Your financial goals need to be:
a. Achievable – you cannot set “win the lottery” as a financial goal. You can, however, say that you wish to pay for your children’s college, retire before a certain age, or buy that nice house in the suburbs.
b. Measurable- having a “comfortable retirement” may feel and sound good to your ears, but it is too vague. You need to translate that into a recognizable definition. Some people are quite comfortable living in a cubicle with fluorescent lights, while others are thinking “Ritz”. You should quantify it enough detail to say, “I want the equivalent of living off a $150,000 per year in after tax income in today’s terms.” Only then can you work up a realistic plan to reach that goal.
c. Meaningful – to keep your goals motivating, remember why it is you set them. If one of your goals is to buy a house in the mountains by the lake, try to remember that you want to buy it so that your extended family can visit and create their memories, just as you have memories from your own childhood. You are more likely to have success keeping to your plan this way.
Some people can naturally visualize what they want for their future in great detail. You, on the other hand, may be constantly changing your mind about goals and switching them every couple of years. That is okay, so long as you do have a process for periodically setting goals, talk them over with your family and friends, and set out to accomplish them. The level of detail is ultimately important, but you can in short order translate a vague goal into a clear one by sitting down for a few minutes and making yourself get more specific (Will you help your children pay for a public university in your state, or can they go anywhere for the best university at which they can get accepted? The difference alone can amount to $40,000 dollars per year!). The important element is that you have a goal or goals in the first place, and are taking action to realize it with a plan.