During November, I challenge you to dream big dreams and set significant goals for yourself.
Here’s a SMART formula to get you started. The best goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Limited. (You’ll notice that the criteria never mentions your paycheck or asks how much is in your savings account.)
As you make your plans, remember the words of German statesman and writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.”
Here’s how to use SMART goals to set (and reach) financial goals:
- Specific goals detail exactly what you want to accomplish. The key here is to answer why this is a goal. Many people want to retire early. But not all of them can tell you what they’ll do with all that free time. If you can’t find the connection between your goals and what you want from life, then it’s time to change your goals. Maybe owning your own business is more appealing than retirement.
- If you can’t measure your progress, you’ll never know when you succeed. Talk to a good financial planner and figure out exactly how much money you’ll need to retire at age 62 (or younger.) Remember to tell your adviser why you want to retire early. If you hope to travel, you’ll need more money than someone who longs to spend hours on stage at the local community theatre.
- Achievable goals are simply those that are attainable. If you’re earning $20 an hour, you can’t achieve the goal of putting away an extra $100,000 a year, no matter how much you want to retire early or buy a building to house your business. That doesn’t mean you can’t still realize your dreams. Instead, it means you need to find a way to make more money. Can you go back to school and get a certification to land a better-paying job? Could you buy a rental property and collect from tenants every month? There are many ways to put more money into your bank accounts. A good financial planner can help you determine what’s achievable now and help you set new goals for achieving more later.
- Realistic sounds an awful lot like achievable, but it’s slightly different. If you’ve got three kids, is it realistic to move into a one-bedroom apartment to save money? Probably not. Realistic also goes to relevance. If your goal is to convince your boss to give you a raise, you’re going to need to explain what makes you valuable in a way that is relevant. For example, offering to take on more work to help your boss meet a goal demonstrates the value you bring to the company.
- Time-limited goals are exactly what they sound like. When are you going to do this? If you’ve set a long-term goal, such as early retirement, make sure you set milestones along the way so you can see progress. How much will you have saved in a year? How many rental properties will you own to generate how much income each month?
Big dreams are never a mistake. The only mistake is downsizing your dreams to fit your paycheck. Instead, set goals and build your wealth to make your dreams real. Think about the wealthy people in the world. David Thomson for example, the chairman of Thomson Reuters, was worth $39 billion in 2019. Thomson spends his time learning about business and finances. That’s why his wealth grows. If you adopt a similar philosophy of constantly learning, you’ll see your wealth grow while realizing your dreams.