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Creating Financial Goals

Do you know what you want your finances to look like in the future? Discover the benefits of setting SMART financial goals and tips for how achieve them.

October 2021 – 4 minute read

Key takeaways from this article:

  • The journey is as important as the destination
  • How to create SMART financial goals
  • SMART examples of financial goals
  • How to achieve SMART financial goals
  • It’s never too late to set a new goal
Man with glasses on a laptop while listening to a podcast about budgeting

If somebody asked you what your financial goals are, would you be able to articulate them? We set goals for ourselves in almost all arenas of our lives from our careers to our exercise habits, and our finances should be no exception. Whether you’re aiming to pay off your credit card debt, increase your retirement savings, or would simply like to have some extra money in your pocket, there are many types of financial goals. You may have a general idea about where you’d like to be financially in the future but the way in which we set goals is as important as the goal itself. The following guide will help you map out your financial goals using the SMART method and provide tips for how you can best achieve them.                                                                                      

The journey is as important as the destination

Two people that have the same financial goal, the same income and similar expenses may have vastly different experiences of achieving their goal. The difference is the system that they use to set and measure the goal. Goals provide you with direction but the method used to achieve them is what sets the progress in motion. Familiarising yourself with the SMART method is a useful first step in effective goal-setting and can be applied to your financial aspirations.

How to create SMART financial goals

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and anchored within a Time Frame. Applying this method to your finances can help you break down the goal into its key components.

S – State exactly what is to be done with your finances.

M – Outline how you’ll be able to track your progress.

A – Determine the practical steps you’ll take to achieve the goal.

R – Ensure the goal is achievable for your financial situation.

T – Give yourself a deadline for when the goal needs to be reached.

SMART examples of financial goals

Let’s take a look at some hypothetical examples of how one might put a financial short-term, mid-term and long-term goal through this filter.

Short-term financial goal

S – I will save $1000 to buy a new phone

M – I will open a separate account to deposit and view my savings in.

A – I will set up an automatic transfer that puts $100 of my pay check into my savings account every fortnight.

R – This goal is attainable according to my income and budget.

T – In 20 weeks I will have achieved the goal.

Mid-term financial goal

S – I will save money for a down payment on a house.  

M – I will need to save 10% of the property’s purchase price to achieve my goal.

A – I will open a savings account with a high interest rate and make monthly contributions of $500.

R – This goal is attainable according to my income and budget.

T -  The number of months it will take to achieve the goal can be calculated by 10% of the property’s purchase price divided by $500.

Long-term financial goal

S – I will pay off my mortgage more quickly.

M – I will need to make the equivalent of an extra month’s repayment each year.

A – I will switch from monthly to fortnightly payments.

R - This goal is attainable according to my income and budget.

T – The timeframe is dependent on the cost of the mortgage and the repayment amount.

How to achieve SMART financial goals

When you set money goals that are SMART, you’re already building strong foundations to attain them. Here are 7 tips to further set you up for success and help you achieve your goals.

Write them down

You’re more likely to hold yourself accountable when you put pen to paper. Keep a sticky-note of your goals somewhere where you can see it regularly like your desk or fridge to help you stay on track.  

Organize your goals by priority

Understanding the driving motive behind a goal can help you know which to prioritise first. Divide your goals into the three categories of Critical, Need and Want. Start with the critical, most important goals and work your way through the list.

Be the tortoise, not the hare

Slow and steady wins the race. You’re more likely to achieve your goals when you make progress that is little and often. For example, if your goal is to save $500 a month, instead of planning to deposit the months' worth of savings all in one go, plan to put aside $125 a week. Getting closer to your goal in small increments will help you have greater success in the long run. What’s more, the wording of your method, e.g. $500 a month vs $125 per week, can make the goal feel more attainable. For more advice, read our guide for setting up a savings plan.

Make it routine

Adding the steps you will take to achieve your goal to your weekly/monthly routine will help reinforce good habits until you just do them naturally. For example, if you make a fitness goal to run three times a week, it’s easier to stick to this goal when you assign yourself specific days of the week to run. The same concept can be applied to your financial goals. Decide on a regular date in which you’ll make progress towards you goal, whether that involves personal banking, reviewing your spending and budgeting or making a phone call - and stick to it!

Minimise reliance on moving parts

Don’t rely on other people or even yourself to take action to achieve your goals. Use the set-and-forget method. This entails setting up an automatic transfer to your savings account, so that even if you forget to make a deposit, you’ll make regular contributions without even thinking about it. Alternatively, if your goal is to only spend a certain amount of money per week, set up a banking card that is used solely for the purpose of spending money on shopping. Putting a spending limit on the card also minimises the risk of you, your partner, or your kids, spending more than your budget and cash flow allows.  

Set up a rainy-day fund

Even when your goals are SMART, there may be unplanned life moments that come your way. Allow room for life’s ups and downs by establishing a 'rainy-day' or emergency fund.

Bucket your savings goals

There are so many things to look forward to in life and you might have a handful of needs and wants that you’re working towards attaining simultaneously. In that case, it’s a good idea to divide your goals – or ‘bucket’ them – into separate areas. With a Westpac Life account you can set up to 6 savings goals in just the one account. They’re all viewable in the one screen and the savings amount, date and name can be adjusted by you at any time. Bucketing your goals helps keep track of the progress of your personal finances so you can see how close you’re to achieving your goal.

It’s never too late to set a new goal

Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to wait for the new year to set a new goal. Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of how to set and achieve SMART goals, it’s time to start brainstorming! Where would you like to be financially in a month, year or decade? Make sure your goals are your own and not someone else’s idea of what success looks like. Choose goals that make sense for your financial situation so that you stay positive and motivated to achieve them. If you’ve got the drive, the proper preparation and an action-plan, you can make progress in no time. Keep our 7 tips in mind and start achieving your SMART financial goals today.

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Things you should know

This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

© Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714