A Straight Talk on Debt

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Creating SMART Goals

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It’s that time of the year again! The New Year is right around the corner which means the gym will be more crowded than usual, grocery stores will be sold out of anything labeled “Light”, “Reduced fat”, and “Sugar Free”, and people will take a hard look at their finances.


Think of the New Year’s resolutions you have made in the past. Something like this:


I want to lose weight.

I want to save more money.

I am going to contribute to my 401K.

I am going to buy a house.


These resolutions sound typical and I am quite certain either you or your friends/family have set similar goals. The problem is they are not exact and defined, and most people are bound to fail with these goals. If you don’t have a target, how can you hit it?


Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals


S     Specific


M   Measurable


A    Attainable


R    Realistic


T     Timely




A specific goal would be: I am going to save $3,000 in a savings account. Too often our goals are non-specific and broad. We beat ourselves up for not reaching the goal when in reality we had already started off on the wrong foot. When you are setting your financial goals it’s important to be specific in your planning. Try these:


·     I am going to contribute 5% to my 401K

·     I am going to put $25.00 a week into a savings account

·     I am going to meet with a certified financial planner and plan my retirement




Now that you have set a specific goal, create a system to measure your progress. It can be as complex as a spreadsheet, smart phone app, or as simple as pen and a pad of paper. If your goal is going to take a long time to complete, break it down into months and weeks and be sure to celebrate your small victories.




By setting a specific goal, measuring and tracking your progress, and diligently working towards that goal, you may find that much more is possible than you what you had originally thought. Individuals who become committed to reaching a goal begin to find areas they may have overlooked in the past and turn them into opportunities. An example would be someone who spends $2.00 every morning for coffee. If they set a goal to save $1,000 that year and they stop getting coffee, they are already $520.00 closer.




Keep your goals challenging but realistic. Setting a goal of buying a house without any savings for a down payment, a terrible credit score, and not enough money in your budget to cover a mortgage payment is not realistic. Setting a goal to save a few thousand dollars and improve your credit score by 100 points by paying off debts can be realistic. To often people set out with grandiose expectations and are then let down when they do not reach them. Keep your goals simple and realistic.




An important aspect of goal setting is to attach a timeframe to the goal. It helps create a sense of urgency and makes it much easier to track. Instead of saying I am going to save more money, set a goal with a specific amount and by a specific date. It will make it easier to hold yourself accountable.


So as you start the New Year set specific goals, and keep them realistic. Then set a timeline and stick to it, and commit yourself to reaching your goals while identifying new areas of opportunity. Finally, track your progress and hold yourself accountable; you will be surprised what you are capable of.


Rob Taylor   

Rob Taylor is a contributing author for A Straight Talk on Debt. Rob tells it like it is when it comes to the latest debt industry news and shares his advice on personal finance.



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  • Reaching your goals can be a tiresome slog, but it doesn't have to be an act of sheer miserable force of will. Here are some tips to help you maintain the discipline to reach your goals - with minimal pain and lots to gain.

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