As women, it is extremely important that we become comfortable not only talking about money, but also actively managing our money. When it comes to finances, women face many challenges: the gender pay gap, less time in the workforce (due to time off for raising children or taking care of aging parents), a longer life expectancy and even being intimidated to handle our own finances. For these reasons, it’s important that women adopt financial goals.
There are many different types of goals you can create in your life, including financial goals. What are financial goals? These are money-related objectives that you want to achieve by a certain time frame. Goals are an important tool to help you take charge of your money and prioritize where it goes.
So, why are financial goals important? And why do you need to set goals in the first place? To help explain the psychology of goal setting, I recommend reading this article in Inc Magazine called, “What Goal Setting Does to Your Brain”, by Geoffrey James. In his article, James explains the power of having goals. To summarize, the goal-setting process itself allows you to set yourself up for success. That’s because once you have set a goal, you then turn all your attention to planning and achieving your goal.
“Goal-setting literally alters the structure of your brain so that you perceive and behave in ways that will cause you to achieve those goals.” – Geoffrey James.What Goal-Setting Does to Your Brain and Why It’s Spectacularly Effective | Inc.com
There are many different financial goals that can adopted, but for now, I’m going to focus on short-tern financial goals. As the name implies, short-term financial goals are ones that can be achieved in less than one year.
To help you create your own financial goals list, I’ve complied a list of 11 different short-term financial goals. Review the list below and adopt the ones that are relevant for your situation.
Track Your Spending
Whether you track your spending on a daily or monthly basis, it’s the first step you need to take. You need to know exactly where you are, so you can come up with a SMART plan that will allow you to succeed in reaching your financial goals. By tracking your spending, you can see where there is room to adjust, instead of guessing.
Be Involved in Your Family Finances
When you are in a relationship, it’s easy to let someone else handle your finances and pay all the bills. But it’s very important for both parties to be aware of how much money is coming into the household and where it’s going. Sit down and have a conversation about who is responsible for doing what – who pays the bills, who tracks the spending, who is in charge of the investments. There are many ways to handle shared finances, but no matter which method your family chooses, make sure you have the ability to see all of your financial accounts. You need to be aware of your financial situation, so that there are no surprises in the future.
Build Your Own Credit History
Why is it important to have your own credit? Credit allows you to borrow money, rent an apartment, get a loan and more. Therefore, credit gives you financial security and financial health. Credit history shows companies how you have managed your debt in the past, which is used as an indicator of how you will manage your debt in the future.
So, what is the best way to build your own credit history? By having a credit card or other bills, such as a cell phone, in your name. The next step is to make sure all your bills are paid on time.
MYTH BUSTER: Changing your last name when you get married will not impact your credit history! Check out this article by Equifax about Myths vs Facts when it comes to marriage and credit.Marriage and Credit: Myths and Facts | Equifax Canada
Create and Follow a Budget
Goals are wonderful things to have, but to reach your goal, you need an action plan. For financial goals, this means creating and following a budget. Check out this blog post I wrote about zero-based budgeting. Budgeting doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. The most important thing is to start and adjust over time, as needed.
Learn How to Use Credit Cards Wisely
Credit cards are a very useful tool, but only if they are used wisely. Here are two quick tips about using credit cards wisely:
- Ensure you can pay your credit cards in full each month, as the interest charges really do add up! If you can’t pay your credit card in full, you need to rethink your purchases and look for ways to reduce spending.
- Look for cards that have reward programs. Examine the reward program to ensure it will be beneficial for you. For example, some companies will offer “money back” that can only be used at their store. If you shop regularly at that store, then this is a worthwhile reward.
Start Your Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is money that you have set aside for the future, in case of any surprises or “emergencies”. A fully funded emergency fund should cover 3-6 months of expenses. That amount takes time to build, which is why for the short term, you should aim to start your emergency fund with $1,000. Put this amount in a separate account, where you won’t use the funds but can quickly access the money when it’s needed.
Live Below Your Means
It’s important to make sure you enjoy life – but not at the cost of your financial well being. There are many ways to enjoy life, without overspending. It could be doing simple things, like checking out free community events. Or living below your means could also mean making lifestyle changes, like living in a smaller house. How can you tell if you are living below your means? Simple – track your spending and ensure you spend less money than you earn.
Saving For a Vacation
Yes, financial goals do include fun things – like vacations! Yeah! Vacations don’t need to be fancy or expensive, so if you don’t have a fully funded emergency fund or you still have debt that needs to be paid off, go for a stay-cation. Then, once these two goals are met, look at your budget and increase your vacation fund!
Track Your Net Worth
One of the most important financial goals you should set is to track your net worth. Why? Because it gives you a quick number that reflects all the financial decisions you have ever made in your lifetime. Pick a date once a year when you will do your calculation. Then compare your number each year and make adjustments as necessary.
Over time, your net worth should increase, as you save for retirement, pay off debt (including your mortgage) and save money. Keep in mind that it can temporarily decrease, if the markets go down or if the value of individual assets (such as a house) decrease.
There is a simple formula to calculate your net worth: Total Assets – Total Liabilities. If you include an asset, such as a car, remember that the value decreases over time and your net worth calculation should reflect these changes.
Evaluate Your Insurance Needs
There are five main types of insurance – car, home or property, life, health, and disability. Your insurance needs will change over time, depending on your financial situation, the number of dependents you have and other factors. Insurance is a necessary part of life, as it protects you from financial hardship when, (that’s right – when, not if), life throws you a curve ball.
Make a Will
A will is a legal document that you create to let people know what you want to happen with your property, who will become guardian for your children when you die and even specific instructions for your funeral. Without a will, the laws of your state or province will determine who inherits your property. It may be tempting to put it off, but don’t. Give yourself peace of mind by booking an appointment with a lawyer and finalize your will.
Now it’s your turn. Review the list below and decide which goals you will adopt. Then, leave a comment below and let me know which goal you are the most excited about achieving this year.
Until my next blog post, here’s wishing you lots of joy and happiness!