A goal without a plan is just a dream, so let’s turn your dreams into reality by setting SMART (that’s Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-bound) financial goals.
1. Set your life goals
If you’re not working towards something specific, you’re likely to spend more than you should. It’s important to work out what your dream life looks like so you can prioritise your spending.
Think about what’s important to you. It might be cars and homes, holidays, raising a family or supporting your parents. Whatever it is, you need money to achieve it, so it’s helpful to turn it into a financial goal.
Grab a pen and paper (or a note-taking app) and write out all your big life goals, then let’s turn them into actionable SMART goals together.
2. Turn them into SMART financial goals
To turn a dream into a goal, we need to set rules and boundaries. This is where SMART goals can help.
First, let’s look at what makes a SMART goal?
It’s Specific: Alex will save $60,000 savings for a down payment on for a new home
It’s Measurable: Alex can monitor his progress by checking his savings account.
It’s Actionable: He will automatically transfer money to his savings every month.
It’s Realistic: As Alex earns $67,000 (before CFP), $500 per month is achievable.
It’s Time-bound: He will reach his goal in 10 years.
To help you understand the difference, check out this example:
Alex wants to save for a home down payment. He writes down his goal:
I want to save for a home down payment..
Realising this is a “dream”and not yet a “goal”, Alex revises it using the SMART framework. Now, here’s what his goal looks like:
I’m going to save $60,000 for a down payment over the next 10 years by automatically transferring $500 per month to my savings account.
If you’re not sure how much you need to save for your goals, do some research and come up with an estimate. Then head back to your pen and paper, and turn your wants and dreams into smart goals by creating a plan to achieve them.
Six months worth of expenses in your savings is a general guideline, and it never hurts to have more in your savings.
Prioritise your goals
When you’re clear on how much you can save each month, you can prioritise your financial goals by working out how long it will take you to reach them.
Short-term financial goals: Goals that will take you less than a year to achieve. They can include buying necessary furniture for your WFH office set-up, paying your monthly credit card bills on time, or maybe taking a short vacation (or staycation).
Mid-term financial goals: Goals in the 1-5 year time range. They can include paying off an existing study loan, taking a career break or going back to university.
Long-term financial goals: These goals may take several years to accomplish, so they require a bigger commitment. They can include buying a home, saving for your child’s education or your retirement.
3. How much can you save?
If your SMART goals aren’t realistic, you’re setting yourself up for failure. When you don’t see progress each month, you’ll feel disappointed with yourself and start to lose your drive and motivation.
The best way to determine how much you can put towards your goals each month is to start with your income. How much money do you have after CPF, insurance premiums and essential expenses (like food and rent) each month? And how much are you willing to cut back on the luxuries in life (like Netflix and drinks on Fridays)?
You should aim to save at least 10% of your income monthly before spending.
Keep an eye on your goals and revisit them regularly as your income increases over the years.
Ready to kick off your savings? Keep following our FinLit series and start building a brighter future. We’ll be bringing you more tips and tricks to help you get smart with your savings, level-headed with your loans, intelligent with your insurance, and insightful with your investments.