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Goal Setting 101

In honor of August being back to school month, I thought it would be fun to do a couple “101” blog posts to revisit some basics. And what’s more basic than goal setting?!

As a financial advisor, I know you rarely have “financial goals” in life, but rather you have life goals which require financial means. For example, you want to retire and enjoy the fruits of your labor – travel, time with family, hobbies, etc. Notice nowhere in there did you say you want to have $X of income in retirement. BUT doing all those lovely things requires your financial life to be in order.

I consider a huge part of my job to be helping align your financial life with your overall life goals. In order to do that, my planning process, the Custom Wealth Architect™, helps me learn what your life goals are so I can help plan for you to meet them.

What happens if you haven’t yet decided on your life goals though? Maybe you’ve had your nose to the grindstone so much that you’ve yet to look up and consider what you want? Perhaps you’ve had some major life changes (married, new babies, “babies” graduating high school, new business partners, etc.) and it’s a perfect time to reevaluate your life goals? Whichever scenario you find yourself in, here are some of the basics of goal setting to help you solidify what you want out of life.

SMART Goals

I think it’s safe to say we’ve all heard the SMART goal principles:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Realistic

T = Timely

And while the ‘SM’ has few arguments, the ‘ART’ has its fair share of objections. Specific and measurable make sense – saying “I want to save for a car” doesn’t have nearly the motivation of “I want to save $200k for a Ferrari.” When you can envision your specific goal, I mean REALLY see yourself accomplishing it, the objections and obstacles your brain automatically tries to come up with are reduced significantly.

The ‘ART’ on the other hand actually helps our brain come up with those obstacles and objections. If we only went for things we knew were achievable or realistic, how many accomplishments wouldn’t have been done? I don’t mean society at large (although that is just as valid of a point); I mean just in your own life. Think back to when you were trying something new – you most likely didn’t have the skills to do it (because it was new). Is it “realistic” then to assume you could do it?! Negative. But you did it anyways because you believed you could, and you probably got better and better at it as your skill set grew.

Timely is the one that’s perhaps the most debated. If you don’t meet a goal by your deadline, do you stop working for it just because a certain day on the calendar has passed? Does it mean you failed if you accomplish it a week or a month or a year after the deadline? Of course not! If you have a lofty goal of being financially independent by age 50 but it takes you to age 52, I’d consider that to be quite successful, despite it being two years later than planned.

BSQ Goals

BSQ stands for big, small and quick and is another method for goal setting. It’s essentially creating a roadmap for your goal. You begin by thinking big – dream up a big lofty goal or accomplishment you’re aiming for. Ignore the SMART principles on this one, it can be a goal you don’t even think is possible for you, but we’re aiming high here.

Then you break down your big goal into small actions. It can be helpful to think of them as steppingstones, a road map, or mile markers. For example, if you’d like to sell your business for $10 million 5 years from now there are certain small actions you must take to get there. One such step may be meeting with your business partners to discuss your plan; another may be meeting with your trusted advisors (financial, tax, legal, etc.) to determine the best course of action.

Lastly the Q stands for quick and this stage is where you act quickly by setting deadlines for yourself. Using our previous example, if you’re hoping to sell your business in 5 years put a time on the calendar to meet with your business partners and trusted advisors. Set times to accomplish your small steps. It’s like the old saying, “how do you eat an elephant?” “One bite at a time.” By breaking down your big goals into small action steps on which you can quickly act, you’re setting yourself up to meet your goals.

Meeting your Goals

We’ve covered a couple basic goal setting methods and there are several more out there – OGTM Goals, HARD Goals, WOOP Goals, and the list goes on. There’s no one size fits all, so I recommend finding a method that works for you. Understand the method that works may be different for each goal or each area of your life.  

Whatever you determine your goals to be, my job is to help you have the financial means to meet them. At your annual review, the Custom Wealth Inspection™, I reference your original financial plan and compare it to the progress you’ve made over the years. Included in your original plan are goals you wanted to plan for along the way – a child’s college costs, wedding, new cars, family trip, etc. I’ll track the goals you’ve met and the ones you have yet to achieve, as well as adjust planning for goals you develop throughout your life.

And with that, I’d like to leave you with a quote that’s a fitting summary of this article:

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”

  • Confucius
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