How to achieve and define SMART financial goals

“An investor without a goal is like a traveller without a destination.” – Ralph Seger 

If you’re like most high-achieving, success-oriented Australians, you’ve already written or are in the process of writing your new year’s financial goals. 

But drafting your goals is just the first step to achieving them; ensuring they’re SMART is what will bring them to fruition.

SMART goals, an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely goals, are effective financial success boosters for those willing to invest in them. 

Here’s why: 

  • SMART goals help you evaluate the most effective steps to achieving what you want.
  • With SMART goal setting, you’ll be able to measure tangible progress towards your attainable goals.
  • Setting SMART goals will expose weaknesses, like time management, overspending, and procrastination, that could be stumbling blocks to your success.
  • With a SMART plan, you’ll be able to break down your big financial goals into specific, actionable micro-goals.

     

Luckily, anyone can set SMART financial goals. With these five simple steps, you’ll raise your odds of success and usher in a bright financial future. 

Top tip: Engaging a financial advisor is an excellent way to work towards personal wealth creation. 

 

Step 1 – Be specific about your financial goals

One of the greatest financial planning mistakes people make is not having specific financial goals. Saying that you’re “saving for the future” is less impactful than committing to “save $1,000 a month for retirement”.

Before setting any goal, ask yourself, “What do I really want to achieve, and why is this important?” 

Knowing what you want to accomplish will give you a clear understanding of what you’re working towards, while the “why” will keep you rooted when the going gets tough. 

Don’t shy away from detail. The clearer your financial goal is, the easier it will be to devise a plan to attain it.

For instance, you might begin with the general notion that you want to start investing for your retirement or saving for emergencies. 

These are excellent starting points, but it will be difficult to attain these goals without a clear target. How much do you want to put aside every week or month? Do you have an emergency fund? 

Make these goals more specific by drilling down a little deeper. Here are some examples.

  • “I want to set aside $1,000 every month to reach $1 million in superannuation for my dream retirement.”
  • “I want to automatically transfer $2,000 from my pay to my emergency fund, in case a recession hits.”

     

Setting specific financial goals will help you think clearly about what you want to accomplish, why you want to accomplish it, and how you’ll do it.

To summarise, specific goals are more motivating, clearer and easier to achieve

 

Step 2 – Find ways to measure your progress

It’s true that with measurement comes performance.

Measurable goals are easily attainable because you can track and see the progress you’ve made. If you can’t measure your progress, how will you know when you’ve achieved your financial goals?

That’s why the best financial advisors advocate finding ways to quantify your progress.

If, for instance, you want to clear your credit card debt, make your goals measurable by adding up your balances to give you a full picture of how much you need to pay off. Then decide how much you’ll funnel toward the debt each pay period.

The same applies to retirement planning. If you’re saving for retirement, determine how much and how often you’ll need to save. 

For instance, commit to putting $2,000 toward your superannuation fund every month. This will help you keep track of your progress.

Related article: How Much Superannuation Should You Have In Your 30s, 40s, and 50s?

 

Step 3 – Keep yourself motivated with attainable goals

While it’s good to push ourselves by creating goals that are challenging, there’s no need to set goals that are impossible to achieve.

If you consistently find a financial goal out of reach, it may be too ambitious for you – for now. 

The best action is to slightly alter your goals depending on your analysis. If saving $2,000 per month seems stressful, or you find yourself skipping payments, downsizing to $1,500 may feel more manageable.

If you can’t change your goals, take other actions to achieve them.

This could be as simple as eating out less, sticking to a tight budget or tucking away your credit cards for a while to prevent unnecessary spending. 

 

Step 4 – Keep your financial goals realistic and relevant

Counting on winning the lottery or being left a surprise inheritance will likely lead to disappointment. But setting realistic goals will give you the confidence to accomplish them.

For example, if you plan to get married in a year, working with what you can afford is more realistic than setting a savings goal for a $100,000 luxury wedding, which may be impossible to attain if you’re on an average income.

Your goals should also be relevant to your life situation at the moment. Otherwise, they’ll become plans you can afford to postpone. 

Prioritise the goals that will have the most impact on your life today and in the future, and visualise the rewards of sticking to them to the end.

Ask yourself questions like: 

  • How would I like to feel about my finances? What needs to change for me to feel that way? 
  • What’s my most important financial agenda right now? 
  • What does my ideal future look like? How will the right financial planning make it possible?

     

Clearing your debts now will, for instance, ensure you pay your bills without stress in future. Saving for retirement will help you live a financially secure life later on. 

Having an end goal in mind will make you stay on track – even when it feels challenging.

Expert tip: Many financial goals – like buying your retirement home – will seem unrealistic at first. But breaking down those goals into smaller, attainable pieces can significantly impact your mindset and help you achieve them more easily.

 

Step 5 – Give your goals time-bound deadlines 

One of the key elements of effective financial goal setting is deadlines. 

You must give your goals a specific timeline. Saying that you’ll attain them “as soon as possible” may lead you down a rocky, never-ending path to nowhere.

Time-based financial goals will create a sense of urgency and motivate you to work on them even if crises arise along the way.

Think through all your objectives and write them down. You could end up with a mix of goals to accomplish within a year (short-term), two to five years or over five years (long-term). 

Then begin by outlining what actions you can take today. This could be jump-starting your savings by creating a separate emergency fund account or temporarily deactivating your credit cards to prevent impulse buying.

Next, schedule your first check-in for a month or two from now, and write down what you’d like to have accomplished by then. 

At every check-in, reflect on your progress and decide if changes are needed moving forward. 

With time, these little short-term goals will escalate into long-term successes. 

 

how to achieve financial goals

Do’s and don’ts when setting SMART financial goals

The table below shows you what to do and what not to do when using the SMART formula to create your financial goals. 

SMART financial goals

What to do

What not to do

Specific

Clearly set your goals and answer the what, how, who, which and where of your plans

Don’t plan vaguely or set too many goals at a time

Measurable

Set metrics so you can track your goals 

Don’t set a goal without monitoring it

Attainable

Set a goal based on the realities of your personal finances

Don’t throw around numbers without first doing the maths

Realistic

Break your goals into bite-sized components you can manage

Don’t plan for something beyond your capability

Timely

Set a deadline for every goal to keep you committed

Don’t leave a goal without a target date


Set and achieve SMART financial goals with the help of a financial advisor

Sure, you can achieve your goals with these simple steps, but getting help will accelerate your success.

Financial advisors understand the importance of effective financial goal setting and its weight on wealth creation.

So if you have huge financial goals and don’t know where to start, Poole Advisory is here to assist. 

We’ve partnered with the best investment and financial advisors in Sydney and Bowral to help you set and achieve SMART financial goals and prepare you for a better financial future.

Get in touch to book an appointment with one of our financial advisors today.

“Anthony has been more than a financial advisor … His industry knowledge and ability to explain things to us have been invaluable across all our financial affairs …”
Steve T, Poole Advisory Client

 

Frequently asked questions

 

Which financial goals need the SMART goal-setting strategy?

Effective financial goal setting will help you save, spend and invest your money. A SMART financial strategy will help best with financial goals like: 

  • Starting an emergency fund
  • Saving for retirement
  • Investing in a college education
  • Estate planning.

     

How can you support your SMART financial goals in 2023? 

Some of the best ways to support your SMART financial goals are by creating and following a budget, building rewards into your budgeting and regularly checking in to track your progress.

 

What other services can a financial advisor offer, apart from SMART goal setting? 

Financial advisors offer multiple financial services to help individuals, investors, or businesses to scale financially. 

These services include: 

  • Business planning
  • Cash flow management
  • Retirement planning
  • Insurance advice and wealth protection.

     

For more information on how Poole Advisory can help you stay on top of your budget and improve your overall financial situation, get in touch today or book an appointment.

Compliance Disclaimer:

This information contains general advice only, that is, advice which does not take into account your needs, objectives, or financial situation. You need to consider the appropriateness of that general advice in light of your personal circumstances before acting on the advice. You should obtain and consider the Product Disclosure Statement for any product discussed before making a decision to acquire that product. You should obtain financial or credit advice that addresses your specific needs and situation before making investment or borrowing decisions. Taxation information is based on our interpretation of the relevant laws as at 1 July 2018. While every care has been taken in the preparation of this information, Prosperitas Partners Pty Ltd does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information. The case studies are hypothetical, for illustration purposes only and are not based on actual returns

Poole Advisory Pty Ltd ABN 15 642 040 604 is a Corporate Authorised Representative (No. 001282603) of Prosperitas Partners Pty Ltd ABN 30 662 654 453 AFSL 544 917

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