buy land. As a mobile home investor, buying land where the home sits on gives a real estate investor more control (versus buying mobile homes where someone else owns the land). My goal for the year is to purchase land to give me more control over my mobile home investing business.
- Exercise regularly. Being an entrepreneur, my hours are sometimes unpredictable. Though, I find if I take the time to exercise I feel less stressed and more balanced. A sport I’ve recently taken up is tennis. And I really enjoy it! I plan to continue playing a few times a week (and take regular lessons) for the new year.
- Make time for family and friends. In the beginning of my real estate investing career, I worked a lot of hours. So many that I missed a lot of events with family and even friends. Building up a business as an entrepreneur is no easy feat. It takes hard work and time. Though, I’ve realized the importance of maintaining balance between work and personal relationships. My goal for this year is to rekindle relationships with family and friends who are important to me.
- Work out regularly: We bought a treadmill and home gym system that mostly went unused in 2018.
- Increase income: I plan to increase blog income and double pageviews at the very least.
- Max out contributions to our retirement savings accounts.
- Pay an additional $20,000 towards our mortgage.
- Work Full Time All Year – I know for most this won’t seem like much of a goal, but since being laid off in 2014, finding a permanent, full time job has been nearly impossible for me. I’m in an amazing job now, but on a contract the ends at the end of March. My goal is to get this contract renewed – or secure a new one with the same organization.
- Do Not Get Into Any More Debt – This year, we bought a new car after the engine in our previous car died. It was not planned, and I was not happy about adding another $30k to our already massive debt load. This year, our debt number has to decrease instead of increase!
- Blog at Least Twice a Month – I’ve had my blog for almost 6 years, but have been all over the place with my posting schedule. So this year, my plan is to have a new post every 2 weeks – with the ambitious goal being a new post once a week.
- Make Money Online in Better Ways – I make about $200/month from my blog right now, but most of that income is from ads and sponsorships that aren’t exactly the “right fit” for where I’d like my blog to be. I’m hoping to replace these income streams with things that I’m proud of.
- Investing in myself – I have realized that I have spent a ton on food, vacation, and leisure in 2018. If I am willing to do that, I should at the very least be willing to spend money that will help me in life. My goal is to read 12 books that will expand my mind. The topics that will be counted towards this goal will be real estate, personal finance, professional development, psychology, and self-help.
- Explore new real estate venues locally – In my mind, living in the SoCal area hamstrings my ability to invest in real estate due to a super high barrier of entry. I will overcome that disadvantage and network to invest locally.
- Increase passive income by $5,000/year – This goal will be satisfied in any way that can bring me income while I sleep. Whether it is through income or any other means, I will increase my passive income levels to bring my closer to FIRE.
- Pay off the last of my student loan (about $9,000)
- Write 500 words a day
- Make $20,000 on a side hustle in the next year (stretch goal)
Alexander at Day Trading Z
- Fitness: In the new year I want to start the regular workout again to improve my fitness.
- Entrepreneurship: Work more efficiently by focusing on the most important aspects to triple the traffic on my financial blog.
- Relaxation: Spend a wonderful summer holiday with the family for at least 14 days at the best weather and with great family trips to beautiful destinations.
- Complete the purchase of our first home
- Purchase a rental property
- Add at least $200,000 to our net worth (401k, 409a, cash money, real estate, etc.)
- Read at least one book per month
- Complete my annual 100 workouts / year
- Earn more from the blog than last year
- Have a source of income making $100/week (my current option is my blog/website, as it has great potential, I’ve already started, and it’s location independent).
- Grow my blog (1000 email subscribers, 1000 daily page views).
- Read 30 books.
- Attend an in-person event (FinCon, Tony Robbins, or Rule #1 – or all of them).
- Find either a mentor or a serious accountability partner near my age.
Take Action to Achieve Your Money Goals
Thanks to all of the contributors for detailing some of their money goals for the new year!
To sum up the contributions above into the main categories that I think most money goals fit into, I would say:
- Saving and/or investing a target amount
- Paying off debt
- Increasing income through side hustles or your career
- Balancing work with family, leisure, and volunteer time
I hope you can take these ideas and create money goals of your own to start the new year off right!
What are your money goals? Let me know in the comments!
Andrew Herrig is a finance expert and money nerd and the founder of Wealthy Nickel, where he writes about personal finance, side hustles, and entrepreneurship. As an avid real estate investor and owner of multiple businesses, he has a passion for helping others build wealth and shares his own family’s journey on his blog.
Andrew holds a Masters of Science in Economics from the University of Texas at Dallas and a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University. He has worked as a financial analyst and accountant in many aspects of the financial world.
Andrew’s expert financial advice has been featured on CNBC, Entrepreneur, Fox News, GOBankingRates, MSN, and more.