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Financial Goals Setting: 5 Helpful Tips for 2017

2017 financial goals
January 13, 2017

By Pam Leibfried

It’s a new year, and the perfect time to focus on improving your personal finances. Now, while you’re in a “new-year, new-you” frame of mind, set some short-term and long-term financial goals related to banking and budgeting.

Financial goal setting is the first step, but in order to accomplish your goals, you’ll need to build positive momentum that can help you be successful for the rest of the year. These tips can help.

Set SMART(er) financial goals

Have you ever heard of “SMART” goals? If not, SMART stands for goals that are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

Managers and school administrators love SMART goals because they increase their teams’ odds of success. Why not get on the bandwagon for your own financial gain and use this method to set your SMART money goals?

An example: “In 2017, I’ll add $60 more each month to my emergency fund by cooking at home one more night every week—and transferring the $15 I’d have spent on takeout into my emergency savings account.”

This SMART goal is more likely to be met than a more general “add to my emergency fund this year” goal. And, you’re setting yourself up to achieve both short-term money goals ($60 per month) and long-term goals, too (saving more than $700 per year!).

Automate your savings 

Take a few minutes now to open a separate supplemental savings account for each of your 2017 savings goals; at most banks and credit unions, all you’ll need to do is log in to their online banking platform or mobile app to get started.

Once you have determined your savings goals – emergency fund, family vacation, kitchen remodel or Christmas 2017 – set up automated monthly transfers from your checking account into each of your accounts.

This technique, called “paying yourself first,” is especially helpful if you’re someone who tends to pay your bills, then spend everything that is left over on entertainment, luxuries or other non-necessities. You’ll boost your savings because you’ve removed funds from your checking account before you’re tempted to spend them!

Use technology to simplify budgeting

Today’s personal financial management tools (PFMs) make creating and monitoring your budget simple and painless. Just input your financial accounts and credit cards to easily track your spending, income, net worth and financial goals.

It doesn’t take long to make progress. Start your setup during the commercial breaks of a ball game and you’ll be up and running by game’s end!

There are a wide variety of tools available, and your bank or credit union may already offer one. For example, the Alliant Money Management and Budgeting Tool automatically loads your Alliant savings, checking, and credit card account transactions without any setup at all.  

Boost your income 

We tend to focus on expenses when we think about budgets and setting personal finance goals, but the phrase “balancing” your budget has two sides: expenses and income.

If you’re worried you’ll need to add a second job to boost your earnings, rest assured that there are many ways to earn a few extra dollars here and there to supplement your main income. 

  • Sell gently used toys and clothes: If you’re on a decluttering kick to start the new year, take a look at the items you’re purging to see if they can be sold. Facebook garage sales are free and have made online selling easy. Why wait for spring garage sales when you can snap a picture of your child’s outgrown tricycle and post it for sale instantly? Just go to Facebook and search for “garage sale” to find one for your town.
  • Help others with random tasks. Check out  Fiverr or TaskRabbit to see if anyone in your area needs someone to buy their groceries, help them pack for a move or put together their Ikea bookcase. Many of the posted tasks don’t take specialized skills, and you control your hours.
  • Check online for more “side hustle” income ideas. Some of the best examples I found were on Side Hustle Nation, the Penny Hoarder and the College Investor

Calendar your 2017 personal finance tasks now

Take a few minutes now to add tasks and appointments to your calendar while the financial goals you set are fresh in your mind. 

  • Schedule time in late January to gather all your tax forms and receipts. Then prepare and file your taxes if you’re a do-it-yourselfer like me. Or, if you use a tax preparer, call now to make an appointment for early February. Filling early is a smart-money move; you’ll get your refund sooner and you’ll protect yourself from tax fraud.  
  • If you’ve been putting off a review of your retirement accounts or rollover of a 401(k) from a past employer, make an appointment with a financial planner. Having an actual appointment means you’ll finally follow through and do it.
  • If you have college-age kids, add financial aid deadlines to your calendar so you’re not scrambling at the last minute. 

Pam Leibfried is a marketing content specialist whose love of words led to a writing and editing career. After a brief stint teaching English, she transitioned to corporate communications and spent 20 years at The Nielsen Company before joining Alliant’s content development team. Early in her work life, Pam’s friend Matt explained the benefits of a 401(k) and her dad encouraged her to start a Roth IRA. Their good counsel prompted her to prioritize retirement savings, which just might enable her to retire early so she can read more and live out the slogan on her fave T-shirt:  “I have a retirement plan: I plan on quilting.”   

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