Review your money goals regularly
Set new financial goals based on your priorities
A professional can help you create a road map for your financial future
The end of an old year and the start of a new is a great time to review your finances and see where you stand—and where you can improve. However, setting effective financial goals isn’t about creating a laundry list of things you’d like to do in the coming year.
Instead of making a list of nebulous money goals and wondering why you don’t seem to be making progress, consider taking time to sit down with a financial consultant who can help you prioritize and set savings and investment goals that will benefit you this year, and in years to come.
Understand Your Financial Priorities
“Part of an effective goal-planning process is understanding your priorities,” says Keith Denerstein, director of investment products and guidance at TD Ameritrade. “Understand what matters most to you and take stock of where you are with regard to what matters most to you.”
One way to really get at your financial priorities and understand what matters to you is to sit down with a professional to get an outsider’s view of your finances.
“When you sit down in person with a financial consultant, you get a view of your finances from someone with the experience of having helped others in the past,” Denerstein says. He says it starts with identifying expectations, and moves into goals and aspirations. “You learn things about your relationship with money and you get real about what you hope to accomplish with that money,” he says.
As you go through the goal-planning process with a consultant, you can clarify your expectations for retirement, college planning, buying a home, and other objectives. Using a planning process facilitated by a consultant helps you see how to save for all of your financial goals in a holistic manner. Sometimes it will involve setting priorities and trade-offs between competing needs, wants and wishes.
Create an Actionable Financial Plan
Once you understand your long-term and short-term priorities, it’s time to start creating a plan. Sitting down with a financial consultant can help you understand what investment goals you might have for this year—and next year.
“Our consultants can help you break down your journey into steps you can take right now to start moving toward your financial goals,” says Denerstein. “We look at how investing and saving helps you meet your future priorities while still taking care of today’s needs.”
Goal planning isn’t about resolutions for one year. Instead, effective goal planning takes a big-picture view of where you want to be in the future and works backwards to help you understand what needs to happen today, tomorrow, and next year. The idea is to use a new year as a touchpoint to mark where you are on the map and see what course corrections you need to make to reach your ultimate financial destination.
Review Your Financial Goals and Plan Regularly
Once you have set long-term and short-term goals based on your financial priorities, it makes sense to check in regularly.
Plan for tomorrow by setting financial goals today.
“Sit down with your financial consultant at least once a year to review your progress and see if you need to make tweaks going forward,” says Denerstein. “Sometimes we get a little off course or priorities change. Revisiting the plan with your consultant each year keeps you moving in the right direction.”
You don’t need to make adjustments to your savings goals only once a year, though. Life changes often dictate a review of the plan.
“When major events happen in your life, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate how this affects your current investment goals and plan,” Denerstein says. “If you get an inheritance, go through a divorce, get married, experience the loss of your partner, or decide to retire early, it’s a good idea to come in and see how this changes things.”
Visiting with a financial consultant may help you take a step back when major life events cloud your emotions and judgment. Rather than making changes on your own, you can be guided through the process by an outsider who can help you see the consequences and adjust your actions based on the new reality.
In the end, having a trusted financial consultant can help you examine what you want from your money, and then set the right investment goals to make it happen—no matter what stage of life you’re in, says Denerstein. “Regardless of where you are in the process, goal planning can help.”