No one wants to worry about money, but sometimes it seems like your money and your goals don’t line up.
Susanne wants to retire and still spend money the way she does today. Chris and Roberta want to buy their first home. Sally Ann wants to live abroad for a year.
If I asked you how much money do you need for your lifetime, you’d probably say you want to be comfortable financially. That you never want to think about the basics: Being able to afford to go out to dinner or order in whenever you want to; buying new clothes when you need them; having the appropriate life and health insurance; paying your mortgage and taxes; allowing your children to choose any college they can get into; saving for retirement.
How much do you need for all that? Well, it depends.
Some folks can buy their security for less than $100,000 a year. Others won’t be satisfied on $1 million a year. Folks might say if they had $150,000 a year in annual salary, they’d be rich enough to buy anything they want.
The truth is, if you earned $150,000 a year, it would almost certainly not be enough. That’s because our tastes and our expenses tend to rise along with our income. To be sure, if you’re earning $40,000 annually today, $150,000 seems like the pot at the end of the rainbow. And, if you lived on $150,000 as if you were earning $40,000, you’d quickly be a millionaire (the ultimate “rich” threshold for most Americans).
But saving in a vacuum is difficult. Most folks need financial goals to shape their spending and savings habits. You can have short-term goals (“I want a new stereo system.” or “I want to go on vacation.”), mid-term goals (“I want to pay for my children’s education and weddings.”) and long-term goals (“I want to retire when I’m 65.”). And you can have life-long goals (“To leave something to my children to make their lives easier after I’m gone.”).
Defining your goals is an important tool for tweaking your personal finances. It gives you something to dream about at night, and something to work towards during the day. While it’s always good to dream big, the truth is, most of us have the power to achieve almost all of our financial dreams. Getting there takes discipline and hard work, but it’s more than doable.
It isn’t hard to come up with some financial goals, but you need to write them down. The simple act of putting pen to paper somehow makes our dreams feel more real. And, once a dream feels real to you, you can commit yourself to making it a reality.
Finally, there’s nothing wrong with coming up with a handful of financial goals. As you move through your career, and through your life, your dreams and goals will change. As you achieve some goals, new ones will emerge, keeping you focused on your financial future.
TIP: Your age and where you are in the cycle of life should play an important role in determining your financial goals.
For example, if you’re 25, single with no kids, and want to start saving for your future progeny’s college education, you’ll have at least 19 years (18 plus a year to get married and get pregnant) to do so. That’s long-term. If you adopt a 10-year old, you’ll have only 8 years to save. That’s medium term.
If you’re 25 and beginning to save for retirement at 65, you’ll have 40 years, which will seem like a very long time. If you’re 50 and just beginning to save, you’ll still have 15 years, but that won’t feel quite so long-term, though the time frame meets the general definition.
Ilyce Glink is the Publisher of ThinkGlink.com and the Founder/CEO of Best Money Moves, an employee benefit in the financial wellness space.