What do want in life? A new car? Your own home? A great college education for your children? No matter your dreams or your income, planning for your financial future is always a good idea. There are a few key questions you can ask yourself to make it easier.
What Do I Want?
You’re not going to get what you want unless you know what it is. Write down all your goals, ranging from clear necessities—like a new car that isn’t in the shop all the time—to a true splurge, like a lavish vacation house. Be as specific as possible about what you want. If it’s a car, for example, write down the make and model. If you’re married, create the list with your spouse so that you can work toward your goals together. Everyone’s list should include retirement savings; it will have more chances to grow the sooner you start.
What Are My Priorities?
You probably have a long list of goals, and it would be nearly impossible to tackle them all at once. To start, choose the short- and long-term goals that are most important to you now and focus on them. But don’t give up on goals that don’t make your priority list. Instead, revisit them in six months or a year. By that time, you may have achieved some of your original goals or gotten a raise, so you may be able to get started on others.
When Do I Want It?
Divide your priority goals into items you want to or can achieve now and those that will take a little longer. Then, assign each a target date so that you can determine how much you need to save each month. In every case, how much you save each month will depend on how quickly you’ll need the money. You’ll have to put more away each month if you want a car in a year and less if you can wait two years. College funding for your kids, even if it’s a top priority, is something you’ll likely build toward over time, but don’t put it off or you’ll find you may be needing it sooner than you think. Setting milestones for your goals, especially the larger ticket ones, can help make them seem more attainable. Think of it this way, saving $1 million might sound impossible, but putting $100 per month into savings is totally doable. The key is to find an approach that works for you.
What Will It Cost?
Write down your best estimate for each goal, how soon you’d like to reach it and how much you need to save every month to get there. If you’d like to have a down payment for a car in two years, for example, will setting aside $100 or $200 a month cover it? In some cases, it may be hard to guess what a large purchase like a new home will cost a few years down the road, or what college tuition will be for your children a decade or more in the future, so it’s best to estimate what you can afford to save toward the goal now and just get started. Whatever you accumulate will come in handy when you need it. Remember, also, to increase your savings whenever possible, especially for those large, long-term goals.
How Can I Make Savings Easier?
Worried about sticking to your savings goals? Set up automated payments from your checking to savings account each month so you don’t even have to think about it. You might be surprised by how much you have and how many of your goals it will help you reach!