Financial planning is about setting and achieving goals and objectives. Buying a house or car, sending kids to college, saving for that dream vacation... getting your eyes set on a goal and with fortitude and a disciplined savings program, finding yourself on that Caribbean beach or high atop the Alps of Switzerland. The end result sounds so appealing, but was Jim Dooley right when he said "getting there is half the fun?" You do remember Jim Dooley, don't you?
Goals can be short, mid or long term. An example of a short term goal may be saving for a new outfit, watch or special present for that wonderful person in your life. A mid-term goal may take a bit longer to achieve: getting the money together, setting the plan, waiting for the perfect time to execute the plan... it may take a couple of months or a couple of years. Then we get to the long term goals: buying a house, sending our kids to college, buying a second home or that Sunday car... the long term goals usually take a lot more money, hence the time it takes to achieve it. Is it worth it? You tell me. Either way, what does all this goal setting have in common besides time? They all take focus and perseverance and is usually well worth the wait. I am often asked how to set goals and achieve them. Regardless of the goal or objective, there must be a few things accomplished:
First, determine the specific goal. Notice I said specific: It's like getting in the car and driving all day- if you don't know where you are going, you'll never get there. So, if it's that special Sunday car you want, be specific- what year and type do you see in your mind's eye parked in your garage ('67 Mustang fastback!)? How much will it cost? When do you want it (no, you can't have it yesterday). Now, how will you save: weekly, monthly, from your tax return, bonus, etc. By dividing the amount you will be saving each period into the estimated price of you acquisition, you can now have an idea as to how long it will take to save to achieve your goal. Things may change, like the price of the goal ('67 Mustang Fastback!), or that little thing called life that may put a temporary crimp in your savings plan, so be flexible.
Next, be sure to stay on course. Life throws so many obstacles in our path, it's easy to go astray and it takes a discipline to stay on course, not unlike a diet. Beware of those chocolate cupcakes that may get thrown in your path- it's so easy to stop and get diverted.
Goals help you govern your direction in life, you lifestyle and your future. It's more than just about money, it's about your quality of life, your future, attitude, career, education and how you intend to enjoy life. Besides short, mid and long term, there may be smaller goals like reading a book or washing your car every Sunday morning. If you set and achieve the goal, take some time to celebrate it and enjoy it. Nothing is more defeating than working hard to attain something and then tossing it aside without taking the time and the satisfaction of reaching your goal. Feel free to reward yourself- you've earned it. Once you are finished celebrating, reach for the next peak- and make it a bit farther to reach and a tad more difficult to grasp. Afraid of failing? Get over it- nothing in life is perfect, and sometimes we learn more from our failures than our successes. If it seemed too easy, maybe it was. Most importantly, take the time to reflect on what you learned from the experience, and how you can use it to further your life or to help others.
Don't worry about getting frustrated, for frustration brings opportunity. Keep your eyes wide open to that which is around you, for goals and opportunities are all around us... if you have it in you to see them. Goals are as different for all of us as we are all different human beings, and none are silly, none are dumb. Goals are as individualized as the clothes we wear, and you may be surprised to look into a mirror at yourself and ask "what is it that I want to achieve?" You may be very well surprised at the answer- now all you have to do is set the goal and just go for it!