Financial Literacy

Make your money count: The 3 essential steps to setting attainable financial goals

Setting financial goals can sometimes feel overwhelming, but once you have a strong grasp of your income and expenses, it becomes a much more manageable strategy. Here’s more good news: It doesn’t even take much time. Here are three steps to help you get started.

Step 1: Set up an income worksheet.

For many people, income can fluctuate due to bonuses, raises, and even side income from a hobby. To help you track your sources of income, set up a worksheet that breaks down how much income you can expect. Here are some general categories:

  • Paychecks/regular income
  • Monthly gross income
  • Deductions like retirement, health and dental insurance, company stock purchases, payroll reduction savings accounts, and taxes
  • Other monthly income
  • Additional periodic income

It’s helpful to look at credit union account statements for the past six months to a year to examine deposit amounts and see if you’ve missed any income sources.

Step 2: Make your money work for you.

After an assessment of your income, create a budget and set short-term

and long-term goals. Make sure goals are specific, motivational, and attainable. They should also be set within a certain timeframe.

For example, you might say, “I’m going to save $2,000 within a year in order to pay off my car.” That creates a result-based goal that’s time-specific, simple, and meaningful.

“When setting financial goals, consider a dividend-bearing account because there will be additional money earned,” advises Karen Guy, Business & Marketing Analyst at SAC Federal Credit Union. “The extra money in the account will boost motivation.”

Step 3: Check your progress.

Once you begin saving toward a goal, you may discover that you’re trying to put too much aside, leading to a challenging financial situation. Or you may find that you could be funneling additional funds to savings. Regular check-ins on your budget and goals help to give you a sense of your progress.

“A budget’s purpose is to serve as a guideline, so changes to the original plan are OK as long as they don’t sidetrack you from your identified goal,” Guy says.

Do you have any tips for setting goals – and reaching them? Share what’s worked for you in the comments!

Lay the framework for your goals with a budget.

Creating a budget can help you see what you’re spending – and where you may have room to cut costs, which you can then put into savings. Check out our free Financial Basics Made Easy e-book for more budgeting tips and our printable monthly budget worksheet.

For instance, many people use a Vacation Club savings account as a way to put funds toward an annual trip. “You can set up the account when you’re ready to plan for a vacation,” Guy says. “Even if you don’t utilize the funds for a vacation specifically, you have an extra cushion if an unexpected expense arises or you decide to save it for another financial goal.”

Author SAC FCU Managing Editor

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