A 3-Step Guide To Identifying Your Financial Goals
If you're interested in self-improvement of any kind (be it physical, emotional, spiritual, or, yes, even financial) goal setting is one of the most important steps. And most folks tend to think of "goals" as the endpoint—the destination at which you'll arrive. However, we should really reframe how we approach this: When done correctly, goals are not only the final destination, they're the road map to get you there.
And goal setting is a skill set—one that can be fine-tuned. Here, how to create your road map.
Evaluate where you are right now.
Everyone needs a starting place. Let's compare it to starting a new workout routine: It's important to think about what your current abilities are so you can create a plan that's safe for your body, reasonable so you'll stick to it, acknowledges any potential limitations, is challenging enough, and sets you up for success.
For financial goals, that means knowing your money situation. On the broadest scale, you should know how much money you have coming in and going out. To do this, get familiar with your bank statements, bills, revenue streams, and spending habits. One often recommended way to do this is to start a money diary (read our tips about how to start one here). Because just like a fitness routine, tracking can go a long way.
Create a dream scenario — and be open to changes along the way.
You know the common saying: If you can't dream it, you can't be it. Allow yourself to think about the best-case scenario for your finances. Maybe that involves paying off your student loans in X amount of time, buying property, affording a vacation, starting investing, paying off credit card debt—or something as simple as saving Y amount of money.
One way to do this is through financial vision boards. (Check out our guide to financial vision boards here.) These will help you not only ideate and ruminate on what you want but visualize what your life will look like when you have it.
Once you have the ideal, you can work your way down to more attainable, actionable goals. For example, you may not be able to pay off student loans, book that two-week trip, and start investing all at once, but you can certainly begin to tackle one of those! After identifying one priority goal to go after, create a timeline and benchmarks to track along the way.
Set intentions alongside your goals.
It's important to remember that, well, life happens. So if your financial situation changes while you're on the journey, don't be afraid to adjust goals along the way. Being flexible and open to change allows you to stay on track.
A helpful way to do this is to set intentions alongside your goals. For example, your goal may be to save enough money to book a vacation, but your intention can be "I deserve to spend money on my happiness, and travel makes me happy." This way, even if you have to rework the final goal (i.e., bring down the budget of said vacation), you're still in keeping with your intention. Read more about setting intentions here.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.