Set goals

Defining personal goals

Goal setting is a creative process that can pay big dividends. Identify where you’re going and your path becomes more clear. Setting goals requires posing some questions to yourself and waiting for the answers. They may come immediately, or they make take a few days or longer.

Personal finance for women starts with discovering your goals. Financial planning is a holistic look at organizing your financial life to reach those goals. The general process can be done with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner, or on your own. Most of us focus on short term goals, but pay special attention to your bigger “life goals.”

I like to see people go a little deeper when financial planning, by identifying their most cherished goals or dreams. Identifying these heart-felt wishes can be a strong motivator and keep us on the path to success when some current sacrifices are necessary.

George Kinder CFP® developed a unique “life planning” set of lessons in his book Lighting the Torch (FPA Press). Life planning is a specialized part of financial planning. You can get a sample of how it feels by answering 3 questions Mr. Kinder poses to his clients near the beginning. (Read his book or find a planner who has taken his training if you want to experience the full process.)

The 3 questions that follow help define cherished values and dreams. Find your passion and you’ll be more willing to save for your dreams. Give yourself some quiet, protected time to reflect on these questions.

Question 1: If you were already financially secure, how would you live your life? Would you live differently than you are now? Imagine the details of a life that includes all you really want to do and be.

Question 2: Your doctor informs you that you have 5-10 years left to live with more or less current functioning. What would you do with the time you have left? Are there things you still want to achieve? How would your life change?

Question 3: If you were told you have only one day left to live (ouch), what regrets would you have about unfulfilled dreams or goals?

These are piercing and emotional questions that get to the heart of what you value and cherish and what you want out of life. How does all this relate to money and finances?

Many people feel that lack of money holds them back from achieving all their goals. There are many things we’d like to do that require some financial resources: college education, home ownership, travel, leisure time/retirement, financial support for family or favorite charities, etc. Money is a tool to help us reach many goals, so a basic knowledge of how to grow and manage money is important.

Other goals can be reached without the need for financial support (self-education, building friendships, participation in causes or activities we enjoy, etc.) You may find that your goals fall into both areas–ones that need money and ones that don’t.

Those goals that require financial resources are the ones requiring financial planning, although you’ll want to pay attention to the other side equally. List what goals require your financial support, maybe in a journal or online diary.

Note what time frame the goals need. Example: buy a home near the ocean within 4 years, travel to Europe to see friends next summer, retire with a certain income. Be as specific as you can and focus on those things most important to you. Some Life Coaches suggest making a “wish board” of pictures or words that reflect your goals. Keep it in a place where you’ll see it regularly.

Your goals may get refined over time, with some getting dropped and others added. That’s OK and all part of the process. Most importantly, make the goals reflect what YOU want out of life, not just what others expect from you. This is your chance to play with ideas and dreams and weave your own unique life. Go for it.
Robin Applegarth



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